Hedinn Halldorsson, Emergency Communication Manager
September 11, 2013
Two reasons. That is what most of the refugees give me when I ask them why they decided to flee and take on a perilous journey. One, security and the simple fear for their lives and their families. Secondly, Syria is a country in ruins. With its eroded infrastructure, simply getting by, finding water and bread, has become nearly impossible for many.
The option of fleeing, if everything goes well, offers refuge a distant light at the end of tunnel. That is why one in three Syrians is now on the run, either internally displaced within the Syrian borders or in a neighboring country, having left everything they once knew and loved.
There is no sign of the violence to cease, on the contrary. And those bearing the brunt are ordinary people. The needs are biggest in the plagued country itself, where humanitarian access is greatly limited. Nonetheless, Save the Children has, since the onset of the crisis, more than 900 days ago, reached hundreds of thousands in Syria, under extremely difficult conditions.
Save the Children has for months demanded unhindered humanitarian access, something we don't have today. Operating without limitations in Syria would mean that we could reach those most in need. And secondly, the burden of Syria's neighboring countries, already hosting more than two million refugees, could be eased.
Syria has become the great tragedy of this century, says the head of the UNHCR, "with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history". According to the UN, the fighting has been so intense that the number of refugees has risen tenfold in a single year.
When you know how enormous the needs are and how dire the situation of millions of people are as these lines are being typed, it is difficult to get your head around the fact that the emergency response of an organization like Save the Children, whose simple aim is to meet basic needs of children and ensure they stay alive, is only 40% funded.
Some months ago, Jordan had the biggest numbers of refugees, but today it is Lebanon. One in ten inhabitants of Jordan are Syrian, one in five inhabitants of Lebanon. Most of the two million people that have sought refuge and safety and neighboring countries live in ramshackle homes, temporary shelters, vacant housing.
The demographics of the region have changed for good, on such an epic scale that no one could have predicted. And what is worrying, is that the exodus is bound to grow in coming days.
Numbers have a tendency of losing their power the bigger they get. That is the case of more than one million Syrian children that have fled to a neighboring country. One million of them, in a dire need of humanitarian assistance. I've met Aya, aged seven, who said she would dance when there was shooting outside, "Cause I don't like to be afraid", she explains.
No one says it, during my interviews with the refugees, but many do realize that it could be months and years before they will be able to return to a country that was once called Syria. And those I talk to, are in different stages of grieving everything they have lost and left behind and might never see again. Family, home, a country. The conflict has unleashed an unimaginable tide of suffering, and continues to do so.