Life is bleak for the Syrians who have fled to nearby countries

The shared accommodation centre for Syrian refugees in Lebanon supported by Concern Worldwide that is now home for Ammar and his family

The shared accommodation centre for Syrian refugees in Lebanon supported by Concern Worldwide that is now home for Ammar and his family

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Lebanon has the highest concentration of refugees in the world.

About one in every five people living there is a refugee. Smaller than Northern Ireland and with an estimated population of over four million people, it is now host to 1.1 million Syrians who have fled the conflict.

Ammar's shop is stocked with the essentials like oil, flour and eggs, which he sells to friends.

Ammar's shop is stocked with the essentials like oil, flour and eggs, which he sells to friends.

That’s the equivalent of Northern Ireland welcoming around 400,000 extra people to our shores – illustrating the huge numbers involved, and the enormous challenge facing countries neighbouring Syria.

The reality is that conditions in places like Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon remain bleak for millions of refugees.

They are living a precarious existence – facing hunger, thirst, poor sanitation, a lack of medical care and education for their children, and a loss of livelihoods.

On a trip to Lebanon a few months ago, many of the refugees I met said they desperately hoped the war would end, that life would return to normal, and they would be able to go back home again to Syria.

Peter Anderson, NI Director of Concern Worldwide (William Cherry/Press Eye)

Peter Anderson, NI Director of Concern Worldwide (William Cherry/Press Eye)

But without a political solution, that hasn’t yet happened.

As the conflict enters its sixth year, aid agencies like Concern Worldwide have been working hard to help improve conditions on the ground – providing food, clean water and shelter, setting up informal schools for children, and helping people to cope with trauma they have suffered.

On my recent visit, I was moved by how people are surviving - and more than that, are making the most of the difficult situation they find themselves in. I saw tiny glimmers of hope in people like Ammar, a 23-year-old man full of aspirations.

Several years ago, Ammar was seriously wounded in a gun and bomb attack at a farm where he worked in Syria. Separated from his fiancée, he spent six months in a clinic in neighbouring Lebanon.

A young boy in Ammars shop set up inside the temporary shared accommodation block for refugees.

A young boy in Ammars shop set up inside the temporary shared accommodation block for refugees.

When we met, Ammar was still in Lebanon, living in temporary shared accommodation for refugees supported by Concern. He had since recovered from his injuries and had been reunited with his girlfriend.

They were married in that drab, concrete apartment block which they now call home, sharing a small room together with their beautiful baby daughter.

Like many of the most vulnerable people living as refugees in Lebanon, Ammar receives a meagre allowance to spend on food every month.

But he has shown tremendous initiative and has set up a small shop in the building – stocking it with the essentials to sell to friends and neighbours. And he’s doing a steady trade.

Ammar’s story is typical of the many thousands of refugees helped each month in countries neighbouring Syria. They face enormous challenges and hardship, but when given the chance to develop their own knowledge, skills and incomes, their lives begin to improve.

Without that support, people like Ammar, his wife and daughter would not have a safe and secure place to sleep at night; they would have no opportunity to earn a living; and, above all, they would have no hope of a better life in the future, and of returning home to Syria once again.

Peter Anderson is NI Director of Concern Worldwide