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Monday, 21 March 2016 14:47

The human face of 5 years of conflict in Syria

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Syrian children photo“How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake in that martyred country, especially among civilians and the unarmed.” – Pope Francis 

March is the month that marks the 5th anniversary of the escalation of violence in Syria since the start of the civil war, described as one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world today. As part of one of the largest humanitarian networks in the world, the Caritas global network has collectively reached 1.8 million Syrians in its programs in the past year alone.

Caritas Australia’s Head of Emergencies, Melville Fernandez, said after five years 250, 000 people have died, 12.2 million people have been forced from their homes, and more than 75% of Syrians now live in poverty. In addition an estimated 13.5 million people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

“As a result of the conflict, at least 4 million people had fled the country, many to the neighbouring countries of Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. There are also millions of internally displaced families within Syria,” Mr Fernandez said.

Mr Fernandez said the living conditions of Syrians, in their own country or the places they have fled to, are as deeply disturbing as the numbers. “Many live in poverty. Home is a makeshift tent, and there is limited access to the necessities of water, hygiene, food, income and education,” he said.

Some Caritas Australia programs focus on emergency assistance, providing Syrian refugee families with food, water, sanitation and hygiene, shelter and non-food items (such as blankets, clothing and hygiene kits) Other Caritas supported programs support longer term needs, by offering psychosocial and mental health support, healthcare, educational and social services, including protection to vulnerable refugees.

Caritas supported programs in Syria and neighbouring countries that create space where children can express their feelings of the past and hopes for the future can take the form of drawings. Some of these drawings were recently included in a music video ‘Oh Canada’ created by Missy Higgins.

In Jordan, Caritas Australia’s support for Syrian refugees and vulnerable Jordanian families has included emergency food and non-food items, as well as health programs, including mother and child healthcare and psychosocial support to enable as many children to attend school as possible.

Thanks to the ongoing funding from the Australian Government, Caritas Australia will be able to support partners in Jordan in an education program for Syrian refugees and host population.

“Bolstered by support from the Australian Government, and the generosity of our supporters in Australia, Caritas is responding as best it can to assist in this enormous humanitarian crisis,” Mr Fernandez said.

“Thanks to the $1.5million recently approved through the DFAT Humanitarian Partnership Agreement, Syrian children will have a greater chance to succeed in school alongside their Jordanian school mates. This will change the lives of many who have missed years of schooling, while others will receive assistance to help them catch up.” Oxfam has also been granted $1.5 million for sustainable livelihood opportunities in Jordan.

Donate to Caritas Australia’s Middle East Crisis Appeal online via or phone 1800 024 413.and help us make a difference to the lives of the people of Syria. 

Watch "Oh Canada" by Missy Higgins via

Media Advisor Nicole Clements on 0408 869 833 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Caritas is a partner of the Humanitarian Partnership Agreement between the Australian Government and six of Australia’s leading international NGOs. Together, they are responding rapidly to global disasters and to build resilience to future crises.