I'm just back from a couple of days in Jordan looking at the incredible work that Save the Children are doing with the Syrian refugees in the country. Jordan is a country of only six million people and, if current estimates are correct, there will be more than a million Syrians in the country by the end of this year. This is an incredibly difficult situation for Jordan to bear on her own as well as presenting an enormous humanitarian crisis for the refugees both in camps and living in host communities.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Syrian conflict, children are innocent and must be taken care of. This is why Save the Children set up Child Friendly Spaces in the Zaatari refugee camp that I visited. These allow the children to have somewhere safe to go within the relative chaos of a refugee camp. In these spaces they can play and learn and generally talk to other kids in similar situations to themselves.
I met a 15-year old boy called Ahmed who had fled across the border with his whole family just a month ago. You could see in his eyes that he was finding the whole situation very traumatic. His only release was playing football on a makeshift football pitch. It was only recently that he had stopped flinching every time he heard a plane fly overhead, thinking that it was about to drop bombs on him.
I assumed that most refugees would be in camps but far from it. In fact two thirds of the refugees currently in Jordan live in 'Host Communities'. This means that families are dotted around cities in Jordan, living in very basic accommodation and feeling very isolated. I visited a family of nine from the city of Dara who were all living in one room in Amman. They had just discovered that their house had been burned down when the regime learned that they had fled over the border. They didn't want to be filmed or photographed as they were terrified of reprisals against family members still in Syria. I spoke to the two teenage boys about their life.
They hadn't been to school since the troubles started two years ago. They were very grateful for the 'Child Friendly Space' that Save the Children had set up near them in the city. This allowed them to have somewhere to go and meet other Syrian kids and to talk through some of their experiences back home. Save the Children also provided families like these with a credit card with 100 Jordanian Dinars a month to allow them to buy food and basic necessities.
Nobody in the family could find work and without this financial help they would be in dire straits. But the problem keeps growing bigger and bigger and the people I spoke to on the ground emphasised that they were constantly "playing catch-up." More help is needed urgently as well as pressure put on Syria to allow access to displaced persons within Syria itself that could possibly prevent people from having to leave the country in the first place. Nobody is a winner in conflicts like these and children are always the most vulnerable and suffer the most. The international community should do everything it can to help bring an end to the violence, however remote a prospect that is. In the meantime, we must make sure that the innocent child victims of this conflict, like those I met in Jordan, are given all the help they need.
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