Syria: the lasting effects of conflict
By Misty Buswell, Senior Policy and Advocacy Advisor, Save the Children, Jordan
It’s only about an hour from Amman to Ramtha, near the Syrian border, but once we arrive it feels like a world away.
Save the Children is supporting 1,000 Syrian refugee and Jordanian children every week in our child-friendly space (CFS), where children can play and learn safely, and mothers can share their experiences with others who have fled the violence in Syria.
And yet there’s still not enough space for everyone who wants to come. There’s a waiting list for another CFS, which opens in a couple weeks.
Apart from being a bit crowded, it looks like most other child-friendly spaces I’ve visited around the world – kids playing games and drawing with volunteers, and a few staff supervising.
Not a word
I start playing catch with a six-year-old girl who’s sitting apart from the others, playing on her own. After a few tries she’s got the hang of it and is catching the ball, a beautiful smile lighting up her face.
My colleague tells me that this little girl was so distressed by what she saw that she has not spoken a word since she left Syria three months ago. I’m glad that I could make her smile, even if it was only for a few minutes.
I later learn that she and her four sisters and baby brother fled with their widowed mum after their home was attacked.
Without the income from their father, the family is especially vulnerable and struggling to pay the high rent charged here and still put food on the table.
I wonder what will happen when these families’ savings run out and they can’t afford the rent.
The Jordan government and local communities have been really supportive of all those coming across the border but with more people coming, the scarce resources will be even more stretched and the communities may not be able to cope.
The mothers are in a separate room talking, kids running in and out. When my colleague and I enter they are all eager to tell us about their lives and every woman in the room has her own gripping story.
Some walked for hours with their children to reach the border and many talk about their homes being destroyed. They all worry about their kids and the lasting effects of witnessing the violence.
We hear about kids who run and hide when they hear loud noises and others who’ve regressed and lost their toilet training skills – all serious signs of distress.
Although they may not have much to go back to, all the mothers hold out hope of returning – “Inshallah before Ramadan, Inshallah the violence will stop, Inshallah this will all be over soon.”
“As hard as it is for us here, it’s worse for the ones inside”
After we’ve talked for a while about what these mothers and children need, one woman looks at us intently. “As hard as it is for us here, it’s worse for the ones inside (Syria). You should help them, not us.”
Her words came back to me vividly when I learned of the killing of 32 children in Syria on Friday. Children just like the ones I met in that child friendly space in Ramtha.
It’s shocking and horrifying that this could happen to children. Humanitarian agencies like Save the Children urgently need access so that we can help those families who need it most.
As I leave the child-friendly space in Ramtha and head back to Amman and my normal life, I resolve to bring these kid’s voices and stories back with me and not forget what I’ve seen.