Refugee Project supports vulnerable groups inside Syria

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In Syria, the Red Cross Red Crescent, in cooperation with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNCHR), is supporting a project to provide a range of services, including child protection and psychosocial support, in areas affected by conflict. Dr Abdul Rahman Attar, President of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, stressed the importance of the project, which was launched in June 2012 under the umbrella of the Refugee Project.

The child protection unit works with displaced families in cities across Syria who may be traumatized or vulnerable and uses a range of techniques to help children deal with the effects of the conflict. The staff are able to recognize problems as they arise and offer real solutions.

Sumaia, 37, fled Damascus with her five children after suffering sexual violence during clashes in her local area. Ahlam, her 14-year-old daughter, has been visiting the child protection unit for seven months. Counsellors soon noticed that Ahlam was crying and withdrawn a lot of the time and so set up a session where she could talk freely. It soon emerged that she was feeling completely alone and misunderstood. She told the counsellor: “I had a problem and I am thinking of committing suicide. It would be much better for me if I did it.”

In response to these sessions, Ahlam was referred to SARC’s psychosocial support centre and Sumaia was given support by the UNHCR’s Survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence centre.

Sumaia says many people are facing terrible and catastrophic problems, with no access to shelter and no opportunities to make an income. “How can we survive without the aid we receive from the Refugee Project? How would I feed my five children?” she says

Sumaia’s story is not unique; similar stories emerge across the country and they are increasing as the humanitarian situation deepens.

The child protection unit receives children who are separated from their families or arrive unaccompanied. The main work of the child protection unit is to protect the child from abuse, neglect and harassment, in addition to assisting them with their psychological and social needs. This includes involving them in all activities such as video games, handicrafts, painting, educational games and other activities to comfort them, and above all, build confidence between the children and the staff to act normally with tranquility.

Mr Kamal Kneider, the administrative director of this unit, plays an important role with families and unaccompanied children. Kamal says: “This centre is very influential to the children’s life and we have achieved a very important work in a very short time, we are able to gain children’s confidence. Our goal is to cover the needs of all vulnerable children during the current circumstances.”

The vocational training unit, another new project under the umbrella of the Refugee Project, was launched at the beginning of the year and aims to provide better options for building livelihoods. Small income-generating activities will be conducted in this unit with courses in computer use and others to enable them to earn a living in the future.

The SARC’s Refugee Project acts as a mediator between the vulnerable groups in Syria and UNHCR to support them in their livelihoods and education.

The Irish Red Cross Syria Crisis Appeal continues to suport those in need both in Syria and those who have been forced to flee across borders.

Read more about the Red Cross Red Crescent response to the Syria Crisis:

By Raefah Makki, IFRC, and Viviane Tou'meh, Syrian Arab Red Crescent