Syria: humanitarian aid regardless of conflict lines

Together with Ambassador Maya Tissafi, SDC Director General Patricia Danzi has visited Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The focus of the visit was on Switzerland's humanitarian work.

Girls' school in Syria: SDC Director General Patricia Danzi, Ambassador Maya Tissafi and others talking in front of a blackboard to a classroom of schoolgirls.

SDC Director General Patricia Danzi and Ambassador Maya Tissafi visit a girls' school in Syria. © SDC

Much of the media are no longer focusing on the situation in Syria. However, the needs of the population in the region are no less urgent than before. Countless people continue to suffer from the serious consequences of armed conflict and the associated grave violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law. According to the UN, 14.6 million people in Syria were in need of humanitarian aid in September 2022. The neighbouring countries of Lebanon and Jordan have the highest refugee rates in the world compared to their resident population.

Switzerland is currently active in Syria with one of its largest humanitarian programmes.
Patricia Danzi, SDC Director General

Against this backdrop, SDC Director General Patricia Danzi, together with Ambassador Maya Tissafi, head of the FDFA's Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Division, have visited Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. "Switzerland is currently active in Syria with one of its largest humanitarian programmes. It was important for me to see the work on the ground in person," says Danzi.

Humanitarian aid in focus

In Jordan, Ms Danzi and Ms Tissafi visited an SDC-supported social assistance project run by the NGO Medair in Sahab. "Jordan is confronted with reconciling the complex needs of refugees, migrants and also vulnerable groups from within Jordan itself," says Danzi.

With the project in Sahab, Switzerland is thus supporting an approach which involves coming up with holistic solutions in cooperation with local civil society organisations. As the crisis in Syria has evolved, the nature of the work has changed from short-term financial assistance to support in areas such as livelihood and accommodation, but also mental health and social issues, as well as capacity building of local actors.

Ms Danzi and Ms Tissafi visited another Swiss-supported project in Eastern Ghouta in Rural Damascus, Syria, where Switzerland is strengthening the resilience of the conflict-affected population through interventions in water and sanitation (WASH) and livelihood. The Swiss delegation visited a school in which the sanitary installations were restored by the NGO partner Oxfam. "Switzerland is providing humanitarian aid in all regions of Syria based on humanitarian need, regardless of conflict lines," says Danzi.

Switzerland actively responding to humanitarian needs

The Bekaa Plateau in neighbouring Lebanon is also heavily affected by the crisis in Syria. Many people who have fled Syria are now living there, mostly in informal tented settlements. Up to 90% of the refugee population on the Bekaa Plateau are affected by extreme poverty and have difficulty buying food. Patricia Danzi and Maya Tissafi visited an informal tented settlement in the village of Saadnayel together with Ayaki Ito, the UNHCR's representative in Lebanon. "The UNHCR in Lebanon is a reliable partner organisation and Switzerland values its cooperation," says Danzi. Switzerland is committed to helping all those in need in Lebanon, including refugees from Syria and vulnerable groups in Lebanon.

The crisis in Syria has affected the lives of at least 12 million people since 2011. More than 5.5 million Syrians are registered as refugees in neighbouring countries and 6 million are internally displaced. Since 2011, Switzerland has provided over CHF 610 million for the affected population in the region, responding through its action to the immense humanitarian needs and working to strengthen the resilience of the people of Syria and the surrounding region. It is engaged in four priority areas: protection and migration, education and income, conflict prevention and peacebuilding, and water and sanitation. It also provides emergency aid in humanitarian crises.

Eleven years of civil war in Syria have destroyed much of the country. How can Switzerland help during an extended crisis like the one in Syria? This is the topic of the tenth episode of the SDC podcast A Plus For Humanity. © YouTube / Swiss Foreign Ministry

Switzerland is committed to a political solution

Switzerland is working at various levels to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Syria. Under the auspices of the UN, Switzerland, as host state of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva, brings the various parties to the conflict to the table, with civil society playing an important role. "For Switzerland, it is clear that there can be no lasting peace and no solution to the humanitarian crisis in Syria without a meaningful political process," says Tissafi.

For Switzerland, it is clear that there can be no lasting peace and no solution to the humanitarian crisis in Syria without a meaningful political process.
Maya Tissafi, head of the MENA Division at the FDFA

Syria is on the agenda of the UN Security Council several times a month. "In the future, Switzerland will also work within the framework of its mandate as an elected member from January 2023, among other things, to ensure that vital cross-border aid to Syria can continue to be provided," says Tissafi.

What is cholera and what is its impact on Syria?

Cholera is a diarrhoeal disease caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. This forms a toxin in the intestine (cholera toxin) that causes diarrhoea and can lead to great fluid loss. Infection usually occurs through drinking water contaminated with faeces or vomit from infected persons, or through the consumption of contaminated food. The first cases of cholera were detected in Syria in late summer, and in Lebanon in autumn 2022. Owing especially to the poor access to water, the disease poses a great danger to local populations. The SDC is responding to the outbreak by stepping up its WASH (water, sanitation and health) activities and plans to provide additional support to several partners in this area.

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