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Syria’s Refugees: In Their Own Words

International Medical Corps' Photo
International Medical Corps' Photo

THE STORY:

Stories of young refugees from Za’atri Camp

Aicha gazes out the window, her crystal blue eyes taking in the gray sky outside a hospital near the Syrian border in Jordan, where she has been recovering for a month now. She was badly injured after her house in Dara’a, Syria was destroyed in a mortar attack.

Her losses are incalculable. Two of her sons – 30 and 15 years old - were killed. Her 17-year-old daughter, also killed. Another son and her grandchild were injured. She is not sure where they are -- perhaps in the nearby Za’atri refugee camp, along with one of her daughters who survived uninjured?

Aicha’s tears flow hard as she recounts what has happened. The day of the attack, she and her family were packing to flee, having decided the dangers were too great to stay any longer. In the end, they stayed too long.
Outside her room, 16-year-old Saja cries out in pain. She is lying in a post-op area, gripping hard to her mother’s hand. Saja’s house, also in Dara’a, was hit by a mortar two months ago. Her right foot had to be amputated and her left leg became infected following a tibia fracture. Her father and four siblings all now live in Za’atri camp.
It’s difficult to fathom how people can sustain and survive so much loss.
The Syrian conflict has created the largest humanitarian crisis in the world today: some 4 million Syrians currently are in need of humanitarian assistance, about 1.5 million of them having fled mostly to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

At Za’atri camp, where more than 100,000 Syrians are living in temporary shelter, 21-year-old Ala’, who worked in a beauty salon in Dara’a is volunteering with International Medical Corps at a Youth Empowerment Center. Children at the center engage in activities that help them recover from their painful experiences. Case managers and psychologists screen the most at-risk children for further mental health interventions. In addition, they address protection and safety issues in the camp, working to reduce risks to those most vulnerable.
Ala’ tells me that when shelling destroyed her neighborhood five months ago, she fled along with her 20-month-old and her six siblings. Two of her cousins were injured – one, a 3-year-old, lost his leg. Ala’ was terrified to leave the only home she had ever known, and terrified of what would become of her and her family in Jordan.

But today she is a paid volunteer for International Medical Corps, teaching the children how to paint and create beautiful henna designs on their hands, so that they may recover from their painful journey – and play like children again
So often, the way people in crisis are able to heal is by reaching out to help others. Ala’ says it feels good to be able to put her skills to work, giving something back to the children from her own community. She says she has a sense of purpose and can see beyond her own struggles.
As we talk, a group of children gives a singing performance – part of a ceremony marking the end of a 10-week project, after which a new group of 200 from the camp will enter the Youth Empowerment Program. One of International Medical Corps’ mental health case managers, a Jordanian named Mahmud, watches them, beaming. “These children have endured so much suffering, seen such horrific things, parents killed in front of their eyes. But today, seeing them smiling and happy, and not thinking about war – this is a good day for me.”

Why is World Refugee Day important?

Imagine having to flee your home at a moment’s notice, leaving everything behind. For millions of refugees worldwide, this horror is a reality. According to the UN Refugee Agency , UNHCR, there are more than 45.2 million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) worldwide. Often uprooted with little or no warning, these refugees and IDPs are forced to flee danger with little more than the clothes on their backs. Unable to return home, their only alternative is to rebuild their lives in makeshift camps or overcrowded urban areas where life’s basic essentials -- food, clean water and medicine -- are often scarce. Forced to start again in such harsh conditions with few possessions, little money and no income leaves refugees susceptible to poverty, disease and malnutrition.
In our commitment to serve the most vulnerable, International Medical Corps protects the health and well-being of some of the world’s largest IDP and refugee populations and the surrounding communities that support them. By sharing this page with your friends and family or making a contribution to our programs, you help us provide healthcare to those who need it most -- in the most difficult environments in the world -- to ensure that displaced families have what they need to survive and rebuild their lives.

Where does International Medical Corps work?

International Medical Corps has provided its lifesaving healthcare and training in nearly 70 countries worldwide. Over the years, International Medical Corps has responded to the world’s most devastating man-made and natural disasters, in countries like Somalia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda, Japan, Haiti, South Sudan and Iraq.

Who is International Medical Corps?
International Medical Corps is a global nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives and relieving suffering by delivering humanitarian assistance, healthcare and training to communities affected by disasters, conflict and poverty. Established in 1984 by volunteer doctors and nurses, International Medical improves the quality of life by quickly responding to emergencies -- and then staying on the ground to teach lifesaving skills to doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers in underserved communities worldwide. In 2012 alone, we provided more than 3 million patient consultations; enrolled more than 400,000 people in nutrition programs that combat malnourishments; distributed close to 60,000 insecticide-treated mosquito nets to fight one of the world’s biggest killers; and so much more.

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