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.

Day 3: King Abdullah Park Refugee Camp

Anoymous womanTorrey Taussig

Zarqa, Jordan

January 17, 2013


Childhood’s Simple Joys 

Today we visited the King Abdullah Park refugee camp in northern Jordan, outside of Ramtha. The weather is still cold, rainy and windy today, and it is hard to think that these conditions will only continue to worsen over the coming months. King Abdullah Park is a much smaller site than the Za’atari camp that we visited yesterday, and it is a more enclosed space that can only accommodate around 1,200 people. The site was previously meant to be a park for the nearby neighborhoods, but upon completion, the Syrian crisis elevated and the Jordanian government turned it into a space for a refugee camp.

P1081147Given the more manageable size, the conditions are slightly different from the larger Za’atari camp, which is in constant influx. Here, each family has a container with solid walls and floors, raised off the ground, which is crucial during the cold and rainy winter months.

There are around 450 children at the camp, and many of them are able to attend local Jordanian state-run schools in the nearby towns. Everyday, Save the Children helps to transport the children back and forth between the schools and the camp, separately busing girls and boys to their different schools. To maintain a sense of normalcy and reduce the tension that the upheaval has caused, the Syrian children go to school in separate sessions from the Jordanian children. The schools and teachers have graciously accommodated the new children, and have taken on more hours and longer shifts in order to handle the increased need for schooling.

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While at the camp, we had the opportunity to visit another child friendly space run by Save the Children. Similar to yesterday, we were met by dozens of happy, bright-eyed children, who were eager to play, sing and dance. The space, albeit cold due to the weather, was brightly colored and filled with toys. Given the rain, the older children who are often able to play soccer and volleyball on the outside fields needed to be inside the space with the younger children. The teachers and Save the Children staff have the patience and attentiveness of saints, and were able to manage the large number of children with care, warmth and joy.

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We also learned how selfless the staff is, as many of them have taken time off from their jobs elsewhere in Jordan to help aid in the refugee efforts. We met two men, one of whom is a physical education teacher nearby, and another who runs his own hair salon! They both now spend their days running around with a highly energetic group of children who are confined to the boundaries of their campsite and are in need of attention and activity. It is through acts of kindness such as these that you can truly see the generosity of the Jordanian people, who have accommodated so many people that have nowhere else to turn.

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We stayed at the space for over an hour, having been immediately accepted by the engaging and friendly children and staff. We were able to partake in a number of different activities that the children were doing, including drawing beautiful pictures of Syrian flags, flowers, smiling faces, and hearts.  They were also performing puppet shows that they had created themselves, playing ping-pong, badminton and legos. There were also dozens of toys for the children to play with, and it was clear that the space provides a respite from the more tedious camp life that awaits them outside.

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At the end of the morning session at the child friendly space, the children headed out to the school buses that were waiting to take them to the local schools. We followed them to Ramtha, where we visited a first-grade girls’ classroom. The teacher was conducting a math lesson, and the eight girls (smaller class size than average due to the weather) enthusiastically took turns coming up to the chalkboard to practice arithmetic, happily cheering when they arrived at the right answers. Despite the hardships they have been through, their excitement and energy is contagious. They left us with a renewed belief that children everywhere deserve the chance to have a childhood, regardless of their circumstances.

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Their lives are by no means easy, and their living conditions make their days even harder. All sense of normalcy they once had is gone, and even after months of living in the camps away from their homes and the lives they once knew, they face continuous adjustment. In a world where humans can do so much harm and cause so much destruction, the work that the Jordanian government and its people, Save the Children, UNICEF, UNHCR and other organizations are doing on the ground shows the best of humanity; and at the end of the day, that is all that we have.

Day 2: Za’atari Refugee Camp

Anoymous womanTorrey Taussig

Zarqa, Jordan

January 10, 2013


Strength, Kindness and Patience in Humanity  

Outside of Al Mufraq, about 12 KM (8 miles) from the Syrian border, lies Za’atari Refugee Camp. Approaching the camp is somewhat like approaching the end of the earth, and flat, desolate land stretches out in all directions. There is very little vegetation or life in the area, and with today’s rain, wind and cold temperatures, the setting was even bleaker.

On a numbers basis, the Za’atari refugee camp is nothing short of a miracle, especially when one considers the sheer number of people flooding into the once barren dessert site. The camp currently has around 60,000 people living there, and is receiving between 1,000 to 1,400 people a night. Nearly 1,800 people crossed the border and entered into the camp on a single night this past week. The numbers are unfathomable, and difficult for the mind to grasp, and even more so when one takes into consideration the amount of food, shelter and health services being provided to all of the refugees on a daily basis.

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Save the Children has about 120 staff there (it was the first organization to respond at Za’atari) and is working with other organizations such as UNICEF, UNHCR, WFP and others to provide the best care that they can, although the conditions get more and more difficult by the day. Everyone who comes to the camp is now staying for the foreseeable future. Before, around 150 people used to leave a day- some going back to Syria, others being taken in by Jordanian host communities or families. Now very few, if any, return to Syria.

Driving down the long straightaway to the front of the camp, you can only see flat land sectioned off by barbed wire fence, giving a sense of going into a closed off zone. At the entrance to the camp, the security presence is heavy.

Upon entering, we could see the entrepreneurial spirit of the people right away. Some tents around the entrance are being used as shops and small markets, sporadically set up by the Syrians as a way of obtaining different commodities and earning a small amount of money.

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We first went to the food distribution areas, where there are huge tents set up for daily bread distribution and bi-weekly distribution of food kits. Depending on the number of members in a family, each family is given a number and told when it is their turn to pick up their food boxes, which include salt, oil, lentils, rice and bulgur wheat, enough to last for about two weeks.

The distribution tents are divided in two, one half for the men and the other for the women. The woman side tended to be more orderly and quiet, slightly less raucous than the male distribution side. Regardless, everybody waited patiently for their food kits to be distributed to them, and smiled as we walked by. The food distribution sites are kept orderly by gates and single points of entrances and exits.

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Next we went to the school, which was constructed with great efficiency and care by the Bahrain government. The school is a more permanent structure than the dense population of tents growing outside of its walls, and each room has a space heater; a rare commodity that is unseen among the tents where the Syrians are living.

There, we met with Save the Children staff and a psychologist, who is working with some of the children, mostly on issues pertaining to violence that they have seen. The school is composed of children ages six to eighteen.  It can hold around 2,000 children at a time and the classes are taught by Jordanian teachers and Syrian teaching assistants who are refugees in the camps themselves. They teach the Jordanian curriculum, and we learned that the children had their end of semester exams approaching! Despite the added stress that may come along with the exams, the structure provides activity, continuity and a small amount of normalcy for the children whose lives have been uprooted since they left their homes many months, and sometimes over a year ago.

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Inside the classrooms, there are wooden desks and chalkboards. There are many pictures and writings on all of the desks, including pictures of the Syrian flags, and hearts. On others, the students have written poetry, writings of peace and in once instance, a short paragraph saying: Do not be afraid to write, my pen. Life is a memory. Freedom and pain are forever.

Writing, and art, can be a form of healing and expression at a time when there are no other ways to voice their fears, hopes and dreams for the future.

Save the Children recently put together a small book of children’s pictures, where the Syrian children sketched their hopes, dreams and aspirations for the coming year. Many drew pictures of flowers, Syrian flags, clothing and included inscriptions such as, I wish…

To go back to Syria

To go home

A doll and toys

Warm clothing

To see my brother back in Syria

To be back in my room

To be happy, joyful,

That my life will be full of roses

These are simple dreams, simple aspirations that many of us would take for granted. For all of the children in the Za’atari refugee camp, their homes are now tents in a cold and wintry desert. Unlikely to happen upon a rose anytime soon, they will, like all children, just continue to dream.

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We next went to Save the Children’s kindergarten area where a teacher-training session was taking place. Despite the grey skies and barren tents, the muddy paths and the large puddles of water developing on the main roads, the atmosphere was immediately filled with color, light and joy as soon as pulled open the entrance to the early childhood center tents. The space is covered with a bright red carpet depicting cartoon characters, and the every corner of the tent is filled with toys and red, yellow and blue chairs. At a small table on the side of the room, a teacher training was going on with both Jordanian and Syrian “animators” (a term used by Save the Children to describe the volunteers working with children in the early childhood centers.) The young women, many of whom are refugees themselves, greeted us with smiles, waving and singing, and seemed particularly joyful that morning. We all participated in a training activity using brightly colored balloons, meant to be an icebreaker game for the children.

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Save the Children is also caring for unaccompanied minors, children who came without families and are alone for a number of reasons. Some include that their mothers did not want to leave their homes in Syria, that they stayed behind to take care of a newborn or very young child, or because their mothers did not want their sons recruited and sent them to the borders for their own safety.

Before leaving, we visited the spaces where the unaccompanied minors are staying who have not yet been assigned to a tent. We spoke to one fourteen-year old boy, who was waiting in the trailer lined with cots, blankets, and a few other boys around his age. His hand was swollen from an injury that he incurred from mortar shelling, and he came to the camps for treatment and physical therapy. He told Save the Children that when he is better, he will return to Syria where the rest of his family has stayed behind. For him, there does not seem to be a doubt in his mind that he will return as soon as he is better.

We then left the camp to head back to Amman for the night. The rain was not letting up, and the increasingly worsening weather only stood to prove how much the refugees are in need of supplies and clothing to help keep them warm. Yet at the end of the day, even among such dire circumstances, hope was ever present and the human spirit indomitable.

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Day 1: The Jordanian Host Communities

Anoymous womanTorrey Taussig

Zarqa, Jordan

January 9, 2013


 Resiliency

Today we visited the host communities throughout Amman where Syrian refugees are being welcomed into neighborhoods by local Jordanians. The government has accepted them into local schools and Save the Children is working to help support their time in Jordan, which for some has been over a year. Save the Children is running cash voucher programs at community centers, along with resiliency programs and child friendly spaces throughout the neighborhoods for refugees and local Jordanian children. The resiliency programs are teaching children the skills they need to be accepted and get along with their new classmates and companions. The child friendly spaces give children an opportunity to participate in structured activities such as drawing and talking about their lives and communities in Syria and their lives now.

The Save the Children Community Center: Zarqa

 Our first visit was to a local community center on the outskirts of Amman where Save the Children was organizing a large-scale cash voucher system for Syrian refugee families. The cash vouchers can be used people can use for food at different markets in the area with whom Save the Children has agreements and remain valid for two weeks. The amount of cash in the vouchers depends on the number of members in the family. We learned that the cash vouchers are better than food distributions because it allows the families to purchase what they need and do the shopping themselves rather than queue in line for distribution.

Each of the vouchers had a serial number on them, as opposed to names, to protect the identity of the families. Then, different numbers get called on different days, and families know when they need to come and collect their vouchers.

The front of the center was a busy scene, with dozens of people leaning over the registration desk, attempting to register and find out when they would be allowed to pick up their vouchers. The back room was calmer, with people, almost all adults, calmly waiting for their numbers to be called. At this point, the program is a well-oiled machine and staff are able to efficiently locate the vouchers for the families and get through the lines of people quickly.

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As we were leaving, we stopped to talk with a few people waiting outside. On was a man in his mid-twenties holding his niece, who was still a baby. She was wearing a small sweatshirt and sweatpants, clearly growing out of them as her uncle tried to pull the bottom of her pants back over her bare ankles. He told us that they had been in Jordan for four months now, and that his greatest needs were food and warm clothing for his family.

Standing next to them was a mother with a young son, who was shivering and looking down at the ground. The mother explained that he, along with his younger sister, were blind and desperately in need of winter clothes. Only wearing a light sweater and jeans, the boy was clearly not prepared for the windy and rainy (and sometimes snowy) months ahead. The mother spoke calmly, yet was visibly upset, as she explained her family’s situation, which now consists of living with over twenty-seven family members in a single apartment. Their family had been in Jordan for a year, always thinking that their return was right around the corner until another moment when the conflict would worsen and their time as refugees would remain interminable for the foreseeable future.

Children’s Resiliency Programs: Amman

Out next visit was to see Save the Children’s resiliency programs in another neighborhood in Amman where Syrian refugees are living. When we entered into the building, we were met by dozens of young children, all of whom were Syrian refugees, and who were waving, smiling and laughing. They were partaking in an exercise run by Save the Children staff, in which they were learning to breakdown barriers and get along with other children. Sometimes, we were told, refugees are excluded by others in the host communities, and these activities teach them how to get along with their new classmates, and help them assimilate into their new neighborhoods and surroundings.

The children were acting out and role-playing different situations where one child was being bullied or excluded, and they needed to find a way to incorporate them into their group. All of the acts were very well done, and received standing ovations by the rest of the young children in the classroom when they were finished.

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Next, we all got a chance to play the human knot game, where you link hands with others in your circle and then try to disentangle yourself from the group. Although we all ended up falling down in fits of laughter, still completely tangled in our groups, it was refreshing and endearing to see just that, children laughing and playing, as if they had no other cares in the world.

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We were soon reminded, however, that their lives are far from simple. One girl, nine years old, was sitting outside of the classroom. With deep brown eyes and short brown hair, wearing a long red coat, she was sitting quietly on a couch, talking to a Save the Children staff member, as she kicked her small feet back in forth, only reaching halfway to the ground. We were told that she had lost ten members of her family that very morning. When speaking to another staff member, the young girl quietly said that her father had been shot, but did not go on any further. She did, however, go on to say that she wanted to be at the child friendly space, to be with other kids her age and to play, because, as she explained, she is only a child and she deserves to play.

The stories of the other children went untold, and one can only imagine the atrocities that they have been through and what unimaginable tragedies they have already faced in such short lives. And yet, they sing and dance like other children, they draw pictures of their families, their homes, and the lives they used to live. For some, this was the only classroom-like experience they have ever had, since many are from rural areas from the south of Syria and did not attend school. Despite a lack of formal education, almost all of them dreamed to grow up and become doctors, while others mentioned they wanted to be carpenters and teachers. One very outspoken boy stood up, pointed to himself and with a big smile said that he wanted to grow up and be a “manager.” 

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They seemed happy for the chance to be children again; to laugh, to dance and sing, to dream, and to have a piece of their childhood back. While there were so many children, there are so little signs of childhood except for those experiences afforded to them by Save the Children and other organizations working to help them.

Child Friendly Spaces: East Amman, Zarqa, Ramtha, Mafraq, Irbid  (Center and North of Jordan)

Save the Children (STC) is also running Child Friendly Spaces throughout the host-communities in Amman and Zarqa (Central Jordan), Ramtha, Mafraq and Irbid (North of Jordan), where refugee children come and have structured activities run for them by the STC animators. A consistent theme of the programs and spaces run by the organization are the warmth and color and energy. When we arrived, the children were drawing pictures of their communities, and identifying what they considered to be safe and then more dangerous spaces. Some are still depicting scenes of violence, but overall, they were drawing what came naturally to them, things such as supermarkets, homes, mosques, and roads. Even through art, it is incredible to see the resiliency in these children, and the energy and joy they bring to every activity.

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“I can’t buy them blankets with my own money.”

December 3, 2012


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Nadia, 30, has four young children. Zahra, her youngest, is only
five months old. Her other two daughters, Hela and Shahad,
have begun coughing. They are living in a bare building in northern
Lebanon, where they have taken refuge after fleeing growing
violence in Syria. With winter approaching, the mother-of-four
increasingly fears for her children’s health and wellbeing.

“We left – they were bombing our village. We didn’t dare to sleep in our houses from the
bombing. Our neighbour’s house was destroyed, to the ground. We ran away and came here.
We ran here, me and my little children. I was pregnant. Now it has been eight months. We are
living in the cold. It’s very cold here. We haven’t any blankets, or even food for the baby.

Life is hard here. It’s cold. We are scared of hunger. We are scared because we don’t have
blankets. We are scared of the winter … all of my children are sick.

Looking down at baby Zahra in her arms, Nadia says, “This is my daughter. She’s sick. She’s five
months old and shouldn’t be in such a room. It’s very cold. There’s nothing to warm us. We
don’t have a heating system. We don’t have fire or gas.
If we want to heat something up, we
make a fire outside. If I want to wash the baby, we have to make a fire, heat the water outside
and then wash her.

“We weren’t like this in our country. It wasn’t our choice to leave. We are forced to live here.  It’s not our decision. We want to go back to our country as soon as possible, because our
circumstances were better there. We were happy and comfortable in our country. But we
were forced to come here. We were too scared. That is why we came here. We ran away
from bombing.”

But finding respite from the conflict has not ensured a safe existence for Nadia or her
children. With no income and next to no money, Nadia isn’t able to buy her children food,
milk, winter clothes or blankets to keep them warm and healthy. “I can’t buy them blankets
with my own money. I feel I am weak because I can’t offer anything for my daughter
. She’s five
months old – she doesn’t know anything. i’m the one who is supposed to offer her what she
needs. She’s only five months old, she’s still so young.”

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Click here to learn about our work to help Syrian children in need and donate to help us reach more

What Is A Woman In Syria?


Cat CarterCatherine Carter, Emergency Communications Manager

Za'atari Refugee Camp, Jordan

September 26, 2012


I walk through Za’atari camp on the Jordan/Syria border. The air is thick with yellow dust and it swirls up in a sandstorm, temporarily blinding me. I stop, blinking furiously, and see a woman sat with her children on a mattress nearby.

She is out in the open air in the reception centre, and seems detached from the chaos around her. I walk over to her, crouch down and introduce myself.

Mona

She responds: “My name is Mona. It is not my real name, because I cannot tell you that. I am too afraid of what might happen.”

People fleeing war are often wary of telling strangers about their experiences, worried for family still in the war zone, terrified of retribution.

We talk for a while about why I am here, in this camp. We talk about the importance of speaking out about what we see, why it matters to ensure people’s stories are known. Then we talk about Mona, and how she left Syria, and why.

Life is fear

“Life in Syria…is fear. Everyone is afraid. Sometimes it is quiet, and you are waiting for it to start. And then it is bombardment, and you are waiting for it to end. I kept thinking it would get better, but it kept getting worse”.

I glance at her children, with her on the mattress. Mona touches the face of her youngest, a beautiful child of about 3.

“My children cry in their sleep. They have lost their childhood.”

I ask about their home, and her husband. “My husband…built our home from scratch. In total it took him 12 years. It was burnt down in no more than an hour.” Mona begins to weep, and I do not ask again where her husband is.

To be a woman

As we are finishing our conversation, I ask her about women in Syria, and what they are facing.

“I’ll tell you what it is to be a woman in Syria now. As a woman you are either saying goodbye to someone or trying to protect your children from shells. That is all.”

Please support our campaign to protect children in Syria and donate to support our work with refugees.

Inside a Refugee Camp

Gabriel

Gabriel Nehrbass, Emergency Food Security and Livelihoods Fellow

Kobe, Ethiopia

August 17, 2011


Allow me to give you an idea of this past weekend.  Imagine a continuous dust storm that distorts your vision and blows into your nose and mouth as you breathe. Envision a rusty red and light yellow desert with thousands of white UNHCR tents peppered evenly as far as the horizon.  Picture parents with sadness in their eyes and children without a smile as you pass them.  This is Kobe refugee camp.  It is where the 24,000 recently arrived refugees have been resettled.  There are two other camps already at capacity (more than 40,000 people in each) and one scheduled to open later this week to accommodate the increasing refugee population.  The refugees are from different parts of Somalia, with different cultures and dialects. 

DSC_1709_91647 (1)Kobe Refugee Camp in Somali Region, Ethiopia  Photo Credit: Michael Klosson

Many children and adults are sick.  Most are skinny and malnourished due to both their escape and the drought that is plaguing the region.  They don’t even appear to have the hope or energy to talk.  However, approach a man, woman or child and smile, offer your hand to shake theirs and say “hello, how are you” in some broken Somali and at once their facial expressions revive.  Hope shines through their eyes and they become quite animated.  You get a glimpse of who they are and what they have left behind. 

Just weeks ago, the people in front of me were teachers, farmers, shop owners, pastoralists, and traders.  Some of the children attended school, some didn’t, and some worked herding the family goats and sheep.  They had family lives, dreams, hopes and aspirations like you and me.  Now they are dazed.

In the refugee camps there is nowhere for the children to play or be safe, and there are strangers everywhere.  Who actually lives in the camp and who comes from the surrounding areas is difficult to determine at this point.  During the day, many children hide in their family tents.  Some venture into the desert bush surrounding the camp.  Who knows what can happen to them there.

The transit center is even more jarring.  Children walk through trash and human feces.  Some are defecating in front of everyone, on top of heaps of discarded plastic and other materials.  Children are emaciated.  Makeshift tents of cloth strewn across branches give little refuge to the newcomers.  The families will be in the transit center until they receive refugee status documentation.  This may take days or weeks.  People are in shock from their displacement.  There is no telling what happened to them over the past couple weeks.  What did they see?  What pain did they endure over their journeys?  Who did they lose?  What from their experience will weigh heavily on them for the rest of their lives?  How long will they be in the camp?  How long will the drought in East Africa continue?

Visit one of our nutrition tents and the knot in your heart intensifies.  The children are so skinny you can see bones everywhere their clothes do not cover.  Most just have a blank stare on their faces and do not notice you.  Others lift their heads slightly and just gaze weakly.  No smiles.  I wonder how many children didn’t make it to the tent.  I pray that the ones who are nourished back to health do not relapse in the coming months. 

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Protecting the Youngest Victims of the Food Crisis

David Klauber David Klauber, Save the Children Intern   

Kobe Regufee Camp, Ethiopia

July 27, 2011


Today while half of the team here on the ground was focused on the operation of our Blanket Supplementary Food Program (BSFP) in the Transit and pre-registration Centers, the rest of us turned our attention towards mobilizing our Child Protection program in the Kobe refugee camp. As we drove the 45 miles to Kobe, I began to anticipate a rather surreal experience at returning to this camp.

When I last visited Kobe in early June, one could not have really called it a camp-it was still just a site, merely a large empty space with a few plots marked off by lines dug in the sand. It’s difficult to believe that within a month’s time of it opening (June 24th) it had reached full capacity.

Today there are 24,934 refugees living in Kobe, 88% (21,952) of which are under the age of 18 years old. We arrived and found the recently barren place transformed into a living, breathing refugee camp, overflowing with children.

Two colleagues and I weaved our way through the endless columns of tents. There were hundreds and hundreds of these small white domes that serve as the refugees’ only defense against the brutal environment of the exposed desert plain. Vicious winds periodically kick up the layer of red dust that coats the landscape. One must be quick to shield their face otherwise breathe a nice hardy mouthful. 

As we observed the countless children of Kobe wandering about in these awful conditions with really nothing to do, it became so apparent to me just how urgent the need for Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) is in this environment.

These spaces are an integral component of our Child Protection intervention in all the refugee camps as they provide children with safe zone/structures where they can take a break from the harsh environment and unstable situation. In this protected environment they can play, make art, express themselves, and perhaps most importantly, return to some degree of normalcy after being uprooted from their home and previous life. The child friendly zones also serve as screening mechanism for Save the Children caretakers to identify children in need of additional support or referral to medical services

By the time we left Kobe, the team had secured several sites, contracted local workers from the host community to begin construction, met with the committee of refugee elders/administrators to select community volunteers to help run the program, and put together a training schedule for both Save the Children staff and volunteers. In just two to three more days our child friendly sites sites will be operational and the kids here in Kobe will have a chance to be kids again.

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Arriving at Dolo Ado

David KlauberDavid Klauber, Save the Children Intern   

Dolo Ado, Ethiopia

July 20, 2011


Today I visited the Dolo Transition center just outside of town where nearly 10,000 newly arrived refugees are waiting to be transported to the camps located 55 miles away. Ideally, refugees would pass through this site in just a few days but the unfortunate reality is that it is taking as long as 10 to 15 days. Transport has slowed because the three existing camps are already at full capacity. 

The third camp, Kobe, opened less than four weeks ago, already holds 25,000 people and cannot take anymore. As a result the population at the transit center continues to swell by day and the need for the most basic of services (food, medical attention, shelter) is increasing exponentially.

Last Monday, Save the Children began a supplementary food program at a site that provides meals to all children under 5 years old. I entered our large feeding tent and was surprised to feel a large smile emerging on my face; there was a sea of tiny children sitting on mats scooping porridge out of bright yellow and red mugs. They were honestly some of the most adorable children I have ever seen. 

Even with the realization that the meal we were providing for the them was just a first step in meeting their most basic of needs, I have to admit to feeling a true sense of relief, an inner joy at watching them eat.

After seeing only fear and exhaustion on the faces of these little ones for the past two days, witnessing a smile here and there inspired an indescribable sensation within my chest: something inside me was no longer clenched as tightly as it had been before.

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Learn more about our response to the food crisis in the Horn of Africa.

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Children and Families Flee Violence in Ivory Coast

Rmcgrath Rae McGrath, Save the Children, Emergency Response Manager

Saclepea, Liberia

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Save the Children is responding to Ivorian refugees streaming into Liberia as result of the conflict in the Ivory Coast. 

Our child protection teams are, "ensuring that children are made safe and brought to a safe place as quickly as possible." Children arrive frightened and fatigued from the long, arduous walk. On a typical day the temperature is around 100 degrees and humid.

Listen to this podcast from Save the Children's Emergency Field Manager in Liberia, Rae McGrath, to learn more about the situation and how we are responding to children's needs

Listen!

Support our Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire) Children in Crisis Fund.