Orphans in two govenorates of Syria are to benefit from Japanese grants awarded to two local NGOs this week.
The grants were given to the Al-Imam al-Nawawi NGO in Dara'a, 200 km north of the capital, Damascus, and the Islamic Association for Orphan Welfare and Good Deeds in Hama, 100 km south of the capital.
Azusa Hayashi, Japan's ambassador to Syria, signed the two grants totaling US $168,502, as part of the framework of Japan's "Grassroots Grant Assistance Scheme", established in Syria in 1996.
"The Japanese grant assistance programme is designed to reach people directly; these grants come as an expression of good intention and friendly relations between Syria and the Japanese people," Hayashi told IRIN at the signing ceremony in Damascus.
The two grants will help support and improve services provided to orphans and elderly people in need of special care in Dara'a and Hama, the Japanese ambassador added.
He also outlined a number of cooperation programmes carried out in Syria, such as the renewal of water supply pipes in old Damascus, a new programme on water management and the supply of sophisticated equipment to maintain water resources.
The Governor of Hama, Dr Mohamad Saed Akeel, welcomed the funds for the charity organisations saying they were greatly needed.
Akeel explained that previous money received from the Japanese to help those who are hard of hearing and people with impaired vision had helped to improve facilities.
"This grant has led to noticeable development in the rehabilitation of the deaf and helped to integrate them into society," he told IRIN.
"The $79,340 grant will be used to furnish our newly established orphanage," Samir Brazi, Chairman of Islamic Association for Orphan Welfare and Good Deeds, based in Hama, told IRIN.
Brazi pointed out that 130 orphans would benefit from the new 13,500 sq metre orphanage, comprising a nursery and primary school as well as dormitories accommodating 220 orphans, vocational training facilities and a sports hall.
Turning to Dara'a, Khaleel al-Odallah, Chairman of the Dara'a-based al-Imam al-Nawawi NGO, said: "With this grant of $89,162, we will be able to refurbish the orphanage, which will lead in the near future to providing better health and educational conditions to the orphans making them productive members in the society."
The centre is also the first to offer care for the elderly in Dara'a governorate.
He explained that work on the orphanage would be completed within 12 months when 150 orphans and 30 elderly people would be housed.
Since the start of its grassroots scheme, Japan has funded 54 projects in different fields, targeting people with special needs in the country.
The total amount of funds spent on projects in Syria to date under the grassroots scheme is $2.4 million.