Internally displaced the most vulnerable
The majority of displaced Syrians find themselves in cramped and cold living conditions in Syria or as refugees in the neighboring countries. The internally displaced are the most vulnerable group, exposed to violence and rights violations.
Humanitarian agencies estimate that nearly 1.2 million people are internally displaced (IDPs) within Syria as a consequence of the Syrian crisis. IDPs are often the most vulnerable group, exposed to violence and rights violations and many have not attempted to leave the country because of lack of resources or due to an anticipation that displacement will be temporary.
“We fled with only the most essential things – our papers and clothes. We never though it would last this long. We expected to return within a few weeks or months, instead we ended up fleeing from place to place,” says Afaf, 40, who slowly gave up hope of returning to her home in Homs, and therefore fled to Lebanon with her four children three months earlier.
Within Syria, there are mainly two patterns of displacement – those who travelled long distances to reach safe places within Syria, and those who are displaced over short distances as an immediate result of fighting within their area. As the conflict has spread throughout Syria, all types of displacement are now protracted – and in many cases families have had to move multiple times, as previously safe areas come under attack.
”My children have changed. They are scared and nervous. We moved so many times, started over and over again, but the war came after us every time. It wasn’t until we lost hope of things getting better that we started moving towards the unknown,” Afaf explains her decision to leave her country.
The majority of displaced Syrians find themselves in cramped and cold living conditions irrespective of whether they sought refuge with other families, in collective shelters, or by renting accommodation. Families who sought refuge in collective shelters only have access to cold water in limited quantities, as facilities meant for e.g. day-time school use are now permanently shared by over 300 people.
“There is not enough diesel for private use, let alone humanitarian assistance distributions, and hence providing heating sources for individuals is not a relief option,” says Charlotte Kjoerup, head of DRC Syria.
Refugees hosted by families or renting accommodation are often living in small spaces shared by at least 15-20 people, which reduce the cost of living but does not address the continued vulnerability of displaced families unable to meet basic needs.
DRC Syria is focusing on alleviating major non-food, shelter, water and sanitation needs in Homs, Dara’a and Damascus Governorates in collaboration with DRC’s main partner, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), to distribute non-food relief items to displaced and conflict-affected Syrians.
To date, approximately 65,000 people have received non-food assistance. During November and December nearly 80,000 people will receive winterisation assistance such as blankets, mattresses and clothes.
DRC’s memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Education (MoE) allows it to undertake rehabilitation works on MoE property, by which rehabilitated school buildings are either used as educational institutions or designated as collective shelters.
“We ensure that schools used as collective shelters in Damascus and the surrounding areas have the adequate infrastructure, electrical systems, and water/sanitation support to meet displaced families’ basic needs. This includes pioneering prefabricated shower units in these shelter-schools that provide hot water, effectively addressing health concerns related to hygiene and lack of water,” says Charlotte Kjoerup.