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A former colleague of mine would often describe as “dynamic” any situation that had a lot of activity in it, be it constructive or not. A meeting in which people yelled at each other and stormed out of the room could be “dynamic.” So could a demonstration where passers-by on the street stopped to shout support for the protesters. And so could a football game among seven-year olds where the kids invariably ended up screaming at each other about unfairness but then cheerfully continued play.
I appreciated this colleague’s ability not to get mentally bogged down in what was going wrong, and so ever since 100,000 Syrian refugees fled into neighboring countries in August, I’ve been trying to make myself think of the situation as dynamic rather than discouraging.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported in early September that if the current exit rate continues, there could be 600,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the calendar year. That means that between now and the end of December, the number of refugees would triple.
RI visited Lebanon and Jordan in the spring to look at the situation for Syrian refugees, and things appeared quite dynamic at the time: arrivals continued in large numbers, registration was a challenge in both urban and rural areas, shelter was scarce, medical care was often hard to access, and food and household items were being distributed irregularly. Host communities were showing the strain that inevitably occurs when larger numbers of people have to get by on finite resources. And in a significant indication of the dynamism of the situation, shortly after we left Jordan was compelled to open a camp for Syrians who were overfilling its transit centers.
Turkey, which had been independently providing for Syrians for almost a year, is now requesting that the world offer it more support. The Syrian refugee camps in Iraq that had before seen a relatively slow trickle of arrivals are quickly filling with new residents. There are tens of thousands waiting to register in Jordan’s main Za’taari camp, and Lebanon is struggling to find housing for those who cannot continue living in school buildings now that the academic year has begun. The regional situation as a whole really is dynamic, even in the conventional sense of the word.
This week, my colleague Marcy Hersh and I will begin another mission to the countries around Syria, including Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq. There are now almost three-times as many Syrian refugees in the region than when RI last visited, and more and more of them are arriving wounded, traumatized, and destitute. Spillover from the conflict in Syria is challenging service providers in the border areas, and the higher numbers of registered refugees suggests there are even more unregistered Syrians who need assistance but are too afraid to come forward. While it’s difficult to tell what we might see and learn while we are there, we already know that the response needs to become as dynamic as the crisis.October 18, 2012 | Tagged as: Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Humanitarian Response, Middle East, Protection & Security, Women & Children