World Humanitarian Day: Unsung Hero Devotes Her Life to Help Syrian Children in Crisis






Anonymous_blog

Tue Jakobsen, Communications Officer

Save the Children in Iraq

August 19, 2013


Hadeel
is 28 years-old and is from Baghdad. Nine months ago, she moved 280 miles away
from all of her friends and family into the Iraqi desert to work as a Child
Protection Officer for Save the Children. She was the first woman to work in the refugee camp near Al Qaim.   



Hadeel1A well-educated psychologist, Hadeel decided to do
what very few others do: leave career, friends and family to live in an
extremely dangerous and inhospitable place haunted by extreme temperatures and
reoccurring sandstorms.

“I am passionate about child protection. I was offered
better jobs back in Baghdad where I have my friends and family, but I wanted to
work in child protection and so I ended up here.”

Part of Hadeel’s compassion comes from her own
experience as a refugee.

“My family fled to Syria when the war started here in
Iraq in 2003, and we stayed there for one year. While living as a refugee in
Syria, I experienced firsthand how children fleeing their home need special
care and attention. And I feel that I owe it back to the Syrian people to
support them the best I can, since they supported my family and my people 10
years ago.”

 

The
forgotten refugees

West of Baghdad, the Iraqi province of Al Anbar
stretches for hundreds of miles along the border with Syria and Jordan to the
west and Saudi Arabia to the south. It is mostly desert and, while it is Iraq’s
biggest province, it is also the least populated. The harsh climate proves hard
to live in for even the most rugged Iraqis.

The road from Baghdad follows the Euphrates Riber, and
after a seven-hour drive you reach the small border town of Al Qaim. Here, close
to the Syrian border, lies a refugee camp unknown by the most of the world: Al
Obeidy. Compared to the well-known Za’atari camp in Jordan, one of the world’s
largest, this is a small camp.

Yet more than 2,000 Syrians – more than half of these
children – have sought refuge here. Dwarfed by other refugee camps across the
region, Al Obeidy does not receive the attention and support needed; competition
for attention is hard when around two million refugees have now fled Syria, and
many millions more are still trapped inside the country.

“The families in the camp fled the insecurity of Syria
but ended up in Al Qaim where the security isn’t good either. Many left family
members behind and haven’t been able to get in contact with them since. And now
that the border is closed there is little hope for separated families to
reunite any time soon,” says Hadeel.

 

“The
situation is very dire”

Save the Children is one of the few aid agencies
working in Al Obeidy camp, and Hadeel has worked with Save the Children there for
the last nine months.

“When I arrived in the camp for the first time, the
conditions were really bad. It was very unclean and with a distinct smell of
trash. We had serious concerns about the impact on the children’s health. And
at the same time there was a complete lack of services for the refugees in the
camp.”

Over the months she has been able to follow closely how
the conditions in the camp have developed.

“To be quite honest, the situation hasn’t changed much
since I arrived. We recently relocated to a new camp and that should have
improved the refugee’s situation, but the tents here are in a very bad
condition. They have been affected by the bad weather in winter and now they
are contaminated to a degree where children get respiratory diseases from
living in them. The situation is very dire.”

 

Help
children cope with life in camp

The conflict has had a terrible impact on Syria’s
children. Reports estimate that at least 7,000 children have already lost their
lives. And stories of the abuses of children such as torture, sexual violence,
beatings and threats are everywhere. The children have a great need for
psycho-social support, says Hadeel.

“The children are very affected by what they have been
through, though they don’t want to talk about their experiences. But from their
behavior and their paintings it is clear that they have experienced things no
child should. I remember one girl who came to our Child-friendly space. For the
first couple of months all she drew were pictures of war and weapons destroying
her home.”

How do you work with children affected by war? The
recipe, Hadeel describes, is to try to restore a sense of normality in the
children’s lives.

“We have a wide range of activities in the Child-friendly
Spaces. Some are designed to keep the children physically active. Some are
focused on getting the children to express their emotions through painting,
drawing or storytelling. Others are focused on information-sharing and
skill-building: learning about basic child rights or joining a computer
training class. And we also try to raise the children’s awareness on issues
like hygiene and health. We try to restore as many parts of the children’s
normal life as possible while at the same time provide the specialized support
they need.”

Hadeel has no doubt that the activities help the
children adapt to life in the camp.  

“We had a five-year-old girl who attended our
Child-friendly Space but didn’t really participate and kept to herself. She was
very sad and had clearly been harmed by her experiences in Syria. The
facilitators then put a lot of effort in getting her involved while giving her
room to draw by herself. And slowly, after two months, she started to open up.
Now she participates in the activities and builds relationships with the other
children.”

While Save the Children’s programs and activities are focused
on children, the impact reaches the entire family. Parents don’t have to worry
about their children’s safety while they are at the Child-friendly Space. That
gives them some much needed time to solve practical problems.

“We get positive response from the parents. Their own
capacity is stretched and their biggest concern is their children, so it is
also a refuge for them to send the children to a safe space. We had one family
with four children attending activities, who, during a focus group interview,
expressed their gratitude that we could host their children”.

 

“We are
really making a difference”

Despite Hadeel’s commitment, she admits that it hasn’t
been easy to move to Al Qaim, and that she does pay a price for her devotion.
Hadeel3

“It wasn’t an easy decision. My father supported my
move. He has always support me what ever I did. But my mother and my sisters
asked me not to go. They are concerned by the security situation out here, and
none of them have been able to visit me out here because of the unsafe travel
through Anbar.”

And life far from home can be a challenge even though
you are still in your own country.

“This isn’t an easy place to live. Life here is just
so different from in Baghdad. The community here is also very different. For
example, I didn’t were a head scarf back in Baghdad, but here I have to. We
depend on community support so it is important to follow the local customs. But
my work with the children means a lot, and we are really making a difference.
So it is definitely worth it.”

Hadeel finds some light in the children’s dreams for
the future.

“I am especially happy about the long lasting impact
we make on the children. Many of the children tell us that when they return to
Syria they want to work as teachers or as children’s activity facilitators and
volunteers with Save the Children. It is touching and gives a sense of hope for
the future,” says Hadeel.

 

In Iraq, the Unseen Refugees of the Syria Crisis



Francine-blog-headFrancine Uenuma, Director Media Relations and
Communications

Domiz, Iraq

June 2013



Children are everywhere in Domiz camp, a hot patch of land
near the Syrian border in northern Iraq where more than 40,000 people eke out
their existence in a space designed for only a quarter of that number. We saw
them before we even arrived, running alongside our car, selling gum, trying to
earn a little money.

This crowded camp, which is where many families have taken
refuge from the violence that has wreaked havoc on homes, livelihoods and lives
in Syria, is now where many families find themselves in limbo – unable to
return to Syria, trying to find odd jobs and pass the weeks and months. The
Kurdistan Regional Government manages the camp, which has schools and a small
medical clinic, but the number of refugees strains those resources and many
live in flimsy plastic tarps that blow over when a windstorm comes through.
There are mounds of garbage, and sewage runs down walkways in between the
makeshift dwellings.

RS37631_1076102-Stop-the-Killing-Photo
Sebastian Meyer/Getty Images for Save the Children
It’s hard for me to imagine the shock those who dwell here
have experienced – leaving their homes, jobs, communities and schools – and
beginning a new life of uncertainty and daily hardship. That is reality for 1.5
million Syrians, a number that is hard to fathom when you speak to just one
family and hear what have been through. And what is most difficult to grasp is
that these families are – in a relative sense – the fortunate ones, with
millions more inside Syria subject to violence, food shortages and a medical
and educational infrastructure that has become unrecognizable in more than two
years of fighting.

On the day of our visit, Aras, a father of six children, is
out in the midday sun trying to rebuild the tent where he and his wife and 6
children live. Two of them are in the hospital, he says, so we meet Rebaz*, 5,
Govand, 4, Harem 3, and little Shalha, 1. Health problems – rashes, diarrhea –
are a problem here, and expected to worsen as the summer months grow more
unrelentingly hot. We go inside their tent, where the boys play amidst the pots
and pans and cans that make up a small makeshift kitchen in one corner.

The children who live in tents nearby are curious – as we take
photos we show them their images on our phones and camera. Several boys pose
repeatedly, smiling proudly at each new image of themselves, or with their
friends or siblings.

Aras tells us the tent they now call home was damaged in a strong
windstorm that completely wiped out nearby  families’ homes. His is still
standing, but many families have had to rely on the good graces of others as
they wait for a replacement tent, their dwellings reduced to a pile of plastic
by the strong winds.

Several people gather to talk to us, one man emphatically
says what he needs for his family – “no car, no money, just home — one home!”

Before leaving we walk through rows of tents of the newer
arrivals – those who came later to a camp built originally for only 10,000. We
meet two-month-old baby Banaz*, who was born one month
before her family fled the violence in Syria, completing the last leg of their
journey into Iraq on foot with what belongings they could carry. They don’t
know what the future holds for them – right now life is about the day to day,
trying to find work, cleaning and maintaining their small sliver of space, and
raising their small infant and two-year-old daughter in a world of painful
unknowns.

 

*Names have been changed for privacy

 

How You Can Help

Your gift to Save the Children’s Syria Children in Crisis Fund
will help provide immediate and on-going support to displaced Syrian children
and their family members in refugee camps throughout the region. Your funds
will help us provide comprehensive relief to these families that includes
shelter, health, child protection and educational needs.  Donate Here.

Syria Crisis: Reuniting Lost Children with their Families


Farisphoto (2)Faris Kasim, Information & Communications Coordinator 

Za’atari Refugee camp in Jordan on the Syrian border.

February 26, 2013


Near the reception area, Save the Children is caring for unaccompanied and separated
children.

There were more than a dozen lost girls and boys as young as 6 years old who were
residing at special designated areas.

About two to three lost children are arriving at the camp every day. Most are eventually reunited with their parents or extended families within the camp.

However,four unaccompanied children have been living at the space for the past three
months.

The Save the Children team has been working day and night to assist the refugees in
Za’atari, and there is good coordination between all the NGOs and agencies
working to make room for new refugees.

But everyone is anxious about what will happen if this exodus continues. Will the
humanitarian community and the Jordanian government be able to shelter, feed
and clothe another 60,000 people?

Thousands
of children need caring people to support Save the Children’s response efforts.
Please give generously to our Syria Children in Crisis Fund

Syria Crisis: Being There When Children are Sick


Farisphoto (2)Faris Kasim, Information & Communications Coordinator 

Za’atari Refugee camp in Jordan on the Syrian border.

February 19, 2013


Save the Children is responsible for general food distribution in the camp. I saw
long lines of families sitting with boxes of their bi-monthly rations. Many had
recently arrived, and were happy to receive the rations.

While
talking to a colleague who was supervising the distribution, a man ran up to us
clutching a little girl in his arms. His face covered with a red kaffiya (traditional
headscarf), he urgently called to us to help his daughter.

She had
been sick for many days and was running a dangerously high fever. She was
barely conscious and couldn’t even sit up straight.

My
colleague immediately rushed them to the camp hospital. I later learned that the
girl was given medicine and was put under observation by doctors for hours in
case she had to be transferred outside of the camp.

Hundreds
of men, women and children are arriving at Za’atari in similar conditions, and
many don’t know how to get help at the camps. Luckily for this man’s daughter,
we were there to get her safely to the hospital.

So many children need caring people to support
Save the Children’s response efforts.Please give generously to our Syria Children in Crisis Fund.

Syria Crisis: Supplies Needed for Refugee Families


Farisphoto (2)Faris Kasim, Information & Communications Coordinator 

Za’atari Refugee camp in Jordan on the Syrian border.

February 15, 2013


As I
entered the refugee camp, there were dozens of vehicles unloading people near
the registration center.

A little
boy ran up to me, asking something in Arabic. My colleague intervened and found
out he wanted to know where to get breakfast.

We
walked back to his family and told them about the Save the Children tent nearby
where they can get welcome meals made up of hummus, beans, juice, tuna,
crackers and honey.

The
family had hastily fled their homes in Syria after hearing news of bombardment
in their area. After travelling overnight, they reached the border near
Za’atari at dawn.

While
waiting for registration, the father told me he was worried about what kind of
accommodation he would get for his family, but thanked God that at least his
children were now safe from harm.

There
was a large tent nearby where the newly registered families were given
blankets, mattresses, buckets, water bottles, soap, cleaning powder and other
sanitary items.

There
was a huge crowd pushing against the fence around the tent. Though the camp
staff insisted people queue to speed up the distribution, most of the men and
women were furious about the delay in receiving their supplies. Calm was
restored when some of the frustrated families agreed to be patient and wait
their turn.

Save the Children is working to help the thousands of children living in the refugee camps. So many girls and boys need caring people to support Save the Children’s response efforts. Please give generously to our Syria Children in Crisis Fund.

Syria Crisis: Refugees Pour in to Za'atari


Anonymous man
Faris Kasim,
Information & Communications Coordinator 

Za’atari Refugee camp in Jordan on the
Syrian border
.

February 11, 2013


“This is an exodus! Nearly 22,000 people have come
into the camp in the past week, 6,000 alone in the past two days.” 

“Most
people are arriving with just the clothes on their back. They fled for their
lives, unable to grab anything from their homes. I’ve seen women covering
themselves only with a large shawl and children without shoes.”

This
is how one Save the Children worker at Za’atari, the largest Syrian refugee
camp in Jordan, described the crisis to me as I arrived at the camp.

52066 Zaatari

The
camp population has recently soared to 60,000 people – a 20 percent increase
since the start of the year.

Za’atari
is turning into a small town. There are shops opening on the side of the camp’s
main road, set up by refugees themselves, as well as small eateries, coffee
shops, barbers and stalls selling food, clothes and other household items.

From
a high vantage point, one can see endless rows of tents, interspersed with
toilets, schools and distribution centers.

Save
the Children is working to help the thousands of children living in the refugee
camps. So many girls and boys need caring people to support Save the Children’s
response efforts. Please give generously to our Syria Children in Crisis Fund.