In the Middle East and North Africa, Jesuit Refugee Service works predominantly with urban refugees. The first projects were initially established in 2008 in response to the high number of Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan. These two countries hosted the majority of Iraqi refugees, who make up the second largest group under UNHCR responsibility worldwide at an estimated 1.8 million.
Since this interview was recorded in March 2012, JRS has adapted and expanded its existing projects in Syria in order to adequately respond to the needs of the 2.5 internally displaced people (IDPs) and to the nearly 500,000 refugees spilling across Syria’s borders into Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.
About 3,000 families in Damascus, Homs, Aleppo and in the south near the border with Jordan receive emergency assistance through JRS. This includes: Food packages, a basic utensils kit for newly arrived refugees comprising cooking utensils, blankets, mattresses, cash assistance for rent and temporary accommodation at emergency shelters.
Aleppo: psychosocial programs; food security (feeding 10,000+ people a day); managing schools providing shelter for 4,000 IDPs; more than 75 local volunteers are reaching out to 8,000 refugees, more than 3,000 of whom are children. Also providing food, non-food items and cash assistance to 4,000 people.
Damascus: education for children; food security; counseling; through family visits, JRS staff and volunteers in Damascus coordinate help for 900 families. JRS provides nearly 500 children educational support, cash assistance for transport costs, sports and recreational services. Opportunities for children to create handicrafts, music and art are offered to the students to encourage self-expression and emotional release from the trauma of conflict.
Homs: educational and psychosocial support for 800 children, including 15 young people with disabilities. Support for 500 families in Homs and surrounding areas is ongoing.