Last week, we launched a weekly series about the two-year conflict in Syria. Check out the first post by Andrea Peer if you missed it. Every Wednesday for the next several weeks, we’ll have a new story or perspective on the crisis.
In today's post by World Vision's Michael Bailey: A father struggles to find work and enough food to feed his family. A mother longs to hear from her 20-year-old son living in the war zone. Children sit and wait, idly passing hours and days, dreaming of going home to be with friends.
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This is my introduction to Syrian refugees living in Jordan’s northern city of Irbid.
“We have used up all our tears, so now we are smiling,” says Abdullah, a father of five.
But his smile is brittle.
For Abdullah, his immediate fears include how to pay for rent and power bills -- and how to afford drinking water and food when it costs four to five times as much as it cost at home.
He earned a living in Syria as a shoemaker, but here in Jordan, his prospects are grim. There was already high unemployment (12 percent) in Jordan before the onslaught of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugee households arrived.
Abdullah’s wife, Akida, is tired and still recovering. She had a caesarean birth a week ago -- their fifth child -- but has already been released home. The family had to pay high fees for the baby’s delivery and could not afford for the mother and child to stay in the hospital any longer, even though the baby had a birth weight of less than 4 pounds.
Abdullah’s family shares two rooms with his widowed sister, Wafa, in a building that was originally constructed as shops and offices, but is now home to 65 refugee households.
Across the corridor, Emad* lives in an identical space, no larger than 538 square feet. Emad shares his space with his extended family of 19 adults and six children -- 25 people sharing one toilet and hand-washing basin.
Emad arrived with his wife and three children just two weeks ago, “running for our lives,” he says.
He won’t elaborate. He just says there are no words to describe the horrors they have seen.
Listening to refugee stories is like peeling an onion, with layer after layer of problems.
The United Nations estimates that the number of Syrian refugees sheltering in neighboring countries has passed 1 million.
Since the crisis began in March 2011, World Vision has assisted more than 62,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon with food vouchers, hygiene and household supplies, heating stoves, and fuel, as well as Child-Friendly Spaces and support for children’s education.
Life as a refugee can be a dull experience for children. They share a pack of playing cards and spend time together watching cartoons on television in an atmosphere of cigarette smoke and grown-up conversations.
It’s time they went to school, but space in classrooms can be difficult to find in crowded Jordanian schools, and refugees often lack information about how to enroll their kids.
Children, like Emad’s three youngsters, sit and dream of going back home.
*Names have been changed to protect identities.
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Michael Bailey is a World Vision communications and advocacy consultant for the Syrian refugee crisis.
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