Mercy Corps is a global humanitarian organization that helps transform people’s lives. They are currently composed of 4000 people speaking 100 languages, helping people in 42 countries. It was founded in 1979 as Save the Refugees Fund by Dan O’Neill. This was in effort to help the people fleeing from Cambodia due to food shortages, war and genocide. What started with one country quickly spread to many others, addressing the needs for relief, recovery and resilience among refugees.
Their work eventually extended to the Syrian Conflict, seeking to help families fleeing from awful conditions. In Syria the civil war that is occurring has caused over 9 million people to become displaced and run to neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey. This put a strain on the native people of those host countries as well because they now had to share their resources, living space, and jobs, which as we have learned can lead to an increase in the likelihood of conflict between the people. In order to help these refugees and the natives of the host countries, Mercy Corps has worked on addressing emergency relief, water shortages, child resilience, livelihoods, and conflict mitigation.
In Jordan, even though Zaatari is considered the second largest refugee camp in the world, more of the problems come from the neighboring communities where refugees have moved, clashing with the natives. Mercy corps has worked on improving shelters that are located outside the camp, as well as worked with community groups in order to try to mediate growing tensions by finding simple, common solutions to the problematic situations. Jordan is also one of the driest countries in the world; this plus an increase in refugees and a leaking infrastructure put a huge strain on the water supply. The NGO created wells, aided household and school remodeling to efficiently use and conserve the low resources. They also renovated municipal water systems to effectively serve the increase in population. These improvements lead to a decrease in tensions over water and shelter in the areas, as well as leading to healthier lifestyles of the refugees as there was an increase in water and a better source of housing. Similar projects are also seen in Lebanon.
As well as addressing water concerns, there is also a push to address the mental well-being of children. In Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, playgrounds and Child-Friendly Spaces are being constructed in order to provide a center for positive mental development in these children who have traumatized. Many of them have seen death, violence and torture of family members, friends and many others. These images are hard to process for young children, and will often show up as reoccurring nightmares, as they are ingrained into the child’s mind. Child refugees can become aggressive and emotionally unstable if there trauma is not addressed at a young age. They can also have trouble making connections with people and their learning abilities can be compromised. All three of things combined are an unsafe combination of elements that can lead to an increase in violence as the children age. By intervening at a young age, Mercy Corps is lowering the risk of violence in these areas by offering them protection, managing their psychological well being, and making sure they can healthily integrate into society.