(Photos courtesy of Baptist Global Response)
Syria (MNN) ― For only the second time in the nearly 2-year Syrian civil war, the U.N. refugee agency completed an aid delivery Thursday.
The trucks delivered 15,000 blankets and 10,000 tents to an Internally Displaced People (IDP) camp near the Syrian-Turkish border in the country's northwest. However, the reception was surprisingly cool. Jeff Palmer with Baptist Global Response explains, "There were ties to other factions out there. People perceived where the aid was coming from, so they actually refused the shipment of the aid."
He goes on to clarify, "The men were the ones who rejected the aid. The women wanted it, but the men said, ‘You bombed us out of our homes, and now you try to give us tents."
The plight of the IDPs is desperate, and costs are skyrocketing. "A liter of fuel is going at $10: that's $40 a gallon. A little package of pita bread, which is a staple food that they would eat in that part of the world: going for $4, for seven small pieces."
In fact, the increasing ferocity of the fighting and the lack of a clear cut "enemy" add up to an untenable choice. Palmer says, "It's really getting serious and more desperate on the inside. Actually, for some of those coming out and getting into the camps--even though those are bad situations: they're much better off than those staying in."
In neighboring countries, the refugee numbers continue to grow, with 814,677 Syrians now either registered as refugees or awaiting registration. This figure comprises 273,908 in Lebanon; 252,706 in Jordan; 177,387 in Turkey; 88,143 in Iraq; 16,195 in Egypt; and 6,338 in North Africa.
Since the start of 2013 the number of refugees registered has been rising at an average rate of more than 5000 people per day. Palmer says with the upsurge of refugees, there has to be expansion of their response. "We actually have one place that we are in right now, and we have about three other areas outside, working with refugees. As of last week, we're moving to a number of places inside the country because, again, when you look outside, you're approaching maybe a million refugees. Inside, you're looking at two to three million, in terms of displaced folks."
If there is a silver lining in the shroud of Syria, Palmer says it's the spiritual openness. "In the midst of all of this hopelessness, people are looking for answers. They're looking for hope. We have a chance to give them hope--physically--with food, with warm clothing, with shelter. Also our partners are able to give them eternal hope in the message that is found in the Gospel."
In fact, Christian relief workers say, God is moving in remarkable ways. "Most of the stuff on the inside of the country is going through national believers. They're our contacts; we're working with them. We're providing the resources to help their people, and they're going to be sharing."