As the Syrian conflict enters its 12th year, it matters more than ever to remember Syria’s most vulnerable.
Syria still matters. It matters because its brutal, unresolved conflict continues to devastate the lives of millions and the repercussions will continue to be felt by us all. The last 11 years prove this; the refugee crisis triggered by Syria’s conflict that rocked global stability is just one example. But it is the people at the centre of this conflict who matter most.
Today there are 14.6 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria. 90% of the population live in poverty and 2 million people in informal settlements and camps without access to basic services.
Education and healthcare are limited, if available at all, and there are not enough teachers and doctors to go round. Children suffer from Leishmaniasis, a flesh-eating disease found in areas of extreme poverty. It is treatable, but without appropriate care can result in severe scarring and disability. Leishmaniasis is now endemic in Syria.
At Hands Up we have always focussed on programmes which stabilise local communities, and that need for stabilization has only increased with time. We still believe that sustainable re-development and stability relies on robust communities which are able to support themselves, with employment opportunities and access to healthcare and education.
This is why we work with local organizations to provide salaries and cover the costs required to run health centres (both static and mobile), schools and prosthetics clinics. We have spent the last eight years building relationships in southeast Turkey, northern Syria and Lebanon. We know the people we work with as well as the communities we serve. They do not need or deserve pity, they need functioning schools, qualified doctors and the means to earn a sustainable living.
This is what we can provide and over the last year we’ve helped over 26,000 Syrians.
In northern Syria, a team of 22 medical staff at a Primary Health Clinic run by our partner SAMS serve 2000 patients a month. Patients who otherwise would not have any access to healthcare.
The team treat people for Leishmanisis, they look after new mothers and their babies and they provide care for patients with chronic diseases like diabetes.
Following a successful pilot programme in 2021, this year we are launching a new prosthetics programme to respond to the vast number of people with limb difference in northern Syria. Lightweight, functional and cost-effective prostheses will be provided to 100 people initially, alongside the necessary physio and psycho-social support.
In Lebanon, two schools run by our partner SAWA provide over 400 children from the refugee community with education, and 17 teachers with salaries.
These children are not recognised by the public school system, without this programme they would receive no education at all, risking falling further into the margins of society. These schools provide opportunity, learning and hope.
In 2012 we decided to do something to help some of those affected by Syria’s conflict. We had no idea that over a decade later a number growing into millions would be in ever-more urgent need. We cannot afford to forget them. If we do, it is not just those in Syria and neighbouring countries facing further displacement, poverty, unemployment and a lack of basic services who will suffer. The consequences will continue to roll to our own doorsteps and humanity will be poorer.