Beyond the Basics: Holistic Humanitarian Assistance for Syrians.

Author:Berends, Margo
Position:Commentary and Analysis

January/February 2017

Although Aleppo is now under the control of forces supporting the Syrian government and the city has been evacuated, it is but one city and the Syrian crisis is far from over. Millions have been displaced by the violence, either within Syria or across its borders, and the refugee crisis reverberates across the Middle East, Europe and beyond. While there has been much discussion of the refugee crisis, there has been limited coverage in mainstream American media of the needs of refugees and displaced people beyond the basics.

The scale of the crisis is staggering. As of December 2016, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported a total of 4.8 million registered Syrian refugees. 2.1 million are registered in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon, and 2.7 million are registered in Turkey. Many more are unregistered. There are an additional 6.5 million internally displaced people within Syria.

The most immediate needs of Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons are, indeed, water, food, shelter, hygiene and, where necessary, medical assistance. I work for Global Communities, an NGO responding to these needs by delivering much needed goods and services. But in addition to these life-sustaining necessities, we are working to provide refugees and the displaced with other services to move towards recovery.

Whether in refugee camps or living in cities, dispersed among the native population of their recipient communities, refugees require services that everyone needs, such as trash removal, education, sanitation services and so on. This means that the impact of the refugee crisis goes beyond the refugees themselves into the host communities which receive them. A large influx of refugees, especially in areas that are already relatively poor, strains scarce resources, appears to divert government services away from citizens, and increases competition for employment opportunities. For example, Lebanon hosts an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees in a country with an original population of only 4.5 million. That is the equivalent of the entire populations of Canada and the United Kingdom moving into the United States in the space of five years. Jordan faces a similar challenge with an estimated 1.8 million refugees in country. Global Communities is working with USAID in Jordan to help host communities prioritize their needs and improve public services to reduce tensions between refugees and hosts. In...

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