03/06/2014 13:37 BST | Updated 03/08/2014 06:59 BST

Syria Is the Biggest Refugee Crisis in the World... And It's Not Going Away

I have just returned from a journey to Jordan with UNHCR - the UN Refugee Agency. I went there because I wanted to meet and talk to Syrian refugees. Despite being the most intense and dramatic refugee crisis in twenty years, I felt it recently lost the attention it deserves and somehow disappeared from our horizons. I wanted to hear their stories and bring them again under the spotlight. Over the last three years, 2.7million people have fled the conflict in Syria and crossed over the border into Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. More than half are children. It's the biggest refugee crisis in the world, and it's not going away. I have travelled to the Middle East before and had some idea of what to expect, but the sheer scale of this crisis is staggering.

On Monday morning, we were briefed by Kilian, the UNHCR Camp Co-ordinator in the Za'atari refugee camp. He told us there are just under 600,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, and 100,000 of them are living in Za'atari. It's a sprawling sea of tents and prefabs - nine square kilometers of them. Kilian has been nicknamed the Mayor of Za'atari and he was a deeply impressive character, very concerned about international fatigue and the constant need to lobby for funds necessary to provide the basics for Syrian refugees. The running costs of the camp are estimated at £300,000 a day - this covers food, shelter, water, health and education and other basic services. Massive support is needed.

Conditions in the camp are very difficult. It is, after all, a place in the desert. The sweltering heat and dust cause many people to suffer respiratory problems. Gravel has been spread on the ground to help prevent dust storms, and the shining stones glare in the unforgiving sun. Fences protecting the food and other warehouses brought home to me just how desperate people get when they need to feed their families.

In Za'atri I met Muhammad, a refugee from Syria and a football coach whose newborn baby Ali was just a few days old. Muhammad told me: "The sun comes up and the sun goes down and still we remain here." His sadness and frustration was evident. Enthralled by the sport, Muhammad was trying to set up a football tournament for the children. There are 55,000 children in the camp and only 11,000 go to school. They desperately need to be occupied and let off steam, and to feel safe. He took me to a dusty football pitch where a group of boys were playing a match. We joined in, and Muhammad showed us some amazing ball skills. The boys seemed to love him, and he has absolute authority on the pitch. Muhammad says football is about peace - it creates mutual respect and understanding between the children and helps them develop a sense of fairness.

syria refugees

With Muhammad and his family in the town of Azraq. Mohammed tells David "My kids cannot sleep at night - they have seen terrible things and are very traumatised"

Families like Muhammad's have nothing to go back to. Their once beautiful cities have been raised to the ground. In Za'atri camp, the refugee crisis is very visible - it is a sea of humanity. But the camp is just the tip of the iceberg; 80 per cent of Syrian refugees in Jordan are living in villages and towns, often in dark, damp, mould-tainted basements and cellars with friends and family. Most fled their homes in Syria with nothing but the clothes on their back.


Talking with Muhammad in his prefabricated shelter. Muhammed lives there with his wife and six children and their new baby of 14 days. They fled from Syria and have lived in the camp for 18 months

In a town called Zarqa, I met Samir and Raeda and their five children. They lived in Homs, where Samir was a bird breeder. He has a bullet wound on his thigh as a reminder of the violence they have escaped from. The children all go to school - it's important for them to regain a sense of normality. They are just like any other children, with hopes and aspirations. Baha wants to be a hairdresser; Hiba a doctor; and Alla explained to me that she hopes to become an interior decorator - so she can help rebuild her country. Samir is a big man, but he seems utterly broken. He asked me: "We are so alone and feel so isolated - why have they forgotten about us?"


Meeting Samir and Rahad's children who now live in Jordan. Their eldest daughter Alla wants to be an interior decorator so she can go back to Syria and help rebuild the country

The Syria crisis may have fallen off the news agenda, but it hasn't gone away. Every month around 100,000 Syrians become refugees. Again and again I was told the humanitarian situation is extremely fragile and critically underfunded, but there was enormous praise for Jordan - not a rich country by Middle Eastern standards, yet it is showing great generosity towards the Syrian people.


Mohammad, a Syrian refugee and former professional footballer is now coaching kids in Za'atari Refugee camp. Currently 55% of people in the camps are under 18

This is an international crisis on an epic scale. It's a matter of global responsibility - Jordan and the other countries neighbouring Syria should not be bearing the brunt of this alone.

In the face of this human tragedy, the UN launched last December the biggest humanitarian appeal in its history. UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, is leading the international aid response to the Syrian refugee crisis. UNHCR urgently needs funds to continue to protect Syrian refugees and provide life-saving essentials like shelter, food, medicines, water and other basics.

The British people and Government have already been extraordinarily generous in their support for the people of Syria. But every day, families just like yours and mine are still being forced to flee their homes. Just £23 could provide a 'back to school' kit so a child can continue with their education, and £65 could provide nappies for 25 babies for a month.

By Christmas this year it is estimated that more than four million Syrians will have fled their homeland and will be in dire need of humanitarian support. They are in great peril and in need of our help.

Please donate at or text NEED3610 to 70070 to donate £10. Visit or follow them on Twitter and Facebook.