MCC Photo/Silas Crews

Mohammed holds Mahmoud (last names not used for security reasons) while they wait for their mothers at the Caritas Jordan Mafraq center. At the center, Syrians can register as refugees, enroll their children in an after-school program, and receive material resources. Caritas Jordan is a Mennonite Central Committee partner.

WINNIPEG, Man. – Almost 1.5 million Syrians are now seeking a safe place to live within their own country, displaced by conflict that has moved from city to city. Four hundred thousand have fled the country altogether – many with only a suitcase and the clothes on their backs.

Sarah Adams, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) representative for Syria and Lebanon, said the demand for everything from food to fuel has reached a critical level and the need for donations is urgent. MCC is one of a handful of international organizations with partners in Syria and neighboring countries.

Communities are struggling to keep up with the surge in arrivals, according to Adams, who is from Westerville, Ohio. In one Syrian town, a population of 35,000 has opened its doors to 90,000 newcomers.

“The host communities are overwhelmed by the needs,” said Adams. They are trying to keep up with the demand. “People are being generous to their new neighbors. They don’t call them displaced or refugees. They call them guests.”

Adams said Syrians are arriving in Lebanon and Jordan with no idea of when they will return home. “A lot of the people coming, especially the children, are traumatized. Not just that they’ve been displaced, but they’ve heard the bombings and shelling.”

She said for many adults, there’s an additional burden. “These are people who’ve cared for themselves their whole lives, and suddenly they’re vulnerable. And there’s some shame,” she said.

MCC’s response to the humanitarian crisis is focusing on emergency assistance and peacebuilding.

In recent months, MCC has sent four shipping containers of blankets, relief kits, hygiene kits, school kits and infant care kits to Jordan and two to Lebanon. In Jordan, MCC and partner organization Caritas Jordan are providing milk and diapers to 250 Syrian families.

In addition, MCC is working with partners in Syria to provide food baskets, medicine, fuel and cash for families affected by the conflict in the Homs area.

Adams said the conflict that has raged in Syria for more than a year is spilling over into Lebanon. MCC is working with partner organizations to build peace. “The Lebanese do not want another civil war,” she said.

Adams said MCC is thankful for all of the relief kits donated and financial support received so far, about $400,000. But as the situation worsens, both prayers and donations are urgently needed.

“Consider how you might help,” said Adams. “What prayers can you offer? Can you give relief kits and dollars to help give back a sense of normalcy, and meet the basic needs for people in this crisis?”

MCC welcomes donations of money (specify “Middle East crisis”; and relief kits (information available from your nearest MCC office or