News Room /
A panel of international organisations warn of the challenges Syrian refugees face
09 August 2012
Islamic Relief USA's Abed Ayoub
"Women and children make up 75% of the refugees, but refugee camps lack services for them."
More than one million Syrians have been displaced since the crisis began a year and half ago, according to United Nation’s figures. Families from neighbouring countries initially absorbed the influx of refugees but now they cannot cope with the growing refugee community or meet their needs. Neither are the refugee camps able to cope with the sheer thousands arriving daily.
A recent briefing was organized on Capitol Hill by Islamic Relief USA. The panel reported and discussed the conditions and challenges refugees face. The panel included organizations such as Islamic Relief, the Syrian American Medical Society, the International Rescue Committee, and Refugees International who addressed 120 government officials and not-for-profit organizations.
Wounded Syrian refugees are facing daunting challenges in getting lifesaving care, speakers said at the briefing. IR USA CEO Abed Ayoub reported that some travel for days to try and reach Jordan, only to succumb to diseases and die at the border. The others arrive but cannot find the specialized care they need. People with fatal injuries are lying in tents because there is a severe shortage of medical supplies and relief professionals.
Speakers said basic organisation is needed to assist refugees in finding support as they cross the border. Many refugees do not know where to go, and several speakers said the uncertainty and poor conditions are deterring Syrians from trying to cross the borders for much-needed help. It was recommended that protected humanitarian corridors, mobile hospitals and rehabilitation centers at borders were established to meet these growing needs.
Vulnerability of women and children
Women and children make up 75% of the refugees, but refugee camps lack services for them. Thus the International Rescue Committee’s work is focusing on protecting women and girls, who have been targeted by violence. Women and girls are in danger of trafficking, abuse, exploitation and being coerced into early marriage. The International Rescue Committee's Kocher cited a case in which a woman was raped by 29 men. “These women are strong, they are very strong but they need attention and they need assistance” Kocher said.
Assisting refugees, especially women, is difficult as many women are not aware of existing services. NGOs are having difficulty helping refugees, as many are living with host families and are not registering, fearing retaliation.
It was advised that the international community work together to better identify the needs of unregistered refugees and ensure that the borders remain open. Camps should meet international standards to protect women and girls and private space should be provided for free confidential health services. The challenges seem large, but speakers emphasized that everyone can play a role in the solution.