PORTLAND, Ore., Aug. 29, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- According to the United Nations, there are now 3 million registered Syrian refugees spread across the Middle East, with the majority living in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. The global humanitarian organization Mercy Corps works closely with these refugees and the neighboring countries hosting them to stretch scarce resources and strengthen communities' ability to peacefully resolve urgent issues.
Economic insecurity, skyrocketing rents, and competition over scarce jobs are potential flashpoints for host communities and Syrian refugees, particularly in Turkey, whose unofficial refugee population is estimated at more than 1 million.
Mercy Corps is conducting extensive labor market research in Gaziantep, an industrial city in southeast Turkey that has been a magnet for thousands of Syrians who fled the war in Syria, to better understand how the private sector can help alleviate the current situation.
"Syrians in Turkey are exceptionally challenged by the language barrier and cross-cultural differences, which increase tensions dramatically," says Neal Keny-Guyer, chief executive officer of Mercy Corps. "Our assessment should allow us to design market-responsive programs that directly benefit both vulnerable Syrian and Turkish households in a way that reduces strain between the communities."
Water is yet another issue that has sparked confrontation between Syrian refugees and host communities.
"Eighty liters of water per person per day are required to satisfy basic needs," says Dina Sabbagh, deputy chief of party for Mercy Corps' water demand management in Jordan. "We were seeing communities in Jordan with large numbers of refugees where the average supply of water had dropped to as low as 30 liters per person per day. We must continue to find ways to both increase the overall supply of water, while managing the increasing demand."
The third driest country in the world, Jordan's water shortages have hit emergency levels in many areas. Mercy Corps and its partners have moved quickly to renovate municipal water systems across the country, providing enough water for hundreds of thousands of additional residents. Working with community based organizations across the country, Mercy Corps has also helped reduce overall demand for water and improved water management practices.