To Syria With Love, Winter 2015

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with love

Advocacy Spotlight: Protecting Healthcare Workers and Facilities Page 7 5

#NoLostGeneration: Providing Education to Syrian Refugees Page Page10 8 Women at the Conflict Resolution Table Page 16 14 Psychosocial Support for Refugees Page 19 17

In Pursuit of


03 Letter from the President Our thanks

06 About Us

About Syria Relief and Development and Where We Work

07 The Power to Save

The Key to Protecting Those Who Protect Us Lies in Advocacy

10 #NoLostGeneration

Restoring Education to Syria's Children

12 In Pursuit of Peace

Taking Steps Towards Ending Violence in Syria

On The Cover: Refugees cross the Hungarian border from Serbia, on September 12, 2015. Thousands of refugees, most of them from Syria, cross this border everyday with the hope to reach European countries like Sweden or Germany. The next step for them will be to register in Hungary before continuing their long journey. Š UNHCR/Olivier Laban-Mattei

16 Women at the Conflict Resolution Table

The Crucial Role of Syria's Women

19 Psychosocial Support for War-Torn Syrians

Editor-in-Chief: Muneeza Tahir Design: Rebekah Davis Contributors: Ailia Alam, Kate Cornelius, Dena Elian, Salman Husain, Amany Qaddour, Dr. Jihad Qaddour

SRD's Commitment to Providing Assistance in the Mental Health Field SyriaReliefandDevelopment |


PO Box 25446 Overland Park, KS 66225 | (913) 438-9990 Tax ID 45-3737015

Dear Friends, In the midst of widespread human suffering shown in the media, the world is undoubtedly facing its darkest period in recent memory. Considering the rise in the use of barrel bombs, the intervention of international actors in the country, and the continued havoc wrought by ISIS, it would be an understatement to say that the people of Syria have endured a particularly difficult year in 2015. Many innocent Syrian civilians who may once have had a future and the assurance of at least basic freedoms now live only the shadow of a life under extremely brutal circumstances. More Syrians than ever before are trying their best to survive in unlivable conditions. Their time is running out. Ever since the start of the crisis in Syria in 2011, Syria Relief and Development has strived to protect the lives of innocent civilians and keep the clock on human life running. One way SRD achieves this goal is through the provision of top-notch medical care to any and all victims of violence. Even though approximately 95 percent of Syria’s physicians have been detained, killed, or fled to safety in the midst of this conflict, a small number of extremely brave and heroic medical staff remain inside the country to give life-saving care to civilians. Considering that SRD witnessed attacks on four of its medical facilities in 2015, the actions of its medical staff who continue to work in these high-stress situations should not go unnoticed. One such example is SRD’s very own Country Director in Turkey, Dr. Abdelsalam Daif. Not only does Dr. Abdelsalam oversee SRD’s Turkey office, but he also travels frequently into Syria to perform surgeries as an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) Specialist. Though he treats patients at great personal risk to himself, Dr. Abdelsalam has said from the very beginning of the conflict in Syria that he would continue treating

patients “because all of Syria’s innocent civilians deserve help.” We commend Dr. Abdelsalam for serving as a beacon of light and hope to all those Syrian men, women, and children who have been wounded and traumatized by war. It has indeed been a difficult year for Syrians. However, it is stories like this one about Dr. Abdelsalam that keep a positive outlook and hope for a brighter future for Syria alive. Syria Relief and Development resolves to keep treating the sick and injured and to keep providing education and psychosocial support to children. SRD will continue to answer the call for more support for civilians for however long it takes until a resolution to the conflict in Syria is obtained. We have a common responsibility in humanity to open our borders—and our hearts—to refugees. I encourage you to ask your local, state, or federal governments to accept Syrian refugees. Help innocent Syrian civilians find a place to live that is safe from persecution and give them the chance to make the world a better place. My endless thanks to our supporters. May peace always be with you and with the people of Syria. Sincerely,

Dr. Jihad Qaddour President, Syria Relief & Development Syria Relief and Development | 3

The hope for a brighter future



Syria Relief and Development (SRD) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization providing humanitarian aid to Syrians affected by violence, hunger, poverty and displacement. SRD is based in the U.S. with offices in Syria, Jordan and Turkey. We strive to provide compassionate and dignified relief to those in need without regard to race, religion, color, orientation, creed or political affiliation. Our mission is to provide crisis humanitarian relief and plant the seeds of sustainable development for the people of Syria. Our food, shelter and protection, medical care, education, and seasonal programs provide much-needed relief to individuals and families in cities we work throughout Syria and for Syrian refugees in Amman, Jordan.

Where We Work:

Idleb Aleppo


Deir Alzor



Winter Care Packages Standard Care Packages Pediatric Primary Healthcare Centers

Daraa Amman, Jordan

SRD Regional Hospitals Mobile Medical Points Dental Clinic Refugee Health and Trauma Center Medical Aid for Field Hospitals Primary & Reproductive Health Polyclincs Education Shelter and Protection

6 | To Syria, With Love

th e

P OW E R to

SAV E Š UNHCR/Gregory Beals

The Key to Protecting Those Who Protect Us Lies in Advocacy by Kate Cornelius


mages of Syrian civilians lying bloodied and lifeless on hospital beds have remained ubiquitous in international news headlines since the start of the Syrian civil war almost five years ago. But little do viewers realize that in the background of these photos, the medical workers trying to save the lives of innocent civilians caught in the crossfire are not immune to the same fate either. Syria is without a doubt the most dangerous place in the world to be a doctor. Since 2011, more than 600 medical personnel have been killed inside Syria and 300 attacks have been

reported on over 200 healthcare facilities. These numbers indicate a systemic targeting of medical staff by armed actors whose main goal is to prevent the practice of medicine to save lives. Medical personnel who knowingly put themselves at risk to protect the needs of patients command the utmost respect and require pressure from the international community to turn their situation around. Since the start of the war in Syria, the humanitarian crisis has been marked by a particularly heinous strategy: deliberate attacks on medical workers and Syria Relief and Development | 7

healthcare facilities. Healthcare professionals have themselves become targets for armed forces who refuse to accept that doctors must abide by medical ethics which require them to treat all wounded patients regardless of their political stance on the Syrian war. According to Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), opposing sides in the conflict go to the most extreme lengths to maintain an edge over their enemy and therefore try to prevent the delivery of medical treatment to each other’s injured by any means possible.

Top: A doctor treats a patient at one of SRD’s multiple healthcare facilities throughout Syria. Above: Barrel bomb attacks have caused damage to healthcare facilities throughout Syria, including SRD’s own regional hospitals in Idleb and Aleppo.

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Beginning in March of 2011, PHR reported that doctors and nurses were killed mainly as a result of sniper shooting, execution or torture. Unfortunately, since that time attacks on medical workers have only increased in number and severity. Now in 2015, over 80 percent of attacks on healthcare workers and infrastructure result from heavy weaponry and aerial bombardment, including rockets, missiles and barrel bombs. Barrel bombs differ in shape, size, and composition, but are described by the Weapons Law Encyclopedia as improvised projectile weapons made of low-cost materials, like oil drums filled with incendiary or explosive substances, which are then dropped via aircraft for maximum damage to human life on the ground. The indiscriminate use of such weapons is prohibited under humanitarian law.

Despite international condemnation, SRD has seen its healthcare facilities inside Syria attacked multiple times by barrel bombs. Recently in September, two barrel bombs injured five people during an attack on one of SRD’s field hospitals in Aleppo. SRD President Dr. Jihad Qaddour condemned the incidents as “specific and systematic attempts to target medical facilities that treat the sick and injured.” Though no deaths were reported, critical medical treatment was still interrupted and damaged equipment and infrastructure had to be repaired. All too often, barrel bombs completely destroy SRD’s healthcare centers, and the only option for the remaining medical staff is to either rebuild again or be forced to relocate to a different facility. Indeed, PHR reported that attacks on healthcare facilities in Syria in May of this year were the highest ever recorded since the start of the conflict, with 15 attacks on 14 medical facilities occurring throughout the month. Though medical staff may escape harm during an initial barrel bomb attack, they are often killed in a second wave of bombing that occurs at the same location, when rescue workers and doctors try to save civilians injured at the scene of the first attack. This tactic, called a “double tap,” is just one of a myriad of way in which medical workers and facilities are targeted. Given the imminent threat to Syrian medical workers who continue to practice their profession, approximately 15,000 doctors and nurses have fled the country (Medics Under Fire). Those who choose to remain in the country to treat the injured do so knowing full well that they may soon be under fire. Their heroic actions have saved thousands of civilians.

Advocating On Their Behalf: How You Can Help Though the reality of living as a healthcare provider in Syria may seem bleak and unavoidable, the international community has the power and responsibility to call attention to this dire humanitarian situation and demand change. The question we as human beings must ask ourselves is: Why is the international community not fighting to protect doctors when they are fighting to protect us?” Syria Relief and Development (SRD) tackles this question head on by advocating on behalf of Syrian medical

personnel in order to reestablish protections for the very people who risk everything to save the lives of others. SRD’s work to change the status quo begins with building public awareness and popular support. Everyday citizens around the world can help bring an end to the attacks on medical staff, civilians, and infrastructure. First, individuals can start by listening to Syrian voices, about what people living in the country and diaspora Syrians say they need. SRD strives to amplify the voices of Syrians on the ground and create more accurate measures of what Syrians themselves want to see as solutions to the attacks on civilian medical workers. Only with reliable information from the ground in Syria can a conversation about the humanitarian situation begin to spread and feasible solutions come to light. The next important step for individual people to take after having all the information at hand is to advocate for a solution. The more people who know about the realities of barrel bombs on hospitals, medical workers, and patients means having more people to contact their local government representatives to demand protective action at a state level. Utilizing the collective voices of individual people around the world will put necessary pressure on heads of state and international governing bodies such as the United Nations to make an effort to draft legislation that offers greater protection to Syrian civilians and medical staff from indiscriminate violence. An important point that must be made here is that while humanitarian assistance in the form of additional medical supplies is always necessary to keep hospitals running, these won’t stop the aerial bombardment of healthcare facilities or the killing of medical staff. The cycle will always continue unless proper advocacy action is taken for a more permanent solution. What medical workers really need is for the barrel bombs to stop targeting their hospitals and their patients. Advocating to government officials and organizations with the power to uphold international human rights standards and protect civilians from aerial bombardments is one of the single best ways to help protect Syrian lives. Syria Relief and Development | 9

#NoLostGeneration Restoring Education to Syria’s Children


ducation is the cornerstone of a country’s overall development and advancement. Before the conflict began nearly five years ago, Syria’s school enrollment rates ranked among the highest in the region. Since then, the war has violently interrupted millions of educational pursuits as schools have been damaged or destroyed amid fighting, the shortage of qualified academics and instructors has grown, families have fallen deeper into poverty, and the dangers of war have held the population captive. In the 2011 United Nations (U.N.) Education Index—a key factor in determining whether a country is developed, developing or underdeveloped and calculated using mean and expected years of schooling— Syria was ranked 119th out of 187 countries. By 2014, its ranking fell to 168th out of 187 countries, placing it among the 20 lowest performing countries in the world (UNRWA). The daily deterioration of Syrian educational institutions plagues the country with a continuous loss of talent, funding and support. With so many young people unable to complete their primary,

by Dena Elian

secondary and post-secondary studies, there is a fear of creating a “lost generation,” a term coined by the U.N. to represent the possible loss of education for an entire generation of students. A generation of uneducated or undereducated youth will set back Syrian development amid its neighbors and the international community. The future growth of the Syrian economy has been compromised by the collapse and destruction of its economic foundations as its institutions, social and urban infrastructure, and human and physical capital continue to be obliterated.

Education Abroad Poses Challenges While it cannot go unacknowledged that hundreds of universities around the world have accepted Syrian students seeking to continue their studies abroad, these fortunate few are the minority. Those seeking education outside of Syria, including in neighboring Lebanon, Jordan, or Turkey, have been confronted with numerous obstacles. When applying to foreign universities, it isn’t uncommon for students to find themselves short of the documents required to enroll as they are unable to obtain them from

their previous institutions. In Turkey, the country with the highest number of Syrian refugees, Syrians experience difficulty when applying to Turkish universities as they must overcome obstacles such as international student quotas, Turkish entrance exams and meeting Turkish language requirements before officially enrolling. As a result, only 3 percent of university-aged Syrian refugees are enrolled in Turkish universities. As for Lebanon and Jordan, it is reported that less than 10 percent of eligible Syrian students are enrolled to study in either country. Women, once accounting for over half of students enrolled in Syrian universities, now account for less than a quarter (UNGEI). The fact remains that the majority of university-aged Syrians, over half of whom have had to halt their studies, are currently living within Syria’s borders. Many are surviving day by day without the means to leave. As they live with the hazards of war, they’re further endangered by the population’s expanding void in knowledge and skill that was created with the exodus of 4 million Syrians who have sought refuge in host countries, the population’s wealthiest and most educated among them. The reconstruction of the country will depend heavily on whether opportunities to obtain quality post-secondary education are made available to those who remain, especially training in vocational skills in fields such as health, engineering, education, law and agriculture. To add, as opportunities to pursue higher education inside Syria are being erased, there is high risk that primary and secondary-aged students will find less incentives to commit to their schooling, eventually dropping out altogether.

primary education for young refugee children and post-secondary education for those seeking technical and vocational training to receive basic post-secondary degrees. SRD is committed to upholding the U.N.’s call for #nolostgeneration in Syria.

The Key to Syria’s Recovery The U.N. recognizes education as a fundamental human right and as essential for the exercise of all other human rights. Education promotes individual freedom and empowerment and yields important development benefits. It plays a substantial role in nearly all aspects of a country’s growth and development. Society imagines its future through the education that it offers to its younger generations. As Syria is rebuilt from the immeasurable destruction of war, education will be the key to its recovery and gradual stability.

Prioritizing Education in Our Programs It is imperative that education inside Syria is no longer pushed to the side, but prioritized along with food, water, shelter, clothing, and medical attention as a basic human need. If Syria’s lack of access to higher education remains unaddressed, it will have severe implications on the economic, political, social, and psychological future of the population at large for generations to come. With this in mind, SRD plans to expand programmatic focus to include education in our sustainable development framework through Syria Relief and Development | 11

© UNHCR/Andrew McConnell


PEACE by Ailia Alam


yria’s devastating war shows no sign of stopping, and the consequences left behind from this escalating humanitarian crisis will be felt for decades to come. Though humanitarian organizations have stepped into the middle of the chaos in an effort to provide much-needed aid to Syrian civilians, any assistance efforts that have been made so far can only provide short-term relief as long as the cycle of violence continues. Approximately half of Syria’s population of 22 million has been displaced thus far and more people will continue to flee as long as no alternative to violence is found. The families who linger inside the country today are finding it increasingly difficult to remain in their homes as unrelenting aerial bombardment adds to their suffering. A peaceful solution to the conflict must be obtained as soon as possible, but in the meantime, the international community must also push for greater protections for innocent civilians as a means of deterring even more bloodshed.

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Syria Relief and Development (SRD) firmly believes that civilian protection from harm is a human right and a necessary prerequisite in order to be able to provide sustainable assistance to all Syrians in need. It is extremely dangerous and difficult to deliver aid while civilians are being actively targeted and SRD facilities and hospitals are being destroyed. Indeed, SRD cannot focus on other important long-term development projects while short-term relief efforts are constantly sabotaged by violent conflict. In order to continue its unbiased humanitarian work and begin developing more long-term, sustainable solutions for Syria, SRD calls for more security for civilians and for an end to the current violence inside Syria. Preventing additional carnage will allow humanitarian agencies to have a more stable and secure environment in which to provide aid and will allow the rest of the country to focus its efforts on peace and re-building instead of destruction. Therefore, SRD urges the main actors in the conflict to try to prioritize civilian protection, which involves shielding civilians from physical violence, like aerial bombardments or attacks in public spaces where civilians gather, such as in schools, market places, and hospitals. Once all parties involved in the conflict have established civilian protection as a priority, the peace process can begin.

Making Steps Toward Peace Peacekeeping, or the process of ending violence, is the first and most necessary step on the long road to resolving conflict. It entails bringing all the stakeholders in this conflict to the table for negotiation and to strategize about how best to create a foundation for sustainable peace. Coalition-building and capacity building are just some options that are available to stakeholders when it comes to mapping out the most fair and representative process for peace. The second step is the act of peacemaking, which entails some form of negotiation to create a long-term foundation for peace. During this crucial stage, it is necessary that Syrian civilians have time to adjust mentally and are able to step away from survival mode to focus instead on healing from the traumas of war. Before longterm rebuilding can take place, Syria’s people must retain their mobility, a sense of normalcy, dignity, and trust in society and in the global community. After taking these steps, stakeholders in the conflict can then focus on finding a political solution. Both peacekeeping and peacemaking are necessary in order for humanitarian agencies and civil society organizations to be able to successfully provide aid for civilians and for the country to be able to slowly rebuild. It is important to remember that the stakeholders in this conflict come from different backgrounds and have varied interests. Therefore the dialogue towards a resolution must involve those that represent civilian voices, government forces, opposition, international allies and those with influence in the region. Everyone involved in the process must prioritize civilian protection while working to find solutions that are equitable and satisfactory to all sides. A unique strategy for peace has to be created for Syria, one that is relative and relevant to the issues plaguing the country. A recycled strategy from past conflicts cannot be directly applied, although lessons learned from precedent cases can help outline a new Syria-specific strategy.

14 | To Syria, With Love

Though a dialogue for peace cannot be pursued without first establishing civilian protection, it won’t even be successful in the long-term as long as other forms of violence continue. An arbitrated ceasefire must be implemented nation-wide. Due to the lack of trust in opposing parties, a third party, like the UN Security Council, should enforce this ceasefire. Additionally, a national negotiation process and reconciliation program must be implemented to help heal Syrian civil society. Reconciliation is only possible when the parties involved realize more violence will not lead to success or a positive, sustainable resolution for the conflict.

A Peaceful Future According to a study done by Syria Justice and Accountability Centre (SJAC), there is a genuine desire for many Syrians on all sides to see an end to the carnage. They may disagree on their post-war vision of Syria, nevertheless, they are open to discussing an end to the violence. SJAC’s study also shows that many Syrians state they are willing to forgive and live in peace with their former neighbors, despite mistrust and bitterness, as long as there are certain

conditions implemented that would enable them to feel secure in their homes. Many hope that postwar coexistence and reconciliation will occur among supporters of different factions. “Syrians from a diverse set of backgrounds and beliefs lived in peace and harmony for centuries, and after they have some time to cope with the traumas they have endured, they will be capable of peaceful co-existence,” said SRD President Dr. Jihad Qaddour. Ending the violence in Syria, particularly the aerial bombardments that cause so much harm to civilians, is vital to alleviating humanitarian suffering and potentially slowing down the refugee exodus to neighboring countries and Europe. Once the violence ends, Syrians and humanitarian agencies can work on rebuilding the country. Humanitarian efforts that currently focus on helping Syrians survive this conflict in the short-term, such as alleviating hunger and urgent medical care, can shift to long-term efforts that improve the quality of human life. With enough support from around the world, Syrians will able to regain their strength and security as well as the ability to look towards the future with hope for their homeland once again.

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n e m o W

at the Conflict Resolution Table by Muneeza Tahir

Now you understand Just why my head’s not bowed. I don’t shout or jump about Or have to talk real loud. When you see me passing, It ought to make you proud. --Maya Angelou, Phenomenal Woman © UNHCR/Shawn Baldwin

16 | To Syria, With Love


anal Omar, acting vice president for the Middle East and Africa Center at the United States Institute of Peace, outlined five lessons that have emerged from transitions of the past 10 years in the Middle East:


Women need to be at the decision making tables.


he “not now” argument that T women’s issues should be deferred until after a crisis most often turns into “never.”


omen are necessary and integral W to achieving sustainable peace.


omen can be polarized, too, W by sectarian, ethnic and political lines and have to carefully avoid division.


ocieties have to beware the S tendency to stop progress at quotas without the other types of gender integration that are necessary.

Contrary to misconceptions about the role of women in the Arab or Muslim Worlds, women have been an integral part of Syrian society for generations and

that has not stopped with the onset of Syria’s brutal conflict. The Arab Spring produced a large quantity of female activists protesting alongside men against tyrannical rule and Syria was and is no different in the strength of its women to rise against oppression. While men may have retained greater numbers at the conflict resolution table in the past, the tides are shifting and it will take an international effort to ensure women’s voices are given greater weight in the peacemaking process.

How Syrian Women Are Making a Huge Impact for Others In March 2011, Syrian women were among the first to take to the streets in protest. When ISIS took control of their neighborhoods and districts, women held banners and stood in protest. Alongside men, Syrian women have kept the revolution in touch with its nonviolent, democratic roots (Syria Deeply). When noticing an influx of parents resorting to “selling” their teenage daughters into marriages with ISIS members, female activists went door to door educating families about the physical and mental health risks of child marriages, saving at least 50 young girls over three months (Public Radio International, PRI). Female Kurdish women formed their own battalion of fighters against ISIS and have also formed an allfemale police force that specializes in gender-based violence. Women have re-opened schools or began privately teaching groups of students in their homes. Women are helping women develop professional skills to encourage income generation in families without a main breadwinner. In one area, after noticing that young boys were more easily accessing Syria Relief and Development | 17

" THE FUTURE OF SYRIA WILL DEPEND HEAVILY ON ITS WOMEN." weapons, women pushed the local council to pass a law prohibiting the carrying, sale or distribution of weapons by or to children under age 18 (PRI). The efforts of Syrian women don’t stop with those inside Syria: Syrian women living as refugees in neighboring countries are helping their fellow refugees in myriad ways, from helping children obtain education and dispelling language barriers in Turkey to volunteering medical, teaching or other services in need to help those around them. On an international level, Syrian women are distributing and monitoring humanitarian aid, establishing safe spaces for women and children, documenting human rights violations, securing ceasefires and release of prisoners, raising awareness about civil peace, participating in the Geneva peace talks and much more (Insitute for Multi-Track Diplomacy).

Bridging the Gap: Bringing Syrian Women to the Conflict Resolution Table Despite the important role Syrian women play in society, their needs on a grand scale amid the crisis aren’t being met. More than 145,000 Syrian refugee families in the region are headed by women who are the sole caregivers for their families. These women face daily threats of violence--physical, sexual

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© UNHCR/Sebastian Rich

and emotional--while trying to obtain employment or aid. The biggest difficulty Syrian women face is in their inability to pay rent and provide food and other necessities for their families. Many have sold their possessions, exhausted their savings and still find they cannot make ends meet. Eighty percent of these breadwinning women lack their most urgent need: paid work, something they desperately need for the survival of their families. With a strong record of encouraging peacekeeping, education, human rights and economic growth amid the conflict, and because they are being impacted by it as much as, if not more than, men, Syrian women must be included at the conflict resolution table. There can be no peace without them as their involvement for rebuilding has indicated. SRD will continue to provide programs that address the needs of Syrian women. Our current projects targeting women include clinics that provide reproductive health and family planning services, seasonal care packages filled with food and other essential items, education and more. On an international and conflict resolution level, we will continue to advocate for making women an integral part of the peace process. The future of Syria will depend heavily on its women.

Psychosocial Support for M War-Torn Syrians by Salman Husain

ental health is grossly neglected worldwide with even the most technologically advanced and developed nations failing to provide sufficient mental healthcare to their citizens. But in a country like Syria, where even basic healthcare has become a luxury, access to psychosocial support is dangerously overlooked. Even the UN’s Syria Regional Response plan fails to identify mental health as a priority area of humanitarian intervention. Yet the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that the cost of the global burden of mental illness is projected to rise above $6 trillion by 2030. And the psychological effects of trauma from war can be devastating. In more ways than one, mental health cannot be ignored.

Vulnerable Populations of Syrians Recent survey research on Syrian refugees in Germany concluded that more than half of Syrian refugees in Germany are traumatized: 70 percent witnessed violence in Syria, 50 percent were victims of violence and among the adult refugee population alone, 40 percent still experienced nightmares. But even more vulnerable than adults are the children of Syria whose young minds have had to process violence they should never have been exposed to.

Š UNHCR/Elena Dorfman

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The Benefits of Psychosocial Support Psychosocial support aims to address the mental trauma victims experience by helping people feel that they are secure, finding opportunities for self-expression and creating coping mechanisms that allow them to deal with emotional and social issues. The success of psychosocial aid depends on the ability of specialists to first help people accept that they are safe and restore a degree of normalcy to their lives. This task faces incredible challenges among populations scarred by violence and warfare, especially among Syrians who continue to live in conflict zones within Syria. The greatest impact of the crisis in Syria has been on the country's children, who suffer from fear, instability and a lack of peace. SRD is committed to providing psychosocial support to those effected by the conflict through programs such as the Refugee Children's Summer Camp in Jordan, pictured above.

A 2014 UNICEF survey found that one-third of Syrian children at Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan displayed unusually aggressive behavior and engaged in selfharm. Children are at considerable risk of abuse, exploitation, violence and distress and depend greatly on adults for survival. In order to create a better future for an entire generation of Syrian children, psychosocial support must be provided to every Syrian child, each extremely vulnerable to greater issues if left untreated. All Syrian populations exhibit vulnerability: a small child whose early understanding of the world was shaped by barrel bombs, tanks and snipers is vulnerable. The high school student experiencing young adult anxieties on top of the trauma of displacement and war is vulnerable. The women who must become providers overnight, survive rape and continue to bear children are vulnerable. The men who are tortured relentlessly in prisons and targeted for recruitment by extremist and government forces are vulnerable. Grandparents who have had to bury children and grandchildren are vulnerable. Even Syrian specialists delivering psychosocial support to others are themselves vulnerable and may not even be fully aware of their own distresses.

20 | To Syria, With Love

Various agencies and organizations have delivered creative forms of psychosocial support primarily to children, including art and music therapy and exercises that encourage children to visualize and create safe spaces using their imaginations. Left untreated and deprived of an effective support system, Syrians may wander aimlessly on a path of despair.

The Stigma of Mental Health Treatment Mental health is also highly stigmatized within Syrian culture, as it has been in the United States, Europe and all areas of the world. Syrians may approach mental health with suspicion and often avoid discussions of mental problems such as depression and anxiety. Confronting, let alone discussing, a mental problem is an admission that something is wrong and finding the balance between strength and vulnerability to better cope can be challenging. Such stigma is inflicted both by societies and individuals themselves who may suffer from mental health issues. Like mental health stigma in the United States, numerous attitudes and socially held beliefs contribute to negative perceptions of mental health treatment among Syrians. This makes providing psychosocial support more difficult and may explain why adults who are hesitant to even place children in programs openly labeled as psychosocial will rarely pursue these services themselves.


How Our Psychosocial Support Programs Help Vulnerable Syrians SRD has made psychosocial service a priority both inside and outside of Syria and has considered many of these challenges throughout the programs we implement. Our four Pediatric Primary Health and Psychosocial Support Centers in Daraa, Syria help vulnerable children cope with the traumas of war and enable them to participate in activities that encourage self-expression and dialogue in a safe environment. Our staff is able to work around societal stigmatization by integrating psychosocial support into the same facilities used to provide primary healthcare and by creating personal relationships with beneficiaries both at the facilities and through outreach efforts with the community. Our staffers succeed in helping children by making activities fun and natural and by creating settings where they can engage with other children, play and feel safe. To date, we have served more than 52,000 children in these centers, in addition to mothers, fathers and family members providing support to these children. This summer, SRD also created a Refugee Children’s Summer Camp in Jordan, which was a huge hit with children and their families. We provided education, social support and relief to children living as refugees in and around Amman. These initiatives give kids a better chance of reclaiming their lives and recovering from trauma by validating their feelings and giving them an outlet for expression. SRD plans to expand these efforts throughout the future and continue our commitment to psychosocial support to children, families and all vulnerable Syrians. We view the mental health of Syrians as a priority and hope to provide culturally contextual programs that meet the needs of Syrians without repelling them from seeking services out of fear or skepticism. By considering all Syrian survivors of the crisis as vulnerable and worthy of mental health assistance, we can all move one step closer to helping Syrians heal the scars they not only bear on the outside, but also the wounds they harbor within.

Loss of family and friends


Destruction of home, belongings F ear of being attacked, especially among populations targeted by barrel bombs and other aerial attacks Separation from family/displacement eteriorated living conditions, D including medical problems, hunger, lack of sanitation ape and sexual violence and the cultural R stigma surrounding concepts of honor, self-worth and virtue Radical change in lifestyle Depression

Effects of trauma and anxiety Depression and loss of emotion Loss of appetite Decline in talking and verbal communication Loss of sleep N ightmares and bedwetting F lashbacks to disturbing memories A nger, violence, aggressive behavior F ear, paranoia D rug and alcohol abuse S elf harm S uicide M arital tension D ifficulty in forming close relationships with others

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SYRIA RELIEF AND DEVELOPMENT PO Box 25446 Overland Park, KS 66225 Tax ID: 45-3737015


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