Caritas increases aid as refugees flood out of Syria

Caritas Internationalis is ramping up its efforts to help the growing number of Syrian families who have fled the conflict in their homeland.

"Within Syria, Caritas is distributing food," said Laura Sheahan of Caritas told CNA. "It's been a little hard in terms of cooked food because it's difficult to even get fuel in Syria, but we're providing things like sandwiches. Meanwhile, Boy Scouts are distributing some of the food in places like Aleppo and Homs."

Caritas Internationalis is the Catholic Church's confederation of charitable and development agencies. Overall, it is helping more than 13,000 Syrians affected by the present crisis.
The armed revolt against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, which began in March 2011, shows no sign of abating.

"In Jordan, we are providing a number of services: food, medical care, things like diapers and blankets. So, Caritas Jordan is providing these emergency items to families who have just shown up in the country with nothing," explained Sheahan.

"In Lebanon, we're also providing things like food and blankets, but also we have a sort of roving medical van.  The doctor goes around in this big white van and takes care of Syrian refugee children."

The United Nations refugee agency estimates that nearly 250,000 Syrians have now fled to the neighboring countries of Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. Meanwhile it is thought there are more than 1.2 million internally displaced people in Syria, with 2.5million in need of humanitarian assistance.

Sheahan recently visited both Lebanon and Jordan to witness the Syrian refugee crisis first hand. There she found "families who had basically fled for their lives."

"They were fleeing bombs, shootings in the streets, sniper attacks. These were people who for months had been hiding in their houses afraid even to go out for groceries, even doing that was hard. They were keeping their kids home from school."

"Finally," she said, "they just gave up and realized that they were in danger" and so "by bus, by car or even on foot they went to neighboring countries like Lebanon and Jordan."

Behind the statistics and logistics, Sheahan said she also found many individual stories that brought home the personal tragedy of the present situation for thousands of Syrians.

At the Caritas Center in Jordan she met a Syrian woman with a badly wounded leg.

"Her neighbor had gone out to get milk for her family. She had wanted to go out and get milk. Her neighbor said, 'No, it's too dangerous.' He got shot by a sniper and when she went out to help him, she was shot. She survived, he didn't."

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