Responding to the Refugee Crisis

More than 59 million people globally are classified by the United Nations as “forcibly displaced,” the highest number since the Second World War. The conflict in Syria alone has displaced at least 11 million people, around 4 million of whom have taken refuge outside the country.

We’re working behind the scenes to support the responses of governments, nongovernmental organizations, and not for profits in many parts of the world. “This mass movement of people is more than a passing news story—it’s a global phenomenon that will have lasting effects,” says Khaled Rifai, a German-born, New York-based partner with Syrian roots, who is coordinating our work on refugee projects.

When the scale of the crisis in Syria started to become clear, Markus Gstöttner, a consultant based in our London office, started looking for ways we could help. He recalls, “After several visits to the region and extensive research, it became clear that providing education for refugee children was an issue where our strengths as an institution overlapped with needs on the ground.”

Today he leads a team of volunteers on a project to deliver schooling to some of the 500,000 Syrian children who are refugees in neighboring Lebanon. The team, which includes Syrian and Lebanese colleagues, is working in partnership with education provider Bridge International Academies, local not for profit Basmeh & Zeitooneh, and Vitol Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the Dutch energy company. Working together, the group has developed a tailored curriculum that can be delivered to students by teachers using robust, low-cost tablets. 

“Faced with this number of children, there simply aren’t enough teachers available to deliver conventional schooling,” says Markus. “The Bridge platform can be used by volunteers who wouldn’t otherwise be able to teach. It provides structure and content right down to the level of scripts for individual lessons.”

The model has been piloted with refugee children living on the outskirts of Beirut, and the team hopes to reach around 1,500 primary-school-age children directly by the end of this year. The curriculum is open source, enabling other organizations to use it to deliver education programs across Lebanon and eventually in other countries too.

Of course the impact of the Syrian crisis is being felt outside the region too. European countries are struggling to deal with hundreds of thousands of migrants seeking asylum from war or opportunities for a more prosperous life. Our teams are working with federal and regional government agencies to strengthen their capacity to respond.


Executive Editor

Ms Anna Sullivan

Ms Anna Sullivan