What are the most pressing issues refugee children and their families face in Lebanon?
There is a lack of educational opportunity, clean water, health care and sanitation, especially for the Syrian children in Lebanon who live in camps. They haven’t attended school regularly for years.
One of the big issues I saw in Lebanon was a lack of leadership in the refugee camps. People are not organised or unified. It would be really good if we can create a sense of leadership because if they worked together, they could better address their needs and speak with one voice in the interests of the entire community.
There are also huge problems with child and women labour in the camps, often in bad working conditions. People need the opportunity to develop skills so they can make a living because it is very expensive for them to survive in the camps.
What are the biggest challenges that SOS Lebanon faces in responding to the needs of refugees?
With estimates of more than one million refugees in a country of about five million people, it is difficult to cover even basic needs. The country is overwhelmed. And, one of the biggest challenges Syrians face in Lebanon is that their legal status does not permit them to work, which makes it difficult to care for and support a family.
Can you explain the plans for the emergency programme in Jordan?
We are making preparations to provide care and support for children and families. We are now waiting to see which needs are covered by other non-governmental organisations, so we can target other essential areas.
In terms of planning, we discussed with the Ministry of Social Development and the UNHCR about the need for a temporary shelter for young people who are victims of abuse. We are currently waiting for approval. In the meantime, we are preparing to offer psychological and emotional care for children suffering from trauma.
We are also planning to work with community-based organisations [CBOs] on an e-learning programme. This project will target a very poor area in the capital city, Amman, where around 7,000 Syrian families are living alongside Jordanian families. This programme will help these families to learn skills using computers and will be managed in cooperation with the CBOs.
We are waiting for authorisation to access Rukban [a remote town in northeast Jordan] where UNICEF has provided drinking water. Our target is to be allowed in there to distribute items such as clothing, hygiene kits, and other non-food goods. In addition, we are awaiting approval to start an educational programme in the Irbid region to work with families and small communities.
Is SOS Children’s Villages filling a gap that other aid agencies are not addressing?
We don’t want to do what has already been done by other organisations. For example, our planned interim care centre for young people will be the only centre of its kind for refugees in Jordan. There are shelters for children from three to 12 years old, but no one has actually targeted the older age group.
Educational programmes are being provided by other NGOS in some communities but there are still areas where such programmes don’t exist and these areas will be our main target.
What challenges do we face in starting the emergency programme for refugees in Jordan?
This is a situation that requires long-term thinking. It is most likely that these refugee families will be staying there for many years and we need to help them integrate into society - to help them feel accepted, and to become active members of society in their host country.
There are many challenges that we need to overcome to adapt our projects to the needs of the refugees. For instance, the reality is that these people need money and they often let their children work to help generate income. This is why we need to develop projects that help adults earn money so that they can care for their families.
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