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UN translators in New York raise funds for Syrian refugees

Making a Difference, 20 September 2012

© UNHCR
Members of the UN Arabic Translation Service who helped raise funds for Syrian refugees pose for a photograph with UNHCR staff in New York.

NEW YORK, United States, September 19 (UNHCR) Alarmed by the growing humanitarian crisis in the Middle East, Arabic translators at the United Nations headquarters in New York have raised US$12,700 for UNHCR's emergency operation for tens of thousands of displaced Syrians.

"This is a real achievement. This significant contribution will make a difference in the lives of numerous Syrian refugees who are in dire need of protection and assistance," said Udo Janz, director of UNHCR's liaison office in New York.

The situation in Syria is a major global concern of the UN Secretariat in New York, where documents and reports are prepared daily on the humanitarian and political crisis in the Middle East country. These keep the translators very busy as well as focused and informed on the subject.

Staff from the UN's Arabic Translation Service were so moved by what they were reading and hearing that they decided to do something to help. In only three days, they managed to collect US$12,700. They recently handed over a cheque to Janz at UNHCR's liaison office.

"We had been thinking about doing something for quite a time," said one translator, Nahla Baydoun, who has worked in New York for four years but originates from the Lebanon. "After the first colleagues began to put money together, others quickly followed with significant contributions. It was an informal process and we were very positively surprised by the impact of our initiative."

A colleague of hers, Bassel Tabbah, said most of the translators had links with the Middle East. "The situation in and around Syria affects us personally as we have family and friends over there," he explained. "But this is not a regional issue for us, it's a human issue. It is about alleviating human suffering. It is a strictly humanitarian initiative, not a political one," he stressed.

The translators said they hoped to do more to help alleviate the suffering of the refugees and were looking at ways to mobilize colleagues in other services and beyond.

Established in 1973, the Arabic Translation Service comprises some 60 translators from Burkina Faso, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Senegal, the Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and the United States.

The number of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries has recently passed the 260,000 mark, including more than 100,000 who fled escalated fighting in Syria in August. Hundreds of thousands are displaced within Syria.

UNHCR, as the lead organization for the Syria regional response programme for refugees, appealed in June for US$193 million to provide protection, assistance to 185,000 refugees until the end of the year. However a fresh appeal is expected soon in light of the dramatic rise in the number of people fleeing to neighbouring countries since June.

By Hugues van Brabandt in New York, United States

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Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

As world concern grows over the plight of hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians, including more than 200,000 refugees, UNHCR staff are working around the clock to provide vital assistance in neighbouring countries. At the political level, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres was due on Thursday (August 30) to address a closed UN Security Council session on Syria.

Large numbers have crossed into Lebanon to escape the violence in Syria. By the end of August, more than 53,000 Syrians across Lebanon had registered or received appointments to be registered. UNHCR's operations for Syrian refugees in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley resumed on August 28 after being briefly suspended due to insecurity.

Many of the refugees are staying with host families in some of the poorest areas of Lebanon or in public buildings, including schools. This is a concern as the school year starts soon. UNHCR is urgently looking for alternative shelter. The majority of the people looking for safety in Lebanon are from Homs, Aleppo and Daraa and more than half are aged under 18. As the conflict in Syria continues, the situation of the displaced Syrians in Lebanon remains precarious.

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

By mid-September, more than 200,000 Syrian refugees had crossed the border into Turkey. UNHCR estimates that half of them are children, and many have seen their homes destroyed in the conflict before fleeing to the border and safety.

The Turkish authorities have responded by building well-organized refugee camps along southern Turkey's border with Syria. These have assisted 120,000 refugees since the crisis conflict erupted in Syria. There are currently 12 camps hosting 90,000 refugees, while four more are under construction. The government has spent approximately US$300 million to date, and it continues to manage the camps and provide food and medical services.

The UN refugee agency has provided the Turkish government with tents, blankets and kitchen sets for distribution to the refugees. UNHCR also provides advice and guidelines, while staff from the organization monitor voluntary repatriation of refugees.

Most of the refugees crossing into Turkey come from areas of northern Syria, including the city of Aleppo. Some initially stayed in schools or other public buildings, but they have since been moved into the camps, where families live in tents or container homes and all basic services are available.

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

Displaced inside Syria: UNHCR and its Dedicated Staff help the Needy

The violence inside Syria continues to drive people from their homes, with some seeking shelter elsewhere in their country and others risking the crossing into neighbouring countries. The United Nations estimates that up to 4 million people are in need of help, including some 2 million believed to be internally displaced.

The UN refugee agency has 350 staff working inside Syria. Despite the insecurity, they continue to distribute vital assistance in the cities of Damascus, Aleppo, Al Hassakeh and Homs. Thanks to their work and dedication, more than 350,000 people have received non-food items such as blankets, kitchen sets and mattresses. These are essential items for people who often flee their homes with no more than the clothes on their backs. Cash assistance has been given to more than 10,600 vulnerable Syrian families.

Displaced inside Syria: UNHCR and its Dedicated Staff help the Needy

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