07/19/2013, 00.00
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CNEWA's humanitarian fight for Syrian refugees

The Syrian tragedy is creating tens of thousands of refugees each month. The Catholic Near East Welfare Association is active along the Lebanese border helping displaced Christian families. "In the past year, we have helped more than 11,000 families and 4,000 children," its regional director Issam Bishara told AsiaNews. "And our work goes on."

Beirut (AsiaNews) - In the last 14 months, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) has been able to reach 4,474 children and 11,152 Syrian families in need, displaced from an area that runs from ​​Homs to the Lebanese border.

"Our program gives priority to Christian families in danger, unregistered for political reasons in the camps set up by the Red Cross or the United Nations," said CNEWA regional director Issam Bishara. "We try to rely as much as possible on Church structures in the region already active in registering displaced or isolated families."

"In recent months," he added, "the CNEWA tried to coordinate the efforts of various international and local partners in order to be active on the ground in most regions."

Some 4,800 Christian families from the area between ​​Homs and Wadi al-Nasara (the Valley of Christians) in western Syria were able to receive food and other aid. Some 350 families were also helped in al-Hassake; 1,850 in Damascus; 1,452 in Aleppo, plus about a thousand families isolated in the war zone.

Unlike Turkey and Jordan, the Lebanese government officially has preferred not to recognise the existence of relief camps within its borders.

For this reason, the Lebanese refugee camps appear more like makeshift encampments, funded by donors in the Gulf or from local parties, where humanitarian organisations operate with difficulty.

In Lebanon, the CNEWA helped some 1,700 Christian families, Greek Catholic, Syrian, but mostly Armenians.

"The CNEWA will continue to supply basic necessities to families that have become isolated in the region," Issam Bishara said.

For the 2013-2014 school year, the papal agency also plans to provide school supplies to at least 1,500 children in Homs for a period of 160 days.

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