MCC’s humanitarian response to conflict in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan

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[Individual articles from the Fall 2019 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog each week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website.]

In its largest humanitarian response since World War II, MCC has programmed more than US$63.4 million to respond to conflict and displacement in Syria since 2012 and Iraq since 2014. MCC’s response programming spans four countries—both Syria and Iraq, along with neighboring Lebanon and Jordan, who host large refugee populations relative to their national size. In these countries, MCC works in close partnership with church relief organizations, Islamic charitable societies, national non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations.

Staff of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) unloaded a humanitarian aid shipment that was sent in October 2018 from the West Europe Mennonite Regional Conference and MCC to MECC’s warehouse in Dara’a, Syria. The materials will be distributed in Dara’a due to the 270,000 people that were displaced in the region in June 2018 (the largest single displacement in the area since the Syrian conflict began). Names not provided for security reasons. (Photo courtesy of Middle East Council of Churches)

Through these partnerships, MCC responds to urgent and ongoing humanitarian needs of refugees and internally displaced people, including food and cash assistance, shelter rehabilitation, rent support and provision of essential household and hygiene items. While most items are purchased locally, MCC also ships in-kind hygiene items, blankets and other humanitarian assistance from Canada, the U.S. and Europe to be distributed as part of its response. Over the past seven years, MCC has shipped humanitarian aid valued at over US$11 million.

Children, ages 3-5, enjoy the magician’s rabbit trick during a magic show at their school. This is one of the schools in southern Lebanon that MCC funds through partner Popular Aid for Relief and Development (PARD). MCC staff collaborated with school staff to invite the magician to perform at all the MCC-supported schools as an extension to MCC’s kindergarten education project which includes psychosocial training. PARD has worked many years in Palestinian areas in southern Lebanon and began including psychosocial activities to give Syrian and Palestinian refugees tools to address trauma and an opportunity to express themselves and grow in confidence. Names are withheld for security reasons. (Photo courtesy of PARD)

MCC and its partners also address the needs of people impacted by conflict beyond the provision of food and other humanitarian support. As displacement interrupts or limits access to education for children and youth, MCC provides support for formal and remedial education programs. MCC also promotes positive relationships between host and displaced communities and between different ethnic and religious groups in order to prevent intercommunal tension and to promote peace. In recognition of the immense trauma experienced by conflict-affected families, MCC programs provide trauma healing support and psychological care, along with building the skills of partners to respond to psychological needs. As the nature of the conflict in Syria and Iraq and the circumstances of affected people change, MCC adjusts its programming to better address the evolving needs and situations on the ground. Now as some displaced families begin returning to their homes, MCC explores ways to provide empowering and sustainable humanitarian assistance.

As evident from several of the articles within this issue of Intersections, large-scale and long-term humanitarian response to conflict in Syria and Iraq has challenged MCC and its partners to develop skills for effectively responding to the differing needs of women, children and men within difficult circumstances. Although the needs continue to be immense and resources are limited, MCC’s response in Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon has reached hundreds of thousands of people impacted by conflict, political instability and displacement—all in the name of Christ.

Amy Martens is an MCC humanitarian assistance coordinator, based in Winnipeg.