The executive director of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Canada says the situation in Syria is likely to worsen and more must be done for the people affected by the conflict.
Don Peters recently visited Lebanon, where up to a million Syrian refugees are living. He says they are in desperate need of shelter, food and medical assistance.
MCC began its Syria crisis campaign last year with an initial goal of $500,000. The total has now surpassed $1 million. Peters is calling on MCC supporters, and all Canadians, to help MCC meet its new goal of $1.5 million.
“There is much, much more work to be done,” he says. “This is an ongoing disaster. The United Nations agencies haven’t yet kicked in with the amount of assistance that these people need. And other agencies, such as MCC, are going to have to continue their support.”
To date, MCC has dedicated more than $4 million to programs in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, including cash contributions as well as material resources such as blankets, relief kits, clothing and footwear.
While the bulk of MCC’s work has been in humanitarian assistance, Peters says MCC is also providing training for partner agencies that work with displaced Syrians both inside and outside the country. As well, MCC supports peacebuilding programs, some with a special focus on trauma recovery.
Peters says his trip gave him a new appreciation of the value of these programs. “What really struck me was that maybe half of the people we met were themselves displaced from their homes,” he says. “And yet they are still caregivers for others. They said this is our situation now and this is what we need to do. Their dignity and poise [are] remarkable.”
It’s estimated that more than 70,000 people have died in the ongoing conflict. More than three million are displaced, either within Syria or to neighbouring countries.