3 February 2016 - Frances Guy
Christian Aid’s Head of Middle East Region Frances Guy appeals to world leaders and other delegates attending the 2016 Syria Donors Conference.
Layal, Syrian refugee in Lebanon ‘All I wish for is to see my family well and happy.’ #SupportSyrians
When you sit in the conference in London on 4 February please spare a moment to consider the people of Syria. This conference is supporting Syria and the region. It is right that the international community should be seeking to help all those who are generously hosting the millions of Syrians who have fled war and strife at home.
In Lebanon, Jordan and Northern Iraq more than one quarter of the population are now refugees or displaced people. Education and health services are over-stretched and poor communities, who opened their doors over four years ago, when the first refugees came, are also suffering.
But this conference should be about Syrians. What would a displaced Syrian inside Syria like to see the 30-plus heads of state gathered in London agree? What difference will those few hours make to daily lives in Aleppo, or Madaya, or other besieged areas?
I think it is reasonable to assume that a Syrian inside Syria – one of the 13.5 million people there in need of humanitarian assistance – would like a bit of calm, an end to the bombing, a cease fire of sorts, an end to the targeting of schools and hospitals, and an agreement to ensure that humanitarian aid gets to all those in need, especially those in besieged areas.
All of that should be possible. It doesn’t need a full peace agreement to stop the bombing now. It doesn’t need a full peace agreement to allow in humanitarian aid or to stop targeting hospitals. Heads of all the world’s humanitarian agencies made that appeal on 20 January. Please listen to them.
Dear delegate, think too of the Syrians in the Beka’a valley in Lebanon. What do they want to see come out of this conference? What would help give them a bit of hope that they can return home soon? Or even a bit of hope that their lives in Lebanon might be bearable while they wait to return to Syria?
They might like some guarantees that food rations from the World Food Programme will not be halved again like last summer because of lack of funding. Now that all personal savings have been spent, more and more refugees are totally dependent on UN food hand outs and the UN’s own statistics show that refugees in Syria are eating less and less.
Syrians in Lebanon would like an opportunity to work legally; to contribute to the economy; to be able to support their families and themselves with a little dignity. In Iraqi Kurdistan where Syrian refugees can work, they have contributed their talents and set up new businesses. It should be possible in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey too.
Syrians are clever people: many are skilled and well educated. They could be contributing to making Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey even more vibrant societies. Many Syrian children in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq are out of school. They are missing vital years of education because of bureaucratic rules on language of instruction and school curricula.
Dear delegate, please do commit to funding the education budget that the conference is asking for, but please also ask host governments to change their policies to help get Syrian children into education, and help get Syrian teachers back to work.
Dear delegate, your government’s pledge to fund is important to all Syrians wherever they are, but money in itself will not be enough. Host governments need to be encouraged to make policy changes that will help refugees regain hope: hope that their daily lives can be lived with dignity and hope that one day soon they will be able to go home.
In Lebanon and Iraq, Christian Aid partners continue to support Syrian refugee communities, as well as working with ACT Alliance agencies to support humanitarian efforts taking place in Greece and Serbia.
Frances Guy, Head of Region, Middle East, International.
For more information on Christian Aids work in the region, please visit www.christian-aid.org/Syria or contact Jo Rogers on 0207 523 2460
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