24 March Mar 2014 1755 24 March 2014

Syria Emergency. Three years of conflict and a childhood denied

March 15th was the third  anniversary of the Syrian conflict. On the occasion, Avvenire  interviewed Marco Perini, AVSI country representative in Lebanon.

“Happy birthday!” we should say, a few days after March  15th, but unfortunately three years after the beginning of the revolt, nothing good has remained in Syria.There is no more sign of those people who defaced the walls of a Syrian small town with graffiti against Assad’s regime, there is no more sign of their spirit of freedom. The aspiration for a fairer and freer society has been ousted by a war which has already caused more than 160,000 deaths and has been compelling 9 million 300 thousand people to be in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Among them, 2 million and 600 thousand fled their country to seek sanctuary in Iraq, Egypt and Turkey; many people went to Jordan and Lebanon, from where I am sending you this report.
In three years, we have moved from writing on the wall to the arrival of thousands of jihadists coming from all over the world who are fighting not in the name of (fake) springs but with the fury of Islamic extremism, who not only burn crosses and other religious symbols, but also terrorize all those who believe and think in a different way, that is the “infidels”, whose heads being cut off is unfortunately a recurring practice.
The greatest humanitarian tragedy since the years after the Second World War has been set up and, on this “birthday”, I would like to look at it through the eyes of those who suffered most of all, that is  children living in Lebanon in inhuman conditions that we come across every day in our work.  Three years  mean a 1,100 day period of time far from home and 1000 nights sleeping on a mattresses laid on concrete or bare ground; three years are more than half a  primary school cycle that cannot be attended by children. In this period, children suffered from hot and cold, had lice on their hair and felt hunger in their bellies. Their parents (if still alive) no longer have  jobs, children no longer receive a toy; eating a hot meal is a feast, eating three times a day is just something they dream of.
This is the anniversary of 3 years without life, during which they neither dyed, nor really lived, where everything around them is about violence, filth, poverty, hardship and humiliation. In this circumstances, what have we done and what are we doing today?Much less than what we would have liked to do. We operated, in particular, in Lebanon and in Jordan reaching around 30,000 people and we will soon implement activities in Syria too, with the support of Unicef, Echo, Italian Cooperation and several families who knows that what is happening today in these areas of the Mediterranean might soon affect other innocent people of other shores of the same sea.
Just today, in an area of Lebanon that is called West Bekaa, we are launching a cash-for-work project which means providing paid jobs for refugees. Yes, giving jobs: enabling them to earn money to buy the things they really need in order not to depend on the purchases determined by the humanitarian world. We believe that work, dignity and freedom are the three key solutions, therefore we decided to do something that is more complicated  than just unloading humanitarian aid trucks. Nevertheless, we think this is the only one viable solution at the third war anniversary.
Today, 50 kilometers from the place of work of 150 adult refugees, more than 200 children are attending school and in the afternoon 170 will participate in remedial courses, 250 will take part in recreational and psychosocial activities which will allow them to live some hours of normal childhood in a world that (for them and many other people) is no more normal.
AVSI Syria Emergency Response Program carried out in Lebanon and in Jordan embraces the following sectors: cash transfer &livelihood, education, protection (GVB-Gender-Based Violence and child protection), Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), food and core relief items.
The main donors who supported the intervention are the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Civil protection Office (ECHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, AVSI partners and private donors.
AVSI’s activities to face  the Syrian Crisis in 2013 reached:
  • 2,400 Syrian refugees supported during winter with NFIs
  • 9,150 new comer families assisted with life saving Non Food Item kits
  • 1000 refugees living in an Informal Tented Settlement assisted with NFIs and food
  • 500 children supported with basic literacy and numeracy sessions
  • 500 Syrian students supported with remedial classes and support to teachers in 9 public schools
  • 960 Syrian children and young people from host communities supported with mobile Psycho-Social Support activities
  • 4 Multisectorial Need Assessments completed in Lebanon (view publications)