Episcopal Relief & Development Renews Support for Syria’s Displaced

August 6, 2015Episcopal Relief & Development Web Statement

Episcopal Relief & Development has renewed its support of those impacted by the conflict in Syria through the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches (FMEEC). FMEEC has been responding since the beginning of the crisis more than four years ago, working with host communities and churches to meet the basic needs of increasingly large numbers of displaced people seeking safety.

Though the Syrian security situation has become increasingly unstable, some areas have remained relatively isolated from violence. Tartous Governorate, one such region, is currently home to over 200,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have been forced to flee their homes. However, as the conflict continues to escalate, communities are struggling to absorb the growing numbers of people looking for shelter. The availability of housing has diminished, and the costs have increased considerably – leaving the newly displaced to take residence in schools, unfinished buildings and other outdoor spaces.

FMEEC’s primary goal in responding to the Syrian crisis is to equip these safe regions to act as host communities to those who have lost their homes and livelihoods. In order to address critical needs of displaced and vulnerable families, FMEEC has initiated a project in three locations: Tartous, Latakia and Mashta Helo. With support from Episcopal Relief & Development, FMEEC will provide cash aid to help displaced individuals and families access safe and adequate shelter. Cash aid is the most effective form of relief for families in Syria, so to ensure security and accountability FMEEC has worked with local clergy to provide displaced households with critical funds for rent and fuel.

FMEEC is an association of the Evangelical (Protestant) churches of the Middle East, of which the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem is a member. Because FMEEC works with church hubs covering almost all of the governorates in Syria, the group already has a volunteer network of church youth and local coordinators serving in various logistical roles in the target areas. In 2014, FMEEC provided 3,000 families with fuel, heaters, kitchen utensils, sheets, pillows and cash. Throughout the crisis, FMEEC has provided more than 20,000 families with food and non-food items.

“FMEEC is an experienced partner with the assets and relationships necessary to transform the lives of these families,” said Nagulan Nesiah, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Program Officer for Disaster Response and Risk Reduction. “Our partner is a respected organization, working with member churches that are well situated to deliver the best possible support.”

The conflict in Syria began as an uprising against the country’s presidential regime, which turned violent when protests erupted in March 2011. By 2012, the country had descended into full civil war, and UN OCHA reports that as of 2015 more than 200,000 people have been killed. Almost 4 million people have fled Syria since the start of the conflict, and a further 7.6 million Syrians have been internally displaced within the country, bringing the total number forced to flee their homes to more than 11 million – half of the country’s pre-crisis population.

The Syrian economy has been devastated as a result of the conflict, with soaring inflation and high unemployment leading to economic chaos. Unemployment rates are now as high as 85% in some areas and savings have been depleted, leaving many families to rely on assistance from local churches and humanitarian agencies. Many of the displaced in Syria do not have the resources to leave the country, and are unable to provide for their families. A March 2015 report by the UN estimated the total economic losses since the beginning of the conflict at $202 billion, with four in every five Syrians now living in poverty.

“We stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of all faiths in Syria, though the ongoing threats to the minority Christian population are of particular concern,” said Rob Radtke, Episcopal Relief & Development’s President. “I pray that our renewed support will help preserve Syria’s religious diversity, enabling Syrian Christians to find refuge and safety without leaving their homeland behind.”

Please pray all of those impacted by unrest in Syria and throughout the Middle East. To respond to the crisis in Syria, please donate to Episcopal Relief & Development’s Disaster Response Fund.  

Episcopal Relief & Development works with more than 3 million people in nearly 40 countries worldwide to overcome poverty, hunger and disease through multi-sector programs that utilize local resources and expertise. An independent 501(c)(3) organization, Episcopal Relief & Development works closely with Anglican Communion and ecumenical partners to help communities rebuild after disasters and develop long-term strategies to create a thriving future. In 2014-15, the organization joins Episcopalians and friends in celebrating 75 Years of Healing a Hurting World.