The war in Iraq may have officially ended in 2003, but the suffering of Iraqis continues. Almost one fifth of Iraq’s population (4.4 million) are refugees. A little less than half of these refugees are internally displaced; the rest have fled the country. Of those who left Iraq, most are living in Syria and Jordan.

Jordan

Jordan has a history of aiding countries in the Middle East. And since the start of the Iraqi conflict it has hosted more than 750, 000 Iraqi refugees. As opposed to refugee camps, Iraqis live within Jordanian communities. Most reside in Anman, Jordan’s capital city.

Though government officials and aid-workers try to integrate refugees into the community, many Iraqis are frustrated with life in Jordan. There is little access to jobs, no financial stability, and an intense fear of deportation. Many refugees live illegally in Anman, making them more vulnerable to labour exploitation.

Without fair-paying and stable employment many families are hungry. In order to offer immediate support CRWRC provided food to 1, 000 Iraqi families (approximately 4000 individuals). With the help of Manara Ministries, Messengers of Peace, and a local Catholic church, CRWRC identified the most vulnerable households and provided three meals a day for five months. The project finished at the end of June, though proposals have been made for further aid.

Syria

Rather than food aid, World Renew decided on a different approach in Syria. Since the UN was already distributing food rations, World Renew responded instead to the refugees’ need for affordable housing and social support.

One of refugees’ greatest needs is basic shelter. As in Jordan, refugee families in Syria do not live in refugee camps, but in urban centres. Since most refugees are refused work visas, families do not have the resources to pay rent. Over the course of eleven months, World Renew helped make rent affordable for twenty families in Damascus and ten families in Aleppo.

The first part of this project responded to the physical needs of refugees, while the second addresses psychological and social needs. Many Iraqi refugees carry psychological wounds. Though these wounds may not be as noticeable as physical ones, they require healing, too. Many refugees have been traumatized by violence. Some have witnessed the torture of a family member. Others are a child or spouse of a person who was kidnapped, raped, or killed. The results of these war traumas include marriage and family breakdowns, depression, panic attacks, and adjustment issues. Counseling and a positive environment are needed in order to help these people recover.

The Evangelical Christian Alliance Church in Syria and World Renew responded to this need by providing a Family Support Centre and a network of social workers, counselors, and doctors. Refugee families living in Damascus are offered counseling, classes, sports, art therapy, and a quiet study space for its members. Each activity seeks to empower Iraqi refugees by building on skills and strengthening their familial bonds.