Since 2011, violence in Syria has forced thousands of people to leave their homeland, with a huge wave of refugees pouring into Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. Caritas is giving refugees food, medical care, and emergency items.
Why are so many people fleeing Syria? A conflict between government and anti-government forces in Syria has escalated sharply since early 2011. Aerial bombardments, shooting on the streets, sniper attacks, and other types of violence have hurt thousands of Syrian civilians. Many Syrians were hiding in their homes for months, unable to work or go to school, before they decided to flee to other countries to escape the violence. Most Syrians remain in their country. Some have been displaced and face the same challenges that Syrian refugees abroad face. Caritas is providing food in Aleppo and Homs, mainly for displaced people. Where are the Syrian refugees going? The refugees are primarily fleeing to the neighbouring countries of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Some Iraqi refugees who were living in Syria have now fled back to Iraq. Where do the refugees live? Some refugee families are living in apartments or old buildings, often crowding into very small [...]
As Syria refugees pour into Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon, Caritas is giving them food, medical care, and emergency aid. Ilham, a mother of five, described a harrowing day in her home city to Caritas Communications Officer Laura Sheahen. I have nothing to do with the military, I am a civilian. We’re from Bab Amr, in Homs. One day I wanted to go get milk. My neighbour Adnan said, “Don’t go, I’ll bring you milk. I’m afraid you’ll be killed.” The snipers shoot from a long distance. We don’t see the shooter, but he sees us. It was about 2 pm and Adnan was bringing the milk to me, two containers. A shooter was up in a building in a small window. He was shot. The bullet went through his arm to his heart. I went out to try to save Adnan. The person who shot him also shot me, to prevent me from reaching [...]
Available in French By Laura Sheahen, Caritas Communications Officer “We’d move from neighbour to neighbour to escape the bombing,” says Ahmed, a father of six from the Syrian city of Homs. As civil war in his country escalated, he watched buildings bombarded and people injured or killed. “There came a moment when I looked at my children and thought, ‘nothing matters but them.’ I knew we had to leave.” If they only had themselves to worry about, thousands of Syrian parents might take their chances and stay in their country even as bombs drop and snipers fire. “If it were not for my children, I would never have left Syria. I should be there,” says Ahmed. Instead, he took his family to Jordan. Ilham, an epileptic mother of six, was shot in the leg by a sniper. But for several months after, she remained in Syria. “I didn’t want to […]
Available in French Tens of thousands of people have fled Syria to escape bombardments and shooting. Now living in cramped, unsanitary conditions in neighbouring countries, some refugees are falling ill. Doctor Simon Kolanjian is a pediatrician who travels in a Caritas Lebanon mobile clinic to treat refugee children. He spoke with Caritas Communications Officer Laura Sheahen about what he’s seen since the clinic on wheels started in May 2012. How are Syrian refugee children doing? The children are malnourished. They come to us and they’re weak and thin. A lot of kids have diarrhea. The water isn’t clean. I tell them to boil it. We need to tell them how to use water. The infections go up in summer. We can’t keep giving them antibiotics if the water’s bad. We must address the root cause. There are also upper respiratory infections, lice, fungal infections. How many kids do you usually […]
On the road in South Sudan, landmine warnings flash by and demining groups work on unexploded bombs left over from war. But in a vehicle full of Caritas workers, the passengers are more worried about the insects flying around. Are they mosquitoes? Tsetse flies? The vehicle splashes through puddles where snails and worms live that can make you very ill. Almost every bad tropical disease you've heard of is found in this corner of East Africa. And nearly every problem a country can face is here: violence from within and without; almost no water systems, paved roads, electricity, schools or clinics; war orphans and war widows; half a million returnees with no homes; thousands of guns in the hands of armed groups. South Sudan, the world’s newest country, has it all. It has it all in a better sense, too: rich fields, plenty of natural resources, the blessing (or curse) of [...]
“There was bombing and shelling, soldiers. My children kept saying, ‘What’s happening?’” Nyanareng, a 28-year-old mother of four, didn’t have time for long explanations when violence struck Abyei, a disputed border town between Sudan and South Sudan. She just told her children to run. “We walked five days on foot. We’d dig in the ground for water,” she said. It was May 2011, and hot in the bush. Her children survived. But her mother died of exhaustion. “We weren’t allowed to bury my mother in Touralei, so we came here, to Agok.” South Sudanese have often been the people nobody wants. Sometimes they’re shuffled from refugee camps to way-stations to transit areas. Or they’re targets, running from bombs and bullets, trying not to get separated from their children or wives or husbands. After a decades-long civil war, South Sudan is now its own country, a nation getting its people back. A huge fraction [...]
On World Refugee Day (20 June), Caritas says there needs to be better protection of the human rights of refugee women, especially in relief camps and in border areas. In Africa, women refugees live for extended periods in overcrowded sites where life is harsh. They lack access to basic items such as food, shelter, clothing and medical care. Women can easily become victims of all forms of violence, sexual abuse and exploitation. In industrialised countries, women asylum seekers face unduly prolonged detention and forced return, as well as restricted access to social or medical systems, combined with limited access to the regular employment market. The UN’s refugee agency UNHCR says the world will see increasing numbers of refugees during the next 10 years as the factors causing mass population flight grow. They include climate change, population growth, urbanisation, food insecurity, water scarcity and resource competition. Finding durable solutions to refugee situations is a [...]
Chaldean Catholic Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo in Syria and head of Caritas Syria has been in France for meetings with Secours Catholique (Caritas France). He spoke to François Tcherkessoff. Here is an edited version of the interview (translated by Caritas Internationalis). What does the Church leadership say about the recent events? The three patriarchs of Damascus from the Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Syrian churches urge dialogue, an end to the violence, a reform of the State to allow greater freedom, democratic elections. Some Christians fear the unknown with the possible rise of religious fundamentalism as in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt and so defend the regime.
Every year, thousands of desperate migrants from Africa cross the Mediterranean, hoping to reach southern Europe. Caritas is focusing on their needs at the Migramed conference, held this week in Cagliari, Italy. Before trying to cross the Mediterranean, many of these migrants have already spent months travelling through Africa, often fleeing violence, poverty or hunger. They embark from Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria, with some migrants detained for long periods in Libyan prisons before leaving for Italy or Malta. Their boat trips frequently fail. Some die in the sea, victims of bad weather. Others are sent back to their transit country after being intercepted by the Italian or Libyan navy.