What is UNHCR?
Za’atari refugee camp, Jordan. AFP/Getty Images
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was
established on December 14, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly.
The agency is mandated to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems
worldwide. Since its creation, the agency has helped tens of millions of
people restart their lives. Today, a staff of more than 7,600 in more than 125
countries continues to help some 33.9 million persons.
What Would You Do?
Newly arrived refugees at the Jordan-Syria border await transport to Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan.
The Future of Syria - Refugee Children in Crisis
The lives of Syrian refugee children in Jordan and Lebanon
UNHCR / E. Dorfman
Miram, 11, front right, was eating breakfast in her home in Syria, when a bomb fell on the kitchen and killed her mother.
She was brought to her brother’s family outside of Beirut, Lebanon, where she now lives with her cousins, brother and his wife.
Since March 2011, more than 2.2 million Syrians have fled the country due to violence and unrest.
This is the entire population of some countries.
Over 1.1 million Syrian children have registered as refugees with UNHCR worldwide.
Some 75 per cent are under the age of 12.
UNHCR / E. Byun
The majority of Syrian refugees live in Syria’s neighbouring countries.
Jordan and Lebanon host more than 60 per cent of all Syrian refugee children.
Refugees live in camps by the borders as well as in urban cities, in these countries of asylum.
Jordan’s population: 6.5 million
Lebanon’s population: 4.1million
Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan
UN Photo/Mark Garten
“This is the future of Syria, this is your kids,
you cannot continue to have this as a lost generation.”
UNHCR camp manager, Za’atari refugee camp, Jordan
Facing New Challenges
Many refugee children suffer from physical, emotional and psychological scars after
witnessing much violence and death. There are also new safety concerns:
bullying and violence between local communities and refugees;
fighting in the camps and domestic violence; instability along the borders where
refugee camps are situated; and theft and vandalism.
This was drawn by a 9-year-old boy as his family registered as refugees at Tyre registration centre, Lebanon.
The bus that he and his family took to flee Syria was stopped and robbed by armed men.
To the right of the bus, the boy has written the word ‘death.’
It “feel[s] like they are in prison.”
- Syrian refugee children on what their home life is like
29 per cent of children leave
their home only once a
week, or less, leading to
isolation, loneliness and
Home is often a makeshift
shelter or tent, or cramped
housing 12 – 15 people.
I’tmad, 17, lives in a collective shelter in Lebanon that houses more than 700 Syrian refugees. Most days she stays
inside in the single room that her family shares.
Conditions are drastically
worse than in Syria. Some
lack electricity, or where
available, many do not have
enough money to pay for
energy to run basic
appliances like a fridge.
43 of 202 children said at least one of their immediate family members was
dead, detained or missing.
Over 3,700 refugee children are either unaccompanied by or separated from both parents.
Over 70,000 Syrian refugee families live without fathers.
In other cases, children were sent ahead, alone, out of fear for their safety in Syria.
Rahab and her children
in their apartment in
Qobayat, Lebanon, stan
d around an empty
chair, cloaked with their
father’s robe. He was
killed when a shell hit
their neighbourhood in
UNHCR / E. Dorfman
“My first wish would be to go back to Syria and
have my father released. Then for things to go
back to the way they were.”
“It was scary… We were suddenly all alone and I
found myself responsible for my siblings... If
anything were to ever happen to them,
I could never live with myself.”
Maher, 16, last saw his father nearly two years
ago. Before his family fled Syria, he and his father
were both detained. Maher was tortured, but
released after nine days. His father was not so
lucky: he is still missing.
Khaled, 15, now lives in Za’atari refugee camp in
Jordan. His parents divorced before the conflict. As
fighting escalated, Khaled’s mother fled north; his
father stayed. Shortly after, Khaled, his brother and
two sisters, and several aunts and cousins escaped
to Jordan to join extended family members, while
his father stayed in Syria.
Maher now lives in Zarqa, Jordan, where his
mother is the only caregiver for his six siblings
ranging in age from four to 18 years old.
Maher just wants his old life back. Until then, he
is facing new challenges. He is afraid to work.
He cannot do so legally and fears arrest, but he
must help support his family. Maher takes on
short-term construction jobs whenever he can,
but because of the torture, he can only work for
a few days at a time without feeling pain in his
Over the course of five months, Khaled and his
siblings were abandoned by all of their extended
family. Without parents, Khaled has become the
family protector, but at a steep price to his own
education and future. He would like to move out of
the camp, but would need to find a job and pay
rent for an apartment. He has two goals: to reunite
with his mother and to send his siblings to school.
Children as young as 7 years old work to support their families; sometimes making as little as US$7 a day.
As breadwinners they cannot go to school. This theme is common among Syrian refugees.
UNHCR / G. Beals
Syrian refugee children line up for work in Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan.
Amar, 16, works as a mechanic’s assistant, even though he wants to go to school. Instead, he has to work
to support his family, who were forced to flee after their home was destroyed in a rocket attack.
“If people didn’t work, how would they survive?
I feel like a man because I am working.
I put food on the table for my family.”
- Abdallah, 13 years old, Za’atari refugee camp, Jordan
“Our lives are destroyed. We’re not being educated,
and without education there is nothing.
We’re heading towards destruction.”
- Nadia, 14-year-old refugee, Irbid, Jordan
Schools are safe places.
Education provides hope for
Refugees can help rebuild
their country when they can
Educated refugees can also
be successful members of
their new countries.
UNHCR / S. Baldwin
Syrian refugee students attend a class in an accelerated learning programme at public school in Kamed Al Louz in
the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.
“Education is the best thing in life.”
- A 12-year-old refugee girl, Jeb Janine, Lebanon
When Kinana, 9, fled her home in Syria, she was devastated she lost her school bag in the chaos.
Although her father only completed primary school,
he is passionate about her education and dreams of her going to university one day.
UNHCR / J. Kohler
Out of school Syrian refugee children:
80 per cent in Lebanon
56 per cent in Jordan
Drop out rates for Syrian refugee children:
Roughly 20 per cent in Lebanon
Especially high for children over 12 years old
“It’s something to be proud of, giving to others like this.
We encourage children to do what’s good for them.
Through education you can achieve goals in your future.”
- Mozoun, education ambassador, Za’atari refugee camp, Jordan
to go to school.
Save the Children’s
Back to School
the importance of
keeping kids in
days, they have
than 100 families.
Education ambassadors Suhair (left), Safia (centre) and Mozoun (right)
Stories of Dedication to Education and the Future
As his family’s sole income-earner
in Lebanon, Waleed, 13, was out
of school when the ambassadors
met him. They convinced him of
the importance of education, so he
started attending school in the
afternoons and working only in the
mornings. He even joined the
programme, taking to the streets of
the camp in the evenings to
encourage others to go to school.
In Za’atari camp, one boy’s father told him he had to stop school to work. He wanted an education, so in
between selling credit for mobile phones in the camp, he would secretly go to school. Because he did not
want his father to know, he would hide his book under his clothes when he left for work in the morning.
What is Statelessness?
UNHCR / O. Laban-Mattei
Statelessness is when an individual is not considered a national by any country.
Nationality is the legal bond between a country and an individual.
Stateless people may sometimes also be refugees, but the two categories are
distinct. Statelessness affects an estimated 12 million people worldwide, and occurs
for a variety of reasons. The problem can be prevented through adequate nationality
legislation and procedures as well as universal birth registration.
Birth registration is a right of all children under international law, and impacts their entire lives.
However, a majority of Syrian refugee children born in exile are not being registered.
UNHCR is working to change that.
UNHCR / S. Rich
Just like for you, mobile phones and the Internet keep refugees connected
as they wait for the call that it is safe to return home.
Despite an enormous strain on national systems, economies and even stability,
the Governments of both Jordan and Lebanon continue to welcome Syrian refugees,
and facilitate their access to essential services, such as health and education.
Many Lebanese and Jordanians are also reaching out to their Syrian neighbours in solidarity.
Like other refugees worldwide, Syrian refugees demonstrate incredible strength and resilience.
They find creative solutions to the issues they face and provide support to their families and communities.
All while looking forward to the day when it is safe to finally return home.
Send a Syrian refugee child a message: http://bit.ly/J3Lxys