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Refugee Childhood, or A Lack Thereof

Nicholas Tyre

Since the start of the Syrian Civil War, roughly 11 million Syrians have fled violence and persecution. Of those 11 million, of which nearly half are children, 6.2 million are internally displaced, meaning that they have been forced out of their homes but still remain in the country. The other 4.8 million Syrians are classified as refugees, seeking safety in neighboring countries. Of these refugees, about 1 in 10 reside in a refugee camp, indefinitely. Beyond these alarming and detestable numbers are the individual people, fellow humans, who are living in the shacks and tents of these camps. These Syrians are losing sight of what home used to be, and for the youth, many do not know a life beyond the fences of these refugee camps.

 

Bordering Syria, Jordan currently provides shelter for 630,000 registered refugees, and over 1 million unregistered. In Northern Jordan lies the largest current refugee camp known as Za’atari. Opened in July 2012, it was the first official refugee camp, housing 80,000 Syrians, acting as one of the largest cities in the country. However, the UNHCR estimates 84% of refugees in Jordan live directly outside of the official camps. The resources are scarce, and many become trapped within camps. Development from within is impossible, and moving outside of the camps is not an option as they would only face harder conditions on top of unwelcoming social backlash. These refugee communities are forced to create their own sense of home. Many children do not know of a life outside of these camps, trying to create a childhood among the undeniably harsh conditions. High temperatures during the day and severe cold at night demand resources that simply do not exist. Nearly all efforts are spent to facilitate some kind of sanitation and medical care. Yet children are barefoot and malnourished, on top of the mental scars they bare from the memories of escaping chaos and violence. Many young boys are forced to mature as a result of losing their parents to the conflict. They have been reported as “speaking and acting like men” according to the Associated Press. Instead of attending the makeshift schools that many of the refugee camps hold, they work among adults in nearby farms run by local Jordanians. The UNHCR worries that “a generation of youth are forfeiting their future by missing out on an education.” But what other choice do they have? These children are not forfeiting their future but getting it stripped away from them. Going to school is an afterthought, first comes putting food on the table for the rest of their families.

 

Every kid deserves a childhood experience, among other kids, playing jump rope and not worrying where their next meal is coming from. Unfortunately, with no concrete end to the Syrian conflict in sight, childhood is slowly escaping this entire generation.

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