A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Amidst the horrific images (which I'll not link to here) coming out of Syria this week, the UN has announced that more than one million children from that war-torn country are now refugees. This is nearly half of the 1.9 million refugees that have fled to neighboring countries: Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, and Iraq. On top of this, there are more than 4.25 million people displaced within Syria itself.
This is a human crisis of staggering proportions, requiring a commensurate international humanitarian response.
"What is at stake is nothing less than the survival and wellbeing of a generation of innocents." - António Guterres, UNHCR High Commissioner.
But while the numbers are mind-numbing, it's about the people. These photos give some insight into what Syria's child refugees have experienced.
1. Farah Abd Latif
Farah, 10, speaks about her memories of Syria: “We were living in peace and security in Syria. The bombing started and our area was hit. Seven of our neighbors died. When I saw people slaughtered in front of me I was afraid and I started to cry.”
Haram, 5, son of Aida Khalda Mohamed, from Dar'a, Syria. Haram was traumatized by bombing in his home town and started showing behavioral problems including running to hide under the bed. His family left in February and are now living in Jordan's Zaatari camp.
3. Children's workshop
There can be few things more distressing than the experience of war and exile, and the World Health Organization estimates that over half of all refugees have mental health problems. Children, witnessing violence and displacement so early in their development, are particularly at risk from the effects of trauma and distress. It's been more than two years since the start of the present war in Syria, and nearly two million Syrians have fled their homeland. (23 August 2013)
4. Omar and friends
My three-year old son recently asked me: "Daddy, who are your friends?" We all know about the importance of friends for our health and happiness. This goes for children too. Meet Omar Mohamed, 10, (center) with his friends. Omar's family have fled the conflict in Syria and are now living as refugees in Jordan's Zaatari camp. For me, this Simon Rawles photo, captures both the deep needs of friendship and the pain Syria's children are feeling.
What Oxfam is doing
Oxfam has so far reached 200,000 people with humanitarian aid, and hoping to reach 650,000 by the end of the year in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
Having recently secured permission to provide aid within Syrian borders, we are now providing water and sanitation facilities and system repairs. We are also providing training to water technicians and hoping to work on solid waste management.
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Or hear Reema's moving recollection of her last days in Syria
You can also donate to Oxfam's Syria Crisis Appeal