The Syrian conflict has caused enormous suffering and devastation, and profoundly impacted the lives and futures of a generation of children. Nearly 5 million children have been born inside Syria since the beginning of the war - and an additional one million have been born as refugees in neighbouring countries, including Jordan.
UNICEF’s response has evolved since the early days of the crisis - from basic emergency lifesaving interventions for children and their families to cover their critical needs of water, nutrition, shelter, education and protection – to continuing to deliver our humanitarian obligations while also evolving how we respond into something more sustainable, cost-efficient and longer term to positively impact the lives of both refugees and their Jordanian neighbours.
Kawthar, 10, is a Syrian refugee living in Mafraq, Jordan.
“War is bad because innocent people get killed all the time. I see it on the news. I don’t remember Syria but it is my country and my home. My uncles and Grandparents still live there and it makes me happy to talk to them on the phone. I am always scared for their safety.”
Her father works in construction and it has been difficult to find work lately so the family is struggling to make ends meet.
“I don’t have toys but it’s okay because I’m grown up now. I watch children’s TV all the time with my brothers and sister and I play with them. As the eldest sister, I take care of them. I tell them stories that my mother told me when I was little. I memorized them all.”
Kawthar attends a UNICEF-supported Makani centre for integrated learning support and child protection services.
“The Makani centre is my favourite place to be. I learn so much sometimes even more than in school. We do Maths, Arabic and English. I think that I’ve become much better at these subjects since I started attending the sessions here. I love how peaceful it is at the Makani centre in comparison to my school where it is loud and busy. I love my teachers at school and Makani.
“I wish I could go anywhere. I would like to travel to other cities. I even wish I could go to Syria but we’re not going to go back because it is dangerous. I fear for my father more than I fear for my own wellbeing, because it is more dangerous for adults than us children to be there. And I’m afraid of the sight of blood - I see that often when we watch news about Syria.
“My dream is to become a judge because I want fairness to prevail. I watch television a lot and I see what people do when they lie. When I become a judge, I will see through their lies.
“I consider myself a lucky and a happy girl because I have a Mom and a Dad, some children don’t have parents and others are homeless.”
Ali, 10, is a Syrian refugee living in Mafraq, Jordan with his four brothers, two sisters and parents. He is the second youngest and in fifth grade.
Ali thinks he was about three years old when the family left Syria and came to Jordan. They are originally from the Homs countryside.
“Our home was destroyed during the war in Syria. Sometimes we go onto Google Maps to see it. It doesn’t make me too sad because I didn’t live there for too long. But it does make me sad that I don’t have good memories of home.”
His grandparents still live in Syria. “I talk to them all the time. I miss them and really want to meet them.
“I wish I could become an Arabic teacher when I grow up. I want to be able to help my father because he is getting older and needs someone to take care of him.”
Rimas, 10, is a Syrian refugee from Homs. She lives in Mafraq, Jordan with her parents and siblings.
“I don’t remember when I came to Jordan but I think it was about seven years ago. I’m too young to remember my life in Syria - all my memories are of growing up here in Jordan. We even all speak in a Jordanian accent apart from my Dad who still has a Syrian accent. I had one when I arrived but lost it after starting school.
“The best thing is that the community here are nice to my family. Our neighbours treat us as if we were part of their family. It makes me happy to live here even though, sometimes, I think of Syria and our home there. I ask my parents will we ever return to live there. I only know my grandparents who still live there through the phone. But the main thing is that I’m with my family and we feel safe.
“My dream is to become a doctor when I grow up because I want to help people.
Rimas goes to a UNICEF-supported Makani centre where she receives integrated learning support and child protection services. “I learned how to defend myself against bullies and I improved my Arabic and Maths in Makani. I feel much stronger now.”
Laila, 10, is in third grade in Za’atari refugee camp. She doesn’t remember leaving Syria as she was only one year old but her father tells her stories about life there. He has told her that Homs was a beautiful place until the war started.
“Syria is my country – the place where I was born,” she says. “My grandparents still live there. I speak to them often. My grandfather spoils me with the sweetest words – he tells me that he misses me. I love him. I wish I could see him but I cannot until the war is over and things are peaceful. And we need coronavirus to be over too to travel.
“War is the reason we left Syria. War is bad, it makes me scared. I don’t want to live in a place where there is war and shooting.
Laila’s father tells her about their journey to Jordan after their home was destroyed in a bombing. “We had nowhere to stay so we had to leave to find shelter and safety.
“My father protected us from the war by bringing us here to Za’atari camp. I ask him when will we be able to return and see my grandparents? He tells me that we will go back one day when war is over and when there is no fear of the coronavirus.”
Laila has lived most of her life in Za’atari refugee camp. “We live in a caravan made out of metal and other materials. Once we stayed overnight outside the camp in a real house. It was so much better than a caravan – it was much bigger with a nice bathroom.
Despite the tough life in the camp, Laila is happy thanks to the love of her parents and her UNICEF-supported Ministry of Education school.
“I am happy here in the camp though because my father does a lot for us, he takes me everywhere and teaches me how to paint. I am also happy because I love my school here.
“I am sad that schools are closed this year because of the coronavirus, but the good news that the schools will open and I will be able to be with my friends and teachers soon. I learn so much more in school in comparison to online learning. Schools are much better at teaching us. I really miss my friends and especially my teacher because she teaches me about everything - from science to Arabic, English and Maths. She loves me and tells me ‘you are great’ and when I do well in an exam, she writes notes for me telling me ‘good job, well-done sweetie’. That makes me so happy.”
“Schools are important for learning because humans would be illiterate if we didn’t go to school. When we learn in school, we can be whatever we want. I want to become an astronaut but I’ll have to learn more about space first. My teacher told us things about space and stars and that’s what started my love for space. I know now about stars, the moon and the planets. I love planets and my favourites are Saturn, Jupiter, then Mars. I love how they look in the pictures that I see in my school books.
“I think my very favourite planet by far is Earth because we all live on it and it has the air that we breathe, the water that we drink. But we have to take care of it more and stop polluting it to protect it.
“I love the oceans and the sea, even though I have never seen them in real life. Here in Za’atari camp, there is no sea because it is a desert-like place – that is the thing that I dislike most about living here.
“We must keep them clean. I look at photos of the sea in my school books and dream about visiting the shores one day and swimming in the sea.”
Morhaf, 10, is in fourth grade and lives in Za’atari Refugee Camp with his five sisters, one brother and parents.
“Living with five sisters is a lot of fun. We do fight a lot but when I fight with my sisters, they usually win because they outnumber me.
“I came to Jordan when I was very young so I can’t remember anything about life in Syria. All I’ve ever known is the life here in Za’atari camp. All my friends are here.
“My father told us once that he is planning to take us back to Syria. I didn’t mind the idea but my eldest brother did because he likes a girl here. I think if we go there I will like it because I have lots of relatives there to make friends with and I will also have the chance to ride on my uncle’s motorcycle. Here in Za’atari camp, I ride a bicycle all the time and I wonder if riding a motorcycle is the same.
“I don’t think we will return to Syria any time soon because there is still some trouble in the area where my family is from, and unless this changes, my family won’t leave here.
“The things that I enjoy doing in the camp are playing football, going out with friends, and playing games on my mother’s smartphone. When I play football, I’m usually a striker and I score the goals.”
Morhaf attends the UNICEF-supported school in the camp.
“I love education – it can help us have a good place in life and a good job.”
Going back to school is especially important for girls, children with disabilities, children living in poverty, children experiencing violence at home and refugee children – those who are hardest hit by school closures and at greatest risk of being out-of-school. UNICEF provides the most vulnerable children with cash transfers for education, drop out and catch up programme support, learning support services through a network of Makani centres and inclusive education programmes – as well as case management for cases of violence and early marriage, and the Ma’an programme to end violence in schools.
Funding is critical to help us to continue to respond to the growing needs of refugee and host community children so that they can survive and thrive and build the country’s capacity to respond to future shocks including climate change and new pandemics, and to end violence against children, protect mental health, continue to strengthen social protection, improve learning, and focus on the most vulnerable children for an equitable future.
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