Helston charity ShelterBox to give £1 million in aid to Syrian refugees
Refugees fleeing the violence in Syria are to receive £1 million in aid from Cornish disaster relief charity ShelterBox.
As fighting between government soldiers and opposition forces intensifies, an estimated one thousand people – including children and the elderly – are pouring across the border into the Kurdistan region of Iraq every day.
The scale of the humanitarian crisis has prompted the Helston-based charity to increase its support for families caught up in the struggle between President Bashar al-Assad's troops and a coalition of rebel groups.
The organisation has already shipped 500 of its distinctive green ShelterBoxes – complete with tents and essential survival provisions – from its Cornish depot to the Domiz refugee camp at Duhuk. But with United Nations predictions putting the number of refugees rising to 700,000 by January, the charity has decided to increase its aid.
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ShelterBox head of operations, Ross Preston, said: "Up to last week the Domiz camp was home to 3,000 families – with an average of 50 new families arriving daily. But in recent days the numbers have increased dramatically, with a thousand people crossing every day.
"In the early phase we saw wealthier people coming through because they had the means to get to the border, then it was the middle classes, now it's poorer families who have had to beg and borrow to escape.
"As the rebels in Syria have been making gains the fighting has become increasingly intense and is spreading towards the borders, which again is forcing more people to flee.
"We're also seeing a large number of young, single men who have deserted the Syrian army."
ShelterBox's army of volunteers is now working around the clock in West Cornwall to send another 1,000 tents with thermal liners to the camp.
Response team member, Dave Webber, who has just returned from northern Iraq, said: "One day this week 1,500 refugees came across. Conditions are dire. The camp is a foot deep in mud. I saw a family of six begging for a tent after they'd walked for miles thinking they'd arrived somewhere safe and away from the violence. There was nowhere for them to sleep that night and their toddler just sat in the mud crying."
The charity has also been working in Turkey to provide clothing, stoves, water carriers, blankets and groundsheets. The tents are providing a vital stopgap for families while hardened shelters are erected.
The crisis in Syria – along with a number of other disasters ShelterBox is currently responding to – comes at a time when the charity is suffering considerable internal problems, putting even greater pressure on its resources.
"This has been one of ShelterBox's most challenging set of deployments to date and we are urgently appealing for donations to enable us to alleviate the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people across the globe," added Ross Preston.
For more information and to donate, visit www.shelterbox.org