On March 15, the Syrian Civil War enters its fifth year of conflict. The impact of the war has been incredibly far-reaching: more than 250,000 people have died, 13.5 million are in need of humanitarian assistance, 5.7 million children and adolescents are in need of educational assistance, and 6.5 million are internally displaced.
The needs of the Syrian population are massive and AVSI has, since the beginning, worked hard to face what has become the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. We currently have several projects operating within Syria and its neighboring countries. In Damascus, Syria's capital, we are now supporting displaced women and children; in Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, AVSI sustains the Custody of the Holy Land Reception Center, which welcomes over 200 refugees per day; and in Lebanon we give education and employment opportunities to Syrian refugees.
Damascus In its efforts in Damascus, AVSI has been collaborating with the Italian Hospital in Damascus, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in the Babtuma district, and has partnered with the United Nations, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, and local government entities.
In particular, AVSI has focused its efforts in the cities of Sahnaya and Ashrafiet Sahnaya, located southwest of Damascus. These cities are known to be safe, although located very close to Darayya and Hajar Aswad, two cities under the rebel's siege. Before the war, Sahnaya had a population of 100,000, but this number has almost tripled since 2011.
Currently, 365,000 people struggle greatly to live within the local infrastructure which is not equipped to support so many; specifically, they are in need of more bathrooms and wells. In Sahnaya, more than 100,000 individuals are in need of immediate humanitarian aid. AVSI aims to support this local population, especially women and children, by distributing personal hygiene kits to 1,800 families and by rebuilding 15 water infrastructures.
In order to guarantee access to water, AVSI will also build 350 new bathrooms and dig two new wells. AVSI goal is to reach approximately 4,000 people. AVSI has established very specific targets: to ensure access to water and sanitation facilities, to provide safe places to women and children, to offer psycho-social assistance to those in need, and organize training courses for work.
In response to this humanitarian emergency, AVSI supports the Custody of the Holy Land's activities coordinated by the association Pro Terra Sancta.
AVSI's priority is currently to sustain the Custody of the Holy Land Reception Center in Aleppo. Located inside the Parish of St. Francis in the district of Azizieh, it welcomes over 200 refugees per day. Here families find shelter, a place to sleep and eat, and are given clothes, medicine, and most importantly, a welcoming and peaceful place to stay. Friars work on rebuilding houses, providing psychological assistance, and energizing the parish life and activities.
“We assist those in need”, says Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, “We don't make distinctions of race and religion, this is the core of our mission in Syria. Please, help us to stay in Syria.”
Lebanon and Jordan
Today, Lebanon welcomes hundreds of thousands of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, and more arrive every day. The “foreign” presence in Lebanon represents at least one fourth, and possibly more, of the current Lebanese population.
This has become a serious challenge for a country where the political balance is already unstable. In refugee camps, it becomes fundamental to promote the human dignity of each of person currently living in no man's land.
AVSI has already supported approximately 50,000 Syrian and 34,600 Iraqi refugees. Our campaign aims to help 750 more families of Syrian, Iraqi and Palestinian refugees through facilitating access to education and improving these families' autonomy through opportunities for work.