August 22 2016

Expanding care for refugees in Lebanon and Jordan

Lebanon and Jordan have the highest number of refugees per capita worldwide, according to UNHCR. More than one million people have fled from Syria to Lebanon; Jordan is hosting more than 660,000 refugees. Raymond Chevalier, SOS Children’s Villages’ Director of Emergency Response for the Middle East and North Africa region, recently visited Lebanon to assess the SOS emergency response programme for Syrian refugees, and Jordan, where a refugee response programme is being developed. He speaks about the difficult situation in the refugee camps and plans to expand SOS Children’s Villages’ assistance in both countries.

What are the biggest needs of the refugee children and their families in Lebanon?

The needs are quite large. There is a lack of educational opportunity, clean water, health care and sanitation, especially for the Syrian children in Lebanon who live in camps. They haven’t attended school regularly for years.
There are also huge problems with child and women labour in the camps, often in bad working conditions. People need the opportunity to develop skills so they can make a living because it’s very expensive for them to survive in the camps.

What are the main challenges SOS Lebanon faces in responding to the needs of refugees?

With estimates of more than one million refugees in a country of about five million people, it is difficult to cover even basic needs. The country is overwhelmed. And one of the biggest challenges Syrians face in Lebanon is that their legal status does not permit them to work, which makes it difficult to care for and support a family.

Are there plans to expand the emergency response programme in Lebanon?

We are really interested in expanding our emergency response programme at the Khonshara refugee camp in Lebanon. We want to do that in a way that’s integrated with our existing programmes, which focus on providing care and counselling for children, vocational training and hygiene supplies.

Raymond Chevalier, SOS Children’s Villages’ Director of Emergency Response for the Middle East and North Africa region.

You are preparing an emergency response programme for Jordan. Explain what is planned.

We are making preparations to provide care and support for children and families. We are now waiting to see which needs are covered by other non-governmental organisations, so we can target other areas of need.
For example, our planned interim care centre for young people between 12 and 18 years will be the only centre of its kind for refugees in Jordan. There are shelters for children from three to 12 years, but no one has actually targeted the older age group.
In Rukban [a remote town in northeast Jordan], there are no other NGOs working in the city, and we would really like to get access to the people who are in need.
Educational programmes are being provided by other NGOs in some communities, but there are still areas where such programmes don’t exist and these areas will be our main target.
Our emergency response programme will benefit 60% Syrian families and 40% Jordanian families to help host communities cooperate and support refugees.

What are the challenges in starting the emergency response programme in Jordan?

This is a situation that requires long-term thinking. It is most likely that these refugee families will be staying there for many years and we need to help them integrate into the Jordanian society – help them feel they are accepted, and help them to become active members of society in their host country.
There are many challenges that we need to overcome to adapt our projects to the needs of the refugees. For instance, the reality is that these people need money and they often let their children work to help generate income. This is why we need to develop projects that help adults earn money so that they can care for their families.

What was the most memorable thing you experienced during your visits to Lebanon and Jordan?

It was really heart-breaking and devastating to meet children who would love to go to school and are not able to because their families don’t have money, or they are not allowed to go, or have to follow a certain way of life that war has imposed on them. Children should be able to play, have fun and go to school.

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