As the Syria crisis enters its seventh year, 13.5 million people require humanitarian assistance. 375 UN Volunteers are currently serving in countries neighbouring Syria, mostly as part of the response to the refugee crisis. These UN Volunteers are teachers, monitors of cross-border operations, enumerators; they serve in refugee camps and in public offices, they provide livelihood opportunities, protection, medical and other social services. Some of them are refugees themselves, some are youth, many are women.
The UN Volunteer Associate Monitoring Officers serving within the United Nations Monitoring Mechanism (UNMM) for Syria are responsible for making sure that the trucks going into Syria are carrying humanitarian supplies and nothing else. (Hurriyet Turkey, 2016)
Supporting Syrian refugees and their host communities
The increasingly volatile refugee and migrant situation has direct impacts on the ability of UN agencies to respond, particularly UNHCR. In response, UNV adopted ad hoc solutions to assign UN Volunteers in Europe for the first time, resulting in UN Volunteers deployed in Ireland, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Greece.
In Greece, UN Volunteers assigned as Associate Field Officers (Protection) were deployed to the islands to support UNHCR emergency operations when the number of new arrivals was overwhelming. Similarly, UN Volunteers were sent to Calais in the north of France to assist in the dismantling of the so-called ‘Jungle’ camp, evacuating an estimated 6,000-8,000 migrants to reception centers across the country.
In Lebanon, the Lebanon Host Communities Support Programme (LHSP) targets the most vulnerable communities hosting displaced Syrians and aims to decrease tensions and conflict between host communities and displaced persons. Six national UN Volunteers have been assigned to the LHSP.
Finally, four national UN Volunteers, three of them youth, have recently been deployed in Syria with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in the fields of communications, operations, administration and data analysis. This opens the door for Syrian youth to serve in their country, and to promote peace and positive change.