Grain plea to help refugee effort


While many major disasters receive worldwide coverage and immediate global assistance, there are just as many emergencies that go unreported.

One such crisis is the plight of Syrian refugees, with thousands of children and their families experiencing hunger and malnutrition.

Now farmers across Western Australia are being asked to give up some of this year's grain harvest to help Caritas Australia, which is providing urgent humanitarian support, including the distribution of food, to Syrian refugees and communities of people in need, in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

The conflict in Syria is escalating and the number of the nation's refugees exceeds two million.

Caritas' initiative is driven by retired Bolgart farmers Laurie Watson, Alan McGill and Frank Schwarzbach.

They are urging West Australian farmers to donate a small percentage of this year's harvest or their excess grain weight overload to Caritas in a bid to help with humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees, including food and water.

"This crisis in Syria is affecting so many people, particularly children, who in many cases are going to bed hungry every night," Mr Watson said.

"As wheat farmers, we understand the importance of food to people. Over the past three years, WA farmers have been dogged by severe frost, drought and, in another bumper year in 2011, we received heavy rain at harvest time, which seriously reduced yields and the quality of our grain harvest.

"But these trials and tribulations are nothing compared with what Syrian refugees are experiencing right now. In many cases, they've lost everything, and as farmers we want to do something to help."

The people of WA are well known for their generosity in a crisis or emergency. In 2011, farmers helped raise almost $7000 for drought- stricken East Africa and almost $4000 for West Africa last year.

Caritas community engagement head Helen Forde said the group appreciated assistance. "For the farmers of WA, to come to the assistance of those in desperate need among Syrian refugees, we are eternally grateful," she said.

"These types of efforts show amazing solidarity and will have a huge impact on the ground in feeding families and building food security among Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey."

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