Two UK-based Syrians involved with member charities of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) have described how their families are being affected by the two-year conflict and urged the public to give generously to the DEC’s Syria Crisis Appeal.
Mohamed Najjar (43) and Chawkat Moucarry (59) are involved with Islamic Relief (www.islamic-relief.org.uk) and World Vision (www.worldvision.org.uk) respectively, and are available for interview. Mohamed, a London-based locum hospital doctor, has played a prominent part in fundraising for Islamic Relief’s Syria crisis response by helping to organise appeals on UK-based Arabic TV channels and speaking at appeal dinners in London, Bristol and Sheffield. Chawkat has lived in the UK for 18 years and has worked as Director of Interfaith Relations for World Vision since 2006.
“I have many relatives still living in Syria including cousins and two of my sisters who live with their children and grandchildren in Aleppo,” says Chawkat, who lives in Ongar with his Danish wife Hanne-Lis. “I’ve not been able to see them since 2011 because of the conflict but I phone them at least once a week. Fortunately the fighting has not come too close to them but they are confined to their homes and are affected by food and fuel shortages. Sometimes they don’t have electricity for three days at a time, and they tell me that many people are living on the streets or in unfinished buildings because their houses have been destroyed.
“Two million people are homeless inside Syria and another million are living as refugees in neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. I saw Michael Palin’s appeal on behalf of the DEC charities on TV and I am very encouraged to see so many humanitarian organisations joining together through the DEC to help the people of Syria. The vast majority of those who are suffering are innocent people, victims of the violence from all ethnic and religious groups. They urgently need whatever help we can give them.”
Mohamed Najjar is one of ten brothers and sisters from the Aleppo area. Three of the ten reside in the UK – including Mohamed himself, who lives in London with his wife Dima Assaf and two young children. But three of his sisters remain in Aleppo and four brothers have been forced to take refuge from the conflict in neighbouring Turkey where they live in one overcrowded house with their wives and children and Mohamed’s elderly parents. “I speak to my dad once a week,” he says. “He’s 70 years old and he’s suffering with bowel and prostate cancer. They are living in miserable circumstances. My sisters in Aleppo are at very high risk of being killed in the bombardments.
“Inside Syria a lot of people have no electricity or clean water and they are living out in the open in small tents. The situation is heart breaking, and there are no words to explain what some people have suffered. I would urge people to give to the DEC Syria Crisis Appeal – these charities are working together for the people of Syria and they need our support. If we don’t act now the situation will be more difficult tomorrow and even worse the day after.”
A majority of the DEC’s members are supporting work inside Syria but most cannot talk in any detail about their activities without putting their work and workers at risk. Despite these efforts, however, huge and urgent unmet needs remain.
The British Red Cross is supporting the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), which is reaching nearly 2 million people per month. SARC is working to meet the needs of vulnerable people all over Syria, including government-controlled areas and across front lines.
Other DEC agencies are supporting work that has reached a total of 920,000 people in areas including Damascus, Homs, Aleppo, Idlib, Hama and areas across northern Syria. Islamic Relief, Save the Children, Christian Aid and CAFOD have all confirmed publicly that they are supporting the delivery of aid inside Syria.
To make a donation to the DEC Syria Crisis Appeal visit www.dec.org.uk, call the 24-hour hotline on 0370 60 60 90, donate over the counter at any high street a bank or post office, or send a cheque. You can also donate £5 by texting the word SUPPORT to 7000.