Dec 5, 2019

UPDATE: Tens of Thousands of People in North-East Syria at Risk as Winter Approaches

Photo: Fatima Azzeh/CARE
Photo: Fatima Azzeh/CARE

As temperatures plummet across the Middle East, CARE warns that tens of thousands of people, including women and children, in north-east Syria are at risk of facing harsh weather conditions without needed protection. Over 100,000 people are still displaced, out of which more than 15,000 are living in collective shelters, according to the United Nations, with few possessions or clothing, making them more vulnerable as the winter approaches.

“Many of the places where people are sheltering are old schools, unfit for hosting displaced families. Doors and windows are broken and there is nothing to shield people from inclement weather. The poorest, who are going to collective shelters, only have the clothes they are wearing and, sometimes, a small amount of money that is only enough to buy them food for a few days,” says Aleksandar Milutinovic, CARE Syria Country Director.

The influx of displaced populations into Hassakeh City has resulted in a shortage of available places for rent. The ones left are overpriced, which most cannot afford. Many families have stayed with relatives, but report that after a while, they have no other choice, but to go to collective shelters because of the expense and loss of privacy the hosting families have to bear.

“We are distributing winter clothes for children, mattresses, blankets, floor mats and plastic sheeting that people use to block the cold wind, but these do not come close to covering the huge needs. Some of the classrooms have been deserted without maintenance since the war started, and are in need of rehabilitation. We have had rainfall over the past week and with open doors, broken windows and no carpets or blankets in collective shelters, these buildings are cold,” says Baran*, an aid worker for CARE in northern Syria.

The lack of maintenance has also meant that collective shelters do not have functioning water and sanitation facilities, leading people to have to leave their shelters in search of these facilities. They sometimes go to mosques, while other times, people have opened their homes for the displaced to use the toilet. This practice poses a safety risk to women and girls, who sometimes have to walk distances by themselves at night.

While most winter clothes distributions by humanitarian actors have thus far focused on children as a priority, women and men are also in need of warm clothes, having quickly fled their houses in light clothing when the military operations began in early October.

“There is a shortage in fuel in the area and kerosene heaters, which are what most families use in the winter because of their affordability, are now unavailable. People are unable to pay for fuel to keep them and their families warm and there are many women and small children among the displaced. There is an urgent need to provide winter clothes, heaters, fuel, and cash distributions for the winter,” Baran adds.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.


Sep 4, 2019

UPDATE: CARE's Global Support for Refugees

Geneva/London – The world's poorest countries continue to shoulder the burden of the global refugee crisis, international aid agency CARE International has warned today.

New findings by the UN Refugee Agency’s Global Trends report show that the world’s developing regions are hosting 84 per cent of all refugees. According to the UNHCR’s latest figures, Germany is the only European country in a list of the top 10 refugee host nations, meaning some of the poorest countries in the world carry the heavy burden of a growing global refugee crisis.

Caroline Kende-Robb, Secretary General of CARE International, said: “This situation is inherently unsustainable. It’s exposing the millions fleeing war and persecution in countries like Syria, South Sudan, Venezuela, Afghanistan and Iraq to intolerable misery and suffering.

“We have a small number of poorer countries who have been left to do far too much just because they are neighbours to a crisis. This unequal share is exacerbating the global refugee problem, as inadequate conditions in host countries are pushing many to embark on dangerous journeys while women, girls and other vulnerable people are put at risk to abuse and exploitation. We would like to see the wealthier countries taking more responsibility by increasing financial support to countries that welcome high numbers of refugees; as well as offering safe asylum and resettlement options to vulnerable groups,” she explained.

Data from the Global Trends report shows that the number of people fleeing war, persecution and conflict exceeded 70 million in 2018 - the highest level that the UNHCR has seen in its almost 70 years.  Findings also show that the proportion of women and girls in the refugee population was 48 per cent in 2018 while children represented about half of the refugee population.

“I was recently in Jordan – a country that hosts the tenth largest refugee population - and the second largest relative to national population with 72 refugees per 1,000 people. In Jordan, it is clear that enabling refugees’ access to labour markets will not be easy. Like Turkey and Lebanon, which are among the highest refugee-hosting countries in the world, due to the crisis in Syria, Jordan has a weak economy and high unemployment levels. This forces refugees to seek employment informally, increasing the exploitation and the aggravation of refugees’ precarious situations – especially women and girls,” she noted.

CARE International experts have warned that the Syrian refugee crisis could grow exponentially worse following the recent surge in violence.

Michael Fuhrer, CARE’s Managing Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: “The Syrian conflict has caused the largest displacement crisis in the world. Hosting 5.4 million Syrian refugees has caused great strain on countries in the region for the past eight years. To tackle the protracted nature of displacement and its consequences on both refugees and hosting countries, we need to think beyond the humanitarian response and support long-term, strategic solutions for Syrian refugees, even though Syria faces an uncertain future.”

Aid agencies and authorities in Uganda - the largest refugee hosting country in Africa- are also facing enormous challenges in maintaining and stabilising existing services for refugees from neighboring countries faced by conflicts in East Africa.

Delphine Pinault, CARE International Country Director in Uganda, warned that a lack of support for host communities could reduce their willingness to share land and resources and increase tensions between communities.

She said: "In 2018, only 57 per cent of Uganda’s Refugee Response Plan budget was funded. The contributions in 2019 are not even reaching 20 per cent of the necessary funds. If the funding does not increase urgently, the consequences could be drastic, with more children out of school due to cuts to education programmes. We are also noticing a lack of capacity to prevent communicable diseases such as Ebola; worsening sanitary conditions and adverse impacts on environment. Additionally, we are particularly concerned about the minimised response to Sexual and Gender-Based Violence which is exacting a heavy toll on women and children, who account for 83 per cent of the refugee population," Pinault explained.


Sep 4, 2019

UPDATE: CARE's Support of Refugees in Syria

Three years of restrictions imposed on Yemen’s airspace by the Saudi-led coalition is preventing thousands of sick Yemeni civilians from seeking urgent medical treatment outside the country, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and CARE said today.

Sana’a airport has been closed to commercial flights since August 9, 2016. In the three years since, as many as 32,000 people may have died prematurely because they were unable to travel abroad for treatment, according to the Ministry of Health in Sana’a.

NRC and CARE International have called repeatedly on the Saudi-led coalition to lift the restrictions on Yemen’s airspace, and to allow medical supplies to be imported and patients in need of treatment to leave from Sana’a airport.

“As if bullets, bombs and cholera did not kill enough people, the airport closure is condemning thousands more to a premature death,” said Mohammed Abdi, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Country Director in Yemen. “There is no justification for preventing very sick civilians from leaving the country to get life-saving medical treatment.

Four years of war has decimated Yemen’s already-fragile health system. Less than half the health facilities in Yemen are fully operational. Much of the country’s medical equipment including in the capital Sana’a is obsolete and urgently needs to be replaced, according to the Ministry of Health in Sana’a. An almost complete halt to commercial shipments and medicines through the airport, coupled with the restrictions on imports through Hodeidah port has caused prices to more than double, making essential medicines unaffordable for most of the population.

Restrictions on Yemen’s airspace make it harder for people with chronic diseases to seek life-saving medical treatment outside the country. The Ministry of Health in Sana’a reports that before the war, around 7,000 Yemenis were travelling abroad from Sana’a International Airport each year for medical treatment not available in Yemen, including for heart, kidney and liver disease, blood conditions, cancer and other long term health conditions.

The closure of Sana’a airport, means the only option for those in the capital and north of the country who need medical treatment abroad is to travel by road to Aden or Seiyun in the South and take a plane from there, an arduous route that can take 15 to 24 hours and involves crossing check points, and conflict frontlines. In addition to the cost and strain of the journey, some also choose not to make the journey because of fear of arrest and retribution when they cross from territory controlled by one party to another.

Qassem, a 47-year-old teacher and father of six, told NRC in January that he had suffered from a liver disease for 13 years and needed medical treatment abroad, but the closure of Sanaa airport made that impossible:

“Travelling outside Yemen is impossible as long as the closest airport to us remains closed. Even an eight-hour trip is very difficult in my case, as fluid will start building in my stomach and legs. It is difficult to travel to Aden and do the pre-travel procedure [obtaining passports, visas, medical reports, and travel authorization]. I wish they would open the airport so anyone who can pay the expenses is able to travel and seek treatment outside.”

Sadly, Qassem lost his battle with the disease and died on June 19.

Under UN Security Council Resolution 2451, warring parties are urged to work with the UN Special Envoy to reopen the safe and secure operation of Sana’a airport for commercial flights but there has been a lack of progress to date.

NRC and CARE called on warring parties to come to an agreement to reopen Sana’a airport for commercial flights, and its allies UK, US, and France to apply pressure on both sides to end their political wrangling over the airport to alleviate humanitarian suffering caused by the closure.

The closure of Sana'a airport is another example of the way blockade and restrictions on humanitarian goods, commercial imports of food, fuel and medicines, and closure of key land, air and sea routes in Yemen are exacerbating the humanitarian situation and leading to intolerable suffering.

“People are dying because they cannot do the simplest of things, which is fly from their own airport,” said Johan Mooij, Country Director for CARE International in Yemen. “The continued closure of Sana’a airport has become a symbol of a country that is not functioning for its own people. Millions in Yemen are suffering from a lack of access to things that we in most other countries take absolutely for granted. This must end, and all ports – land, air and sea – must be kept open.”

  • NRC has spokespeople in Yemen and Oslo available for interview.
  • CARE has available spokespeople in Yemen, Jordan and Germany.
  • Photos for free use are available here.
  • B-roll video from people affected by the closure of Sana’a Airport available here.


WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.