20 September 2012
The deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria is placing huge pressure on border countries such as Jordan, six months after the British Red Cross launched an emergency appeal to provide life-saving assistance in the region.
Needs are growing in Syria’s neighbouring countries, where increasing numbers of people displaced from Syria are sheltering.
Neighbouring Jordan faces a hidden crisis as 180,000 displaced Syrians have crossed the border. While the focus of attention has been on Zatari refugee camp, home to 30,000 people, many thousands more are living in towns, cities and villages across Jordan.
A hidden crisis
Penny Sims, British Red Cross spokesperson who has just returned from Jordan, said: “So far over 180,000 people have crossed the border into Jordan and more people are arriving every day. There are thousands of Syrian people living within towns and cities across Jordan, in desperate need of support.
“This is a hidden crisis. Refugees are living among Jordanian communities, where they are less visible than those living in camps. Also some Syrian families don’t want to be identified.
“Some families who arrived with money now find they are running out, and more people are arriving with little but the clothes on their backs. Their needs are more complex; they are dealing with housing shortages, escalating rents, rising food prices, and rapidly dwindling resources.
“On top of this, many are also dealing with the psychological after-effects of living through conflict. From the outside, they appear to be getting by, but many are living lives of quiet desperation.”
In the town of Mafraq, in northern Jordan, some basic food stuffs such as tomatoes and lemons have already doubled in price. Rents are also escalating, and refugees are living with the threat of eviction.
Red Cross to provide help
The Jordanian Red Crescent has been supporting Syrian refugees since the beginning of 2012 and is providing food and other relief to over 50,000 people.
Dr Al-Hadid, president of the Jordanian Red Crescent, is concerned about the number of refugees who will need additional support as winter approaches: “Winter will be very bad. Winter here in Jordan has no mercy. While it is still warm in the day, it is freezing cold at night. People are focussing on food but we need other kinds of aid. We will need blankets, heaters, mattresses.”
The British Red Cross has a long-term relationship with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, and has been supporting aid efforts in Syria since the conflict began in early 2011. British Red Cross is now preparing to boost support to neighbouring Jordan.
British Red Cross disaster response manager Barry Armstrong said: “We have been providing technical support to the Jordanian Red Crescent – we’re now looking into how we may develop this further, possibly through cash grants, to give families the flexibility to buy what is most needed.”
Hardship across the region
Over 150,000 refugees have also fled to Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon, where the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is working to provide emergency relief and healthcare.
Inside Syria, there have been many casualties since the conflict erupted and now the situation is rapidly deteriorating further. Destruction of basic infrastructure and constant bombardment are impacting on communities. Access to basic healthcare is a struggle for those who remain.
Penny Sims, British Red Cross spokesperson, said: “I spoke with one woman who gave birth in a temporary clinic based in someone’s house. Her local hospital was just ten minutes away, but the constant sniper fire meant she could not risk even a ten minute journey to proper facilities to give birth. The very next day, she got up and began to make her escape with her baby.”
The tens of thousands of people fleeing from the conflict and trying to seek temporary shelter in Syrian schools, public buildings and parks also face harsh winter conditions in the coming months.
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