The Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan hosts more than 130,000 Syrian refugees. When we visited in 2013 there were more than 5,000 new refugees arriving each day. While much has been discussed about the refugee problem in general, an estimated 9 million Syrians are believed to have fled the country since 2011, the crisis’s effect on children has been overlooked. We examined the situation from the wider perspective of Jordan’s role as an aid provider, international organizations working in Jordan and the experience of children.
We spoke to several officials and refugees in the camp about their experiences. Davide Terzi the Jordan Chief of mission for IOM discussed the challenges of providing humane living conditions to refugees and the special considerations that children need, including education, healthcare and food. Saba Mobaslat of Save the Children described the key thing missing in most crisis aid programs is psychological support for children, which she believes is not only beneficial to the children recover from the traumas of war but can also prevent other tragedies in the future.
The massive influx of refugees also has a profound effect on the host. Millions of refugees exist outside the camp and place a strain not only on jobs, but on the education system as well. Can Jordan manage an influx of thousands of children into its school system, even if it wanted to help? Because of these factors, it’s becoming more difficult to gain political support from Jordanians, who are suffering from the strain of a sudden influx of people.
The refugees speak about their experiences fleeing from conflict and the effect it had on their families. They want the conflict to end, and to return home if possible. Now they have to build a new life with whatever resources are available and wait.