Aid Groups Work To Help Syria's Displaced People

Oct 30, 2017
Originally published on October 30, 2017 4:58 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Let's catch up now on the situation on the ground in Syria. This month brought the defeat of ISIS in Raqqa, but the military campaign to retake that city displaced thousands and thousands of people from their homes. Many have fled to camps in other parts of Syria, camps which were already overflowing after years of civil war and fighting in other cities. Among the groups working to help civilians is the humanitarian and development organization CARE.

Wouter Schaap is CARE's Syrian director, and he joins us in the studio. Welcome.

WOUTER SCHAAP: Thank you.

KELLY: Give me a sense of the numbers. How many internally displaced people are there in Syria today?

SCHAAP: At the moment we have almost 6 and a half million people who are displaced internally within Syria and over 5 million that have fled the country into neighboring countries and beyond. So it's a very large proportion of the population, and many people have been displaced multiple times. So they move from one location to another, hoping to find safety, and then are moved on again. And this has had a particular impact on women and girls in this environment.

KELLY: Well, and you say they've had to move because they're concerned about their safety. I mean, this civil war is ongoing. Are they safe in camps once they get there? What's the security situation?

SCHAAP: Some - it depends, really, from location to location. And some people - many people are not in camps. Many people are in host families with - staying in collective centers like mosques or schools. And there are people that are indeed ending up in camps. But it's a variety of different ways and means that people find shelter. And sometimes that does mean that people have to displace again into a new setting once violence reaches them once more.

KELLY: We're dealing with a country in the middle of a civil war. You are trying to help people in all parts of the countries. Do you have to then work relationships both with the Syrian government and with fighters who are working to topple the Syrian government? How does that complicate your effort?

SCHAAP: Well, I can't speak too much about the specifics of how that works, but typically in conflict settings an organization like CARE aims to work with all sides of the conflicts. We don't take sides. We don't - we're not a party to this conflict. And we try and ensure we can provide assistance wherever we can reach.

KELLY: What worries you most about the situation in Syria?

SCHAAP: I think the sheer scale of it and the complexity of it. It's a war that has become a global war with, you know, major powers getting very heavily involved over the last couple of years. And with that level of complexity, regional players, global players all getting involved, it becomes a very difficult conflict to resolve. And people's coping capacity sort of seven years into this crisis is being eroded.

And what also worries us as an organization is that this may, you know, spread regionally. We're seeing, you know, more instability in Iraq in recent period. And we all hope that this conflict can be resolved through talks peacefully, but unfortunately at the moment the signs on the ground are not positive.

KELLY: Is there a particular family you've met whose story stays with you?

SCHAAP: There's a family I met in Jordan that had fled from Syria and where the father wouldn't leave the house anymore because he just struggled with all the memories of what he'd seen and loss of family members inside Syria. Another example is a story of a lady with three young children that we were supporting in inside southern Syria at the moment. And she saw several of her members being executed by one of the warring parties...

KELLY: Several of her family members.

SCHAAP: Yeah. So this - these are sort of normal stories in the Syria context.

KELLY: Wouter Schaap. He is CARE's Syrian director. Thanks so much for coming in.

SCHAAP: Thank you for the time. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.