Planet

1.6m peo­ple have fled their home­land

Element - - Contents - By Ava Eyles To do­nate to help Syr­ian refugees, visit ox­fam.org.nz

“At first I was very re­luc­tant to move to Le­banon, I changed my mind a lot but fi­nally I de­cided to come here. We couldn’t get any food any­more, we couldn’t live our lives, we lost our jobs and we wor­ried that we couldn’t stay alive.” – Samira “Syria, my beloved coun­try, I love you. We will never for­get you. We will be back one day.”

Th­ese are the words of a poem writ­ten by a 12-year-old Syr­ian girl liv­ing as a refugee in Le­banon. One of over 1.6 mil­lion peo­ple that have fled their home coun­try since the civil war started, her fam­ily left in an at­tempt to find peace across the bor­der. Half of those flee­ing are chil­dren, left only with the clothes on their backs and as much as they can carry in their arms.

This is the grim re­al­ity be­hind the num­bers be­ing pre­sented in the me­dia. Over 100,000 civil­ians have so far died in the clashes.

Over 430,000 Syr­i­ans have reg­is­tered as refugees in Jor­dan so far, and over 500,000 are find­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion in Le­banon, as well as other neigh­bour­ing coun­tries such as Turkey, Egypt and Iraq. Th­ese num­bers are of­fi­cial, how­ever global char­ity Ox­fam es­ti­mates them to be much more.

Whole fam­i­lies risk their lives to es­cape, with the hope that they will find peace and a bet­ter life than what was be­ing ex­pe­ri­enced in Syria. But the re­lent­less in­flux of refugees has weighed heav­ily on th­ese neigh­bour­ing coun­tries and the re­al­ity is that many are faced with is poverty and limited re­sources once they ar­rive. The Za’atari camp in Jor­dan, for ex­am­ple, was built to house 60,000, yet it is now home to more than 170,000 peo­ple, and classed as the coun­try’s fourth largest city. Jor­dan was al­ready one of the most wa­ter-scarce coun­tries in the world, be­fore 500,000 refugees de­scended upon it. Now with sum­mer ap­proach­ing and signs of dis­ease al­ready ev­i­dent, the pres­sure is grow­ing greater than ever to make sure the pop­u­la­tion has enough sus­tain­able food and wa­ter for ev­ery­one. With an es­ti­mated 8000 still cross­ing Syr­ian bor­ders each night, the calami­tous ef­fects on the hu­man pop­u­la­tion in Syria and its sur­round­ing coun­tries have pro­duced an im­mense aid re­sponse around the world.

Me­dia are strug­gling to con­vey the sit­u­a­tion in Syria at the mo­ment, with fight­ing be­tween the State and the Syr­ian rebels mak­ing it too danger­ous to re­port from the front lines. Fo­cus has, in­stead, turned to help­ing those that have man­aged to es­cape the coun­try. This is a strug­gle as most refugees re­main out­side of the of­fi­cial refugee sys­tem. Many Syr­i­ans are wor­ried that by reg­is­ter­ing as refugees and ask­ing for sup­port from in­ter­na­tional aid or­gan­i­sa­tions, they will be vul­ner­a­ble to fu­ture reper­cus­sions from the Syr­ian state if they were to re­turn. How­ever, those that are not in refugee camps like Za’atari re­main es­sen­tially in­vis­i­ble, un­able to re­ceive aid such as blan­kets, wa­ter, and tents that will help see them through the fore­see­able fu­ture.

Syr­ian refugees, like the 12-year-old poet in Le­banon, are con­tin­u­ing to hold on to the hope that one day they will be able to make the jour­ney back to their home coun­try, and be­gin build­ing their lives once again.

4.25 mil­lion Syr­i­ans re­main dis­placed within Syria, un­able to go back to their homes, but not want­ing to leave the coun­try to which they be­long.

Samira PHOTO BY LUCA SOLA/OX­FAM

Samira is a 45-year-old widow who re­luc­tantly left Syria to find refuge in Le­banon. Her five sons came with her to Le­banon, how­ever two of her daugh­ters went to Jor­dan, and one has re­mained be­hind in Syria. Samira fears for the safety of all her chil­dren, es­pe­cially those that she has been sep­a­rated from, with no idea when, or if, they will ever be re­united. She is cur­rently liv­ing in a one-room shel­ter of breeze­blocks and plas­tic sheet­ing, which she shares with 12 other peo­ple.

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