New Boots Bring Hope in Jordan

The kindergarten inside the Za’atari camp in Jordan is a little island of happiness inside a place that is full of tragedy. Here, 3-5 year-old Syrian children living in the huge camp are able to come three times per week in the morning or afternoon to have fun, build social skills and start learning. The brightly colored space, the simple toys, the dedicated young teachers all serve as a respite from the tough, grinding life these children have been living for months or even years in the camp. On my recent visit to Za’atari, the kids got something else too. New winter boots, specially made and provided to Save the Children by TOMS Shoes, were distributed to 9,000 children. As you can see from this video, the reactions were truly wonderful to see.

 

TOMS is pretty unique among our partners. Many have not supported our efforts for Syria due to fears of political issues within the conflict or lack of focus on the Middle East. But TOMS entire business model is built on the idea that for each pair of shoes purchased, a pair of appropriate shoes will be given to someone who needs them—the company has now given away more than 10 million pairs of shoes worldwide. You won’t find the rubber boots we gave out in Za’atari camp at any shoe store in the U.S.

In Refugee Camps, Basics Become Luxuries

The Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan is home to more than 100,000 refugees who have fled the fighting in Syria, but it’s unlikely that any of the camp’s residents consider this place—cold, crowded and under resourced—“home.”

 

I traveled to Za’atari last week after the launch of Save the Children’s recent global report, Childhood Under Fire, marking the two-year anniversary of the conflict in Syria.  What I saw gave all of the statistics we hear about in the news—more than one million refugees in neighboring countries, and an estimated four million displaced inside of Syria —a very human face.

 

I met a young mother and her two month-old son at our infant and young child feeding center inside the camp.  She told me that when she and her other children fled Syria, they left nearly everything behind…including her husband, who stayed to protect their home.  She was very pregnant when they left and she was afraid she might give birth on the way, but she was too scared to stay.  Her town was being bombed heavily and she didn’t know if there would be a hospital left standing when it was time to give birth.  According to our report, many doctors and health facilities in Syria have been targets of attack and nearly a third of the country’s hospitals are now closed.

 

When this young mother arrived at the frigid camp, she found out about Save the Children’s infant and young child feeding program and sought it out, where they staff helped her find the right care for the birth.  Save the Children’s center—in a trailer inside the camp—works to help moms initiate and continue breastfeeding, get help on how to keep their babies healthy by providing access to vaccines and health services and receive clothing and blankets and high protein biscuits for nursing moms.

 

These small things, which until recently were considered basic items and interventions for new moms at home in Syria, have become luxuries for refugee moms in Za’atari.

 

Similarly, people often think of early education as a luxury for children living in refugee camps, but some families have been living in the camps for two years—and the interruption to young lives can be devastating.  Before the conflict, more than 90% of primary school-aged children in Syria were enrolled (one of the highest rates in the Middle East) but the conflict has upended their learning.  Access to early education, with a focus on nutrition, can make a world of difference for a generation of Syrian children.

 

I was lucky enough to visit with more than a hundred 3-5 year-olds there during their meal time at a kindergarten Save the Children set up inside the camp.  Every day, children enrolled in the school receive a meal of yogurt, fruit, bread with meat and juice each day—a major source of nutrition for kids, since food rations available in the camp consist mostly of lentils, bread, bulgur, oil and sugar.  This meal also helps them have the energy they need to learn in the classroom and, just as importantly, to play. Many of the children saw horrific things in Syria, experienced fear as they fled their homes and are living in very close and uncomfortable quarters—so having a chance to play with other children and just be kids is a crucial part of their healing and development.

 

No family should consider nutritious foods, safe childbirth and kindergarten a luxury and we’re working to make life a little easier for displaced kids.  But at the Za’atari camp, and for families everywhere who have been forced to flee due to violence, drought or conflict, the greatest luxury of all would be simply to go home.

 

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.