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Situation Report

Stand in the Gap for Syria

February 2012

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) has been watching with concern the growing humanitarian situation in Syria as thousands of families flee the violence in the country. 

The crisis in Syria began in March 2011 — a period when political uprisings and social upheavals commonly known as the “Arab Spring” affected Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and other countries in the region — with small incidents followed by demonstrations and protests in the city of Dar’aah in the southwest, adjacent to the Jordanian border. . Peaceful demonstrators were calling for political freedom, an end to corruption, and the lifting of an emergency law. The Assad regime’s response included promises of reforms on the one hand, and brutal suppression of protests on the other hand.

Syrian woman and child in distress

Photo used with permission from Baitulmaal.

The atmosphere of protests and brutal government response provided an opportunity for several opposition groups to not only join in the protests, but to hijack what started as peaceful calls for reforms. These opposition groups (some heavily armed) include Islamists as well as secular groups and Army defectors. Different opposition groups are supported by different Middle Eastern countries (such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar) and other forces such as Al Qaeda. Two opposition groups – the Syrian National Council and the Syrian Free Army – have been given refuge in Turkey. The Assad regime is supported by many in Syria’s two largest cities, Damascus and Aleppo.

Clashes between opposition groups and the regime in some cities in Syria continue to intensify to dangerous levels, particularly the city of Homs. A few small towns have come under the control of armed groups. Some analysts are warning of an all out civil war in Syria.

Violence between the regime and armed opposition groups has reportedly resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians and the displacement of approximately 12,000 people who have fled to neighboring countries.

On February 23, the Secretary-Generals of the UN and the League of Arab States appointed former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as a Joint Special Envoy on the Syrian crisis. Mr. Annan’s task is to consult broadly and engage with all relevant interlocutors within and outside Syria in order to end the violence and the humanitarian crisis, and facilitate a peaceful Syrian-led and inclusive political solution that meets the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people.


Response

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) has provided One Great Hour of Sharing funds to the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon as they provide humanitarian assistance to families that have been affected by the recent crisis. 

Funds will be used to:

  • alleviate the short term subsistence (food) need for families over a 4-6 month period, March-August 2012.
  • provide medical assistance and basic medicines for the elderly and those in need or chronically ill (women and children), in addition to milk for children.
  • assist families that have lost some of their members, who were killed and who were their main support.
  • assist elderly people, homes, orphanages and basic infrastructure.

In addition, PDA will continue to work with our mission and ecumenical partners and will provide support as needs are identified.


How you can help

Give.  Gifts to the One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) offering help us to provide immediate and effective support to communities in need. Please consider giving to OGHS to support the needs of this response and others like it. Information on different ways to give can be found on the PDA website. Thank you for your prayerful consideration.

Act

  • Contact Ambassador Susan Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations; urge that there be a prioritization of humanitarian needs in the response in Syria and across the region.
  • Urge that the U.S. support the role of Special Envoy Kofi Annan whose task is to engage with all relevant interlocutors order to end the violence and the humanitarian crisis, and facilitate a peaceful and inclusive political solution that meets the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people.

Pray.  At this difficult and uncertain time, PDA asks that you keep the people of Syria in your thoughts and prayers.  Please pray:

  • For all those whose lives have been and continue to be affected,
  • For those who have lost friends and family during this crisis,
  • For those who are displaced,
  • For those working to deliver humanitarian assistance,
  • For an end to violence and the beginning of negotiations for a solution that meets the democratic aspiration of the Syrian people,
  • That access will be open for humanitarian assistance to get through to those in need.
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