As a member of the International Development Select Committee in Parliament I recently visited the Middle East to see and hear for myself just how UK aid money is being spent on humanitarian assistance and support for those affected by the Syria crisis.
Al Azraq refugee camp is 50 miles from the Syrian border and according to UNHCR figures it is currently ‘home’ to around 54,000 refugees. Putting this into context Aldridge-Brownhills constituency has approximately 64,000 electors.
This is not the only home that Jordan has created for displaced Syrians. The camp at Za’atari provides shelter to 80,000 refugees, and many thousands more live in Za’atari camp and thousands more live within host communities. Jordan is not alone. Countries such as Lebanon should also be applauded for the tremendous work they are doing to host and support refugees affected by the Syria crisis.
Part of the committee’s work is focussed on looking at education in response to emergency situations and that is why in Jordan I visited a number of education projects. I met with refugees – who like any parents, simply want their children to be able to go to school and have an education.
Teachers inside the camp and within host community schools explained the challenges of operating double shift schools, and I heard at first hand from aid workers and some of the many International charities and organisations who are providing vital support and assistance, such as UNICEF, Mercy Corps and a Makani Child Protection Centre.
From my visit it was clear that significant progress is being made, but it is also clear that significant challenges remain. The visit was a stark reminder of the gravity, complexity and fragility of the situation. As the war continues in Syria so too does the suffering. It is estimated that a further 80,000 refugees are now stuck in an area known as the “berm” on the Syria/Jordan border, following a bomb attack in June. These people have gathered in this area, with little, if any, access to humanitarian aid.
“Be in no doubt, these are difficult circumstances stemming from a protracted crisis, and returning to the UK I am left with as many questions as answers, and much to reflect upon. UK aid makes a positive contribution and a real difference to people’s lives but we must keep the pressure on the international donor community to continue to help to, and , above all, remain focussed on playing our part in achieving a peaceful and lasting political solution to this crisis.”
When completed, the Committee’s report will be publically available on the committee Website :- http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/international-development-committee.