By editor - 08 April, 2014
Courtesy: Independent Catholic News http://www.indcatholicnews.com/
As the crisis in Syria continues, the United Nations has officially registered one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
The population of Lebanon would in normal circumstances total just over four million.
The Director of CAFOD’s partner Caritas Lebanon Migrant Centre, Najla Chahda, commented, “Life in Lebanon today is worse than during the darkest days of our civil war in the 1980s. We are not just stretched to the limit, we are already past breaking point.”
Although the people of Lebanon are showing enormous compassion towards the Syrians who have crossed the border, the sheer number of refugees is having a devastating impact.
“Our economy is in tatters, and the health system is unable to cope. School classes have doubled in size, and cannot take any more. Many Syrian families are so desperate that they send their children out to work instead, often in factories or in the fields,” Najla Chahda said.
“Most of the new arrivals are living in appalling conditions, trying to survive in half-finished or derelict buildings, in cowsheds, or even in the open air.”
“The people of Syria lived together harmoniously in the past, and all the refugees I have met want to do so again. They want to go back to their own towns, to rebuild their homes and their lives, and let their children grow up in peace. For the sake of Lebanon’s future, we are desperate for them to do so too.”
Thanks to support from CAFOD and Catholic agencies around the world, Caritas Lebanon is providing food, shelter, emergency supplies, healthcare and counselling to more than 125,000 Syrian refugees across the country.
But, with thousands more refugees crossing the border every day, aid agencies are struggling to keep up with the demand.
In total, 9.5 million people – around half of Syria’s population – have fled their homes since the crisis began, including 2.5 million refugees now living in neighbouring countries.
Alan Thomlinson, CAFOD’s Emergency Programme Manager for the Syria Crisis, said: “At the moment, there is no end in sight to this catastrophe.”
“Although the Geneva peace talks earlier this year produced limited results, it is vital that the international community keeps up the pressure to bring all sides to the negotiating table,” he explained.
“The donations of Catholics in England and Wales are providing vitally needed aid to ordinary people who have escaped from the war. But this is the worst humanitarian crisis of the twenty-first century, and we urgently need to scale up our work.”
21 March marked a year since the formal launch of CAFOD’s Syria Crisis appeal.
During that time, Catholics in England and Wales donated more than £2.5 million, enabling the agency to support thousands of families in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.