Syria crisis - your questions answered
A doctor treats patients at a mobile clinic
Please help us meet the needs of the thousands of people affected by the crisis in Syria. [Caritas Lebanon]
What has happened?
After nearly three years of civil war, the situation in Syria is catastrophic and continues to deteriorate. There is ongoing fighting between government forces and opposition groups across the country, and, according to the United Nations, three million people are living in areas that are receiving little or no aid because of fighting.
The United Nations estimates that 9.3 million people are in need of aid in Syria – a figure that has risen sharply from 6.8 million in June 2013. More than 6.5 million people have been driven from their homes within Syria, and at least 2.3 million registered refugees have fled the country. With many refugees unwilling or unable to register officially, the true figure is likely to be far higher. This is the biggest displacement crisis ever, and it has necessitated the largest humanitarian response in history.
What are the humanitarian needs?
Food and water: Because of blockades, sanctions, a lack of fuel and large-scale displacement, food is extremely difficult to access in many parts of Syria. Where food is available, prices have soared, making it increasingly hard for many families to afford. Water supplies have also been disrupted in many areas.
Healthcare: Most public hospitals in Syria have been destroyed or damaged because of the fighting, and the functioning ones are over-crowded. There are severe shortages of medicines. The lack of safe drinking water and sanitation has led to an increase in waterborne disease. There have also been outbreaks of serious preventable diseases, like polio, because of a lack of healthcare in areas cut off by fighting.
Shelter and household goods: One third of all homes in Syria have been destroyed, and many people need shelter and support. An estimated 4,000 people are fleeing into neighbouring countries every day, many with little more than the clothes they are wearing. Many people have been living in makeshift shelters or informal settlements during the winter months, trying to survive in freezing temperatures.
Unemployment: The war has left the Syrian economy in tatters, and many families no longer have the means to make a living. Poorer families have been particularly badly affected.
Protection: There has been an increase in human rights violations, including massacres, indiscriminate bombing of towns and cities, kidnappings, torture of prisoners, rape and sexual assault. There have also been reports of children being recruited into armed forces.
How much has the CAFOD appeal raised?
Thanks to the immense generosity of our supporters, our appeal has so far raised more than £2.5 million. We have also received £620,000 as our portion from the joint appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee.
As in all our emergency appeals, we intend to spend these funds over three years, supporting people with immediate needs and – where possible – helping people to rebuild their lives for the long term. We have so far committed more than £1.3 million.
What are CAFOD and its partners doing?
We are supporting Church partners in Syria, who are providing food parcels, medical aid and relief supplies and helping people to find safe places to stay. Our partners are supporting people in need in areas held by both government and opposition forces. The extensive community networks of the Church, even as a minority faith, mean that it is well placed to provide aid in some of the worst hit and most inaccessible areas of the country.
Unfortunately, we are unable to name our partners in Syria or state exactly where they are working. This is because many of the aid workers, priests and volunteers we support are operating at great risk to their own safety; publicising their work could endanger both them and the life-saving programmes they are delivering.
We are also working with our Caritas partners in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan to ensure that newly arrived refugees have food, medical support, clothes and safe places to stay.
Over the last year, CAFOD funding has directly helped more than 28,000 people. In total, thanks to donations from Catholics all over the world, our local partners in the Caritas International network have reached more than 320,000 people.
Does CAFOD support western military intervention?
No. We understand why governments around the world want to do something to respond to the ongoing crisis. But in a very complex situation - and despite the limited progress at the Geneva peace talks - CAFOD and our church partners across the region are clear that the only lasting solution to the crisis is a political settlement through dialogue and diplomacy. We support Pope Francis’s call on world leaders to “help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution.”
We welcome the fact that the British government has committed £600 million in aid to support people affected by the crisis, and we also welcome their recent change in policy to allow some of the most vulnerable refugees to receive sanctuary in the UK.
What’s life like for refugees in neighbouring countries?
The refugees are living wherever they can find shelter - in camps, cowsheds, derelict or half-built buildings, even in the open air. Children are often traumatised after seeing their parents killed or homes destroyed in front of them. They urgently need peace and the opportunity to go home and rebuild their lives.
How much has the CAFOD appeal raised?
Thanks to the immense generosity of our supporters, our appeal has so far raised more than £2.4 million.