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Syrians counting on Australian aid

  • 30 September 2013
Shayma, 20 years old, was waiting in the crowd to receive her kits, holding her baby boy in her arms. Her face showed the signs of worry and exhaustion. The little boy looked very thin and undernourished. She said, 'His name is Jean and he is seven months old. I know he seems very small considering his age. We are very poor. Since we arrived here, my husband hasn't been able to find any job. We have no income at all. We live exclusively on the humanitarian aid we received.' (Caritas Lebanon)

The ongoing conflict in Syria has led to one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today.

The UNHCR released a statement announcing that the number of Syrian refugees has now exceeded 2 million. This is an increase of almost 1.8 million since the same time a year ago. Approximately 52 per cent are estimated to be children, 17 years old or younger. More than 100,000 people have died, and over 8.3 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. As many as 4.25 million Syrians may be internally displaced, and continue to struggle with frequent power cuts, lack of water supplies and shortages of basic commodities.

The need for a peaceful solution is great. In that part of the world, where the host populations in neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey are under increasing pressure, missile strikes will not bring about peace for the future.

My own children are aged three, two and four months. Shayma's experience described above touches a deep chord. In her shoes, what would I do? How would it be if no door opened for us after fleeing everything we once knew? We might feel blessed to have our lives. But could you feel hope for the future?

Caritas partners in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey are delivering humanitarian support to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees. But it's the future facing Syria's children that impacts me the most. According to the UNHCR, women and children make up three quarters of the refugee population, and many children are making the journey alone. The vast majority of refugees are reliant on aid, most arriving with little more than the clothes on their backs.

The numbers alone are daunting enough. When you begin to think of each individual's experience of devastation, you can begin to imagine the collective weight of suffering. Sadly, most of the stories we will never know.

I was heartened when