Hedinn Halldorsson, Emergency Communication Manager
September 11, 2013
Two reasons. That is what most of the refugees give me
when I ask them why they decided to flee and take on a perilous journey. One, security
and the simple fear for their lives and their families. Secondly, Syria is a
country in ruins. With its eroded infrastructure, simply getting by, finding
water and bread, has become nearly impossible for many.
So in the end, the refugees don't have a choice. That's
the calculus. A question of life and death. They risk their lives by staying,
and they risk their lives by fleeing and embarking on a long journey, with no specific
destination other than “safety.” "We walked during the night and slept in
the daytime", says a pregnant mother of three who walked 60 miles in 5
days. "I was so afraid someone would attack us from the bushes".
The option of fleeing, if everything goes well, offers
refuge a distant light at the end of tunnel. That is why one in three Syrians
is now on the run, either internally displaced within the Syrian borders or in
a neighboring country, having left everything they once knew and loved.
There is no sign of the violence to cease, on the
contrary. And those bearing the brunt are ordinary people. The needs are
biggest in the plagued country itself, where humanitarian access is greatly
limited. Nonetheless, Save the Children has, since the onset of the crisis,
more than 900 days ago, reached hundreds of thousands in Syria, under extremely
Save the Children has for months demanded unhindered
humanitarian access, something we don't have today. Operating without
limitations in Syria would mean that we could reach those most in need. And
secondly, the burden of Syria's neighboring countries, already hosting more
than two million refugees, could be eased.
Syria has become the great tragedy of this century,
says the head of the UNHCR, "with suffering and displacement unparalleled
in recent history". According to the UN, the fighting has been so intense
that the number of refugees has risen tenfold in a single year.
When you know how enormous the needs are and how dire
the situation of millions of people are as these lines are being typed, it is
difficult to get your head around the fact that the emergency response of an
organization like Save the Children, whose simple aim is to meet basic needs of
children and ensure they stay alive, is only 40% funded.
Some months ago, Jordan had the biggest numbers of
refugees, but today it is Lebanon. One in ten inhabitants of Jordan are Syrian,
one in five inhabitants of Lebanon. Most of the two million people that have
sought refuge and safety and neighboring countries live in ramshackle homes,
temporary shelters, vacant housing.
The demographics of the region have changed for good,
on such an epic scale that no one could have predicted. And what is worrying,
is that the exodus is bound to grow in coming days.
Numbers have a tendency of losing their power the
bigger they get. That is the case of more than one million Syrian children that
have fled to a neighboring country. One million of them, in a dire need of
humanitarian assistance. I've met Aya, aged seven, who said she would dance
when there was shooting outside, "Cause I don't like to be afraid",
No one says it, during my interviews with the refugees,
but many do realize that it could be months and years before they will be able
to return to a country that was once called Syria. And those I talk to, are in
different stages of grieving everything they have lost and left behind and
might never see again. Family, home, a country. The conflict has unleashed an unimaginable
tide of suffering, and continues to do so.