Apr 16, 2019

Vocational Skills for Syrian Refugees

Khadija participating in a dairy training
Khadija participating in a dairy training

Dear Supporter,

As the war in Syria drags into its ninth year, the conflict has taken on a different shape. While the ordeal for those displaced during the conflict is not nearly over, many are now looking to the day when they can at last go home. Thanks in part to supporters like you, Concern has been helping people both survive and prepare for the future.

Khadija’s Story

“I loved my home. I loved it a lot. I was very happy. Everything used to be so normal, as it should be.” Khadija* fondly remembers life in her Syrian hometown before the conflict broke out. “I would like to tell people that Syria was once such a lovely place,” she says. “You always feel that you are missing something when you are not in your own country.”

Khadija and her three children have been living as refugees in Lebanon since 2013. Like thousands of once middle-class Syrian families, they have struggled to get by with very little. Most fled their homes with nothing. But Khadija is both strong and optimistic. “Though there are a lot of things I miss… it’s okay. I realize how lucky I am.”

Khadija was one of 25 women who were selected to work at local cooperatives, where she learned how to make various cheeses, which are then sold locally. The project is part of a network of income-generating projects run by Concern in northern Lebanon for both refugees and members of the host community. In this tiny country, nearly a third of the population are refugees, putting huge pressure on resources.

The skills being taught are useful now, but have also been chosen with an eye to the future. Dairy production, yogurt and cheese processing, and marketing techniques will remain as valuable resources for those who return to Syria to pick up the pieces of a shattered economy.

Khadija is ready to come home. Despite being many miles away from her Syrian home, she says the key to its front door is still her most treasured possession. “I may have lost my home, but my keys are still with me. I aim to go back to Syria someday, rebuild my home, and use the same keys for it,” she says.

*Names have been changed for security reasons.

Khadija holding her house key from Syria
Khadija holding her house key from Syria
Mar 6, 2019

Safety and Dignity in the Camps

Marzaan and her children in their home
Marzaan and her children in their home

 Dear Supporter,

Thanks in part to your support, Concern continues to respond to the Rohingya refugee crisis in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. A needs assessment in October of 2018 illustrated the need for lighting in the camps. A lack of adequate lighting puts people, especially women and children, in danger when moving around the camp after dark. It also interferes with children’s ability to study and the productivity of their parents after dark. Based on the identified needs, Concern Worldwide carried out a solar light distribution in November of 2018. Today. I want to share with you the story of one of the families who received a solar light.

Marzaan has nine children (6 boys and 3 girls), and is originally from the Rakhine state of Myanmar. She and her children now stay in refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

“When I arrived in Bangladesh, my only belongings were my nine children. I came across the Shah Pori Island after the military attack at my village. The Burmese army set fire to the brush and five people were shot dead, including my husband Mohammad Shafi.

Marzaan had a house, several small businesses, and a happy family before she became a refugee. Upon fleeing her village with her children, she walked for five days until finding the route towards Bangladesh. After staying at a relative’s house for a couple of days, she sold her last pair of gold earrings to buy a piece of plastic sheet and travel to the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. She secured her shelter in the camp and stayed there for thirteen months. When heavy monsoons caused a landslide, Marzaan and her family had to transfer camps and lost some of their possessions.

Marzaan and her family were selected to receive a solar light through Concern’s solar light distribution program due to the face that she was a single woman with many children to support. Marzaan was very relieved to receive the light, as she had been worried about the safety of her children, especially her daughters, after dark.

She describes, “My daughters were scared to go to the latrine after dark. All of them were unable to study at night as I had no light in the house. I didn’t know how to light up the house adequately without electricity.”

Thanks in part to your contributions, families like Marzaan and her children have solved their lighting crisis, and are now able to live safer and more full lives.

Feb 26, 2019

Causes of Global Hunger

A mother and child affected by drought in Ethiopia
A mother and child affected by drought in Ethiopia

Dear Supporter,

Forced migration of people as a result of conflict, natural or environmental disaster, or other stress factors is one of the biggest causes of hunger in the world today. Writing in the 2018 Global Hunger Index, published jointly by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe, Dr. Laura Hammond of SOAS University of London outlines the challenges and some possible solutions. Below are some key extracts:

During periods of conflict, hunger may be both a cause and a consequence of forced migration. People affected by conflict experience it not only as a threat to their lives but as an assault on their livelihoods that can undermine their ability to provide for their most basic needs, including food. Conflict can restrict people’s movement and their access to markets, farmland, and jobs. If they cannot produce the food they need to survive or earn an income to purchase that food, their nutritional well-being is compromised.

Some people do indeed manage to flee to safety with the bulk of their savings or assets intact and so do not face the immediate threat of hunger before they are displaced. Others are not as fortunate. By the time they move, they have lost everything. Still others are displaced multiple times, with each move further eroding their resilience, livelihood, and food security.

Common Misperceptions

An analysis of the interplay between hunger and forced migration reveals four common misperceptions.

  1. Hunger and displacement should be recognized and dealt with as political problems.
  2. Humanitarian action alone is an insufficient response to forced migration, and more holistic approaches involving development support are needed.
  3. Food-insecure displaced people should be supported in their regions of origin.
  4. The provision of support should be based on the resilience of the displaced people themselves, which is never entirely absent.

Long-term thinking

Overall, the tools currently used to respond to forced migration are insufficient, because they focus on technical, short-term humanitarian responses rather than addressing the political economy of displacement and the longer-term needs of the displaced.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promise to “leave no one behind,” and SDG2 commits the world to ending hunger by 2030.  Yet for regions hosting millions of displaced persons, the prospects for meeting those goals without considering how to include displaced populations are slim.

Lip service not enough

Policy documents, international agreements, advocacy pieces, and academic writing often pay lip service to these four points, but they are rarely incorporated into action on the ground. Addressing the challenges effectively requires going beyond humanitarian responses, recognizing the political solutions that must be encouraged and strengthened, and engaging in longer-term development efforts in the meantime.

This approach must extend to all sectors: facilitating mobility and income-generation opportunities, supporting education and training linked to employment opportunities in and around areas of displacement, providing health care support to people with chronic illnesses, and ensuring that people have access to markets so they can obtain enough high-quality food for the long term.

From the outset, displacements should be seen not as short-term crises but as potentially long-term moves that will extend over many years. If such a view is taken from the start, a great deal of time, resources, and suffering can be saved.

They received therapeutic food for a full recovery
They received therapeutic food for a full recovery
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