We Cannot Let Syrian Refugees Down
Since September I have spent a significant amount of time in the Middle East to help coordinate CARE’s Syria Response. I have worked in numerous complex emergency situations in different countries around the world before, but the suffering I saw while I was leading CARE’s emergency response to the refugee influx from Kobane was unprecedented.
For the past weeks I have been working in Turkey near the Syrian border. More than 188,000 people have fled the violence in Kobane. I will not forget seeing the smoke over Kobane and hearing the sound of shelling. One morning, I met an old woman and her husband who had just arrived from Kobane. They had no shelter, nowhere to go and had lost everything. We provided them with hygiene kits and a food package. As I was handing them the package the old lady grabbed my arm and looked at me with very sad eyes. She then told me that her son disappeared the night before when they fled Kobane.
Another day we were conducting a needs assessment in a public park in the town of Suruc. One of the refugees that I interviewed expressed his frustration that he had not received any support yet. A few days later, we organized a distribution. I was surprised when the same man grabbed me, shook my hand and looked me in the eyes and said: “Thank you, thank CARE for all your help.” Then he disappeared in the crowd.
Unfortunately, the situation remains very difficult in Kobane. At the moment it is not safe for the refugees to return home.
During September I got the opportunity to work with a very inspiring, dedicated team, some of them are refugees themselves. I will always remember the conversations we had and the kind words that were exchanged in the early morning and late at night. It is in those hard situations when messages of encouragement are very important: “Alain, we need to keep going and do as much as we possibly can. What we are doing is important and we need to help the affected people as much as possible.” Our discussions and the time that I have spent with the team changed my perspective on the crisis. I really hope that CARE will receive more donations and funding to be able to scale our response up to support Syrian refugees and internally displaced people in hard to reach areas. The harsh winter is approaching and people’s situation will be even more desperate. Especially women and girls have urgent needs we urgently need to meet. We cannot let them down.
Written by Alain Lapierre, Syria Regional Operations Team Leader for CARE International