A group of refugees watching a film at one of the UNHCR community centres in Lebanon
BBC Media Action is a charity and development agency set up by the BBC – click here to find out more. It began its Syria Lifeline project in 2013 to try to help the millions of refugees fleeing civil war and trying to rebuild their lives in neighbouring countries. By then it was no longer just about finding shelter, water, and food. In this battle for survival and stability information was key: how to stay clean and healthy, how to find a school, a doctor, a job, legal advice. What to do when the emotional strain becomes too much to bear.
The first challenge was how to communicate with people who had lost their normal media channels along with their homes. The result was a series of video films which were screened at UN centres registering the two million Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan. The films use an engaging mix of documentary, drama and music to provide practical help and guidance on a wide range of vital issues.
This first portfolio of films has since been expanded and updated to take account of the refugees’ changing circumstances, as the immediate humanitarian crisis becomes a struggle for long-term co-existence with host populations whose own resources are often stretched to the limit. Together with an aid partner in Lebanon, Relief International, BBC Media Action has opened a network of drop-in centres in areas where refugees are concentrated. They’re safe, welcoming spaces equipped with free phone charging facilities and wifi, where refugees and local residents can access information, consult trained staff, and attend film screenings, debates and other events. For those who can’t make it to one of the centres, a mobile app has been developed for download with an ever growing database of information specifically designed to help refugees.