Syrian Arab Red Crescent and UNICEF agree on humanitarian support to Iraqi children refugees

SYRIA, 9 July 2007 – The Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and UNICEF Syria signed a cooperation agreement providing humanitarian support to children and women refugees from Iraq. The agreement covers an initial amount of 11 million SYP covering projects until end of 2007. 

The focus of this cooperation with SARC will be on meeting the needs of Iraqi children refugees by creating an environment that protects and stimulates their development and helps them and their families overcome the stress related to their situation.

Dr. Abdel Rahman Attar, President of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent indicated “Our organisation is managing projects for our Iraqis brothers in cooperation with UNHCR, other Red Crescent and Red Cross branches and ECHO. The organisation launched a call for assistance to 20,000 Iraqi families in terms of health, education and social services and it will also cooperate with other humanitarian non-governmental organisations, once they are approved by the relevant Syrian authorities. This agreement is important to support Iraqi refugee women and children and we highly appreciate the support and close cooperation of UNICEF for the interest of Iraqi children refugees in Syria,” added Dr. Attar.

SARC will establish a minimum of four child friendly spaces which will be animated by 80 SARC volunteers through cultural, recreational and psychosocial support activities in affected communities. A minimum of 4,000 children per month are expected to be reached by the end of 2007. In addition to activities for the children, these spaces will represent an information and guidance hub to the families; particularly for mothers on child and maternal care, as well as a means to detect serious cases of distress among children and families that will need referral for more extensive psycho-social support.

“This is a symbolic step that reflects our belief in the capacity of the SARC to make a difference for children. We saw this in the way they supported the Lebanese refugees last summer. Their support to Iraqi children in Syrian is already up and running,” said Mohamed Anis Salem, UNICEF Representative of Syria.

The second key component of this agreement is to strengthen the capacity and skills of the SARC volunteers on managing the child friendly spaces and on providing services to the children and women, including the provision of basic psycho-social support.

Finally, a resource centre on psychosocial support & child protection will be set up and managed by the SARC accessible to all partners involved in providing humanitarian support to Iraq refugee children and families. This centre will allow for establishing standards, ensuring quality control of services and developing communication and advocacy as well as represent a training hub for partners.

Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, approximately 1.4 million Iraqi refugees have settled in Syria, residing mainly in Damascus and rural Damascus (Jaramanah, Qudsaya, Sayedah Zeinab, Masaken Barzeh). In addition to basic survival needs, which affected communities have difficulty in meeting, Iraq refugees (children and women in particular) face great psychosocial challenges. Refugees arrive from Iraq grappling with violence, exploitation, damaged/broken family life, stress, fear, anxiety and confusion. They also face a situation where they lack identification documentation, information and income and school drop-out is prevalent among the communities.
SARC, in cooperation with UNICEF, have already set up a child friendly space in the UNHCR registration centre. This space is managed by SARC volunteers who welcome an average of 100 children accompanied by their parents (on a daily basis) who are waiting for their registration appointments, for whom they organize recreational activities.