‘Our situation was so bad back home in Syria. We couldn’t leave our houses and we were worried about our children’s safety. You could hear gunfire all night every night, we couldn’t sleep and we were all terrified. We decided to escape…’
These are the words of Anna Al Nasar. But these are sadly words shared by millions of Syrians today. This week marks three years since civil war in Syria sparked the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis.
Anna is 42-years-old and she was forced from her home due to ongoing violence in her hometown in Syria. She now lives in a ShelterBox tent in northern Lebanon on a small informal tented settlement with her seven young children and husband. They have been there for one year surviving on the bare minimum.
‘My hope is only for my children to be safe and for the fighting to stop so we can return home,’ Anna continued. ‘As long as the situation remains like this, we can’t go back.’
There is no sign of the Syria crisis easing. In the last year, the number of people who have fled starvation, fear and death has more than trebled: United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) statistics show that on 9 March 2013 there were 834,567 refugees. Six days ago there were 2,544,477. There are predictions this will double by the end of this year.
‘Great tragedy of this century’
‘Syria has become the great tragedy of this century – a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history,’ said Antonio Gutteres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), last September.
‘I don’t think there are reasons to be optimistic,’ he said of the possibility of resolving the Syrian war. ‘We see the war going on and on and on… with tragic humanitarian consequences with suffering of Syrian people that is unimaginable…’
ShelterBox helps thousands
ShelterBox has worked tirelessly to get aid to thousands of refugees, like Anna, and displaced families in the region. With a long term presence in four countries, the charity is now focusing on two fronts – in neighbouring Lebanon, and via a route into Syria itself. Partnership and planning have been key.
‘The Syrian crisis is complex and bloody with no end in sight,’ said ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) member Toby Ash who was recently at a secret location near war-torn Syria. ‘But ShelterBox is able to make a real difference on the ground. We have developed strong partnerships with those able to operate on our behalf in the country, and through careful distribution management and the increasing use of technology, we are able to effectively identify and reach the most desperate.’
The team was on the ground last week preparing for a shipment of 400 tents and 2,400 blankets that was arriving imminently from the UK. They met with trusted and proven local and international partners who distribute aid inside Syria itself, including ShelterBox aid.
ShelterBox in Lebanon
As well as this secret and hopefully secure route into Syria, ShelterBox is also now concentrating on Lebanon, where an estimated one in four people is a refugee. A new Response Team arrived in Beirut last week to oversee distribution of tents, blankets and solar lamps.
Hundreds of the tents are adapted so stoves can be used inside them, making them ideal for the colder areas in the Bekaa Valley. Distribution is via a long-established network of implementing partners, and is being managed remotely due to the unpredictable nature of aid work in Lebanon.
‘With the daily increase of the number of refugees, a need to find shelter becomes crucial,’ said Ahmad AlAyyoubi, project manager at Lebanese Refugee Council, one of ShelterBox’s partners.
‘Tents have been a blessing’
‘Fleeing the turmoil in Syria, the refugees seek the closest areas near the Lebanese borders. They are left stranded with no money, no belongings and no place to go. Having no money prevents them from renting any houses; thus they seek informal tented settlements. Since those tents are already full because of the constant increase of the refugee numbers, ShelterBox tents have been a blessing. Not only have the tents provided a shelter for the refugees, they proved to stand the weather on the outskirts of the Lebanese rural areas.
‘It is a great relief to see that, with the help of ShelterBox, we are able to bring comfort and ease to some of the refugees’ suffering by offering shelter, which at the end of the day is one of life’s basic necessities.’
You can help
Thanks to everyone who has supported ShelterBox’s Syria Refugee Appeal. Three years on many thousands still need our help today more than ever. Please help Syrian families and donate today or organise your own Socks 4 Syria day