Child Refugee Crisis

by Save the Children Federation
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Child Refugee Crisis
Child Refugee Crisis
Child Refugee Crisis
Child Refugee Crisis
Child Refugee Crisis
Child Refugee Crisis
Child Refugee Crisis
Child Refugee Crisis
Child Refugee Crisis
Child Refugee Crisis
Child Refugee Crisis
Hayat*, 10, fled Ma'arat Nu'man with her family
Hayat*, 10, fled Ma'arat Nu'man with her family

Northwest Syria: Thousands of Displaced Children Forced to Flee Their Homes Again as Violence Escalates in Idlib and Aleppo:

As a new wave of violence hits Idlib and Western Aleppo, Save the Children confirms that as many as 200,000 children and their families have been forced to abandon their homes in northern Syria over the last two months.

According to the United Nations, 34 children—14 girls and 20 boys—have died in the escalating violence since January 15, 2020. Throughout January, at least 37,000 children have been forced to flee in the bitter Syrian winter, often taking only what they are able to carry. Save the Children’s partners on the ground in Idlib say the number of people they are seeing desperately fleeing may be far higher than official estimates. Most of the families have already had to leave their homes many times before. They face new risks each time and each new displacement heightens existing vulnerabilities such as medical conditions.

Ten-year-old Hayat* fled the city of Ma'arat Nu'man after increasing violence and is now living in a tent in a playground used as a collective shelter in Idlib. She said: “They were hitting the houses, we were scared. They hit the market. We fled here and the people welcomed us into their homes.”

Hayat’s* neighbor from Ma'rat Nu'man, Karim,* also fled with the family. He told Save the Children: “We were at our worst during our journey. We left all our things behind, we left with only the clothes we had on. No one was taking us with them, until God sent us good people who took us from one place to another, until we finally got here. We were sitting down then saw an airstrike approaching and fell right by this camp we’re staying in, it was around 200 meters away from us. The situation here is bad, there are no services, it’s cold and the rain is flooding the tents. The children are cold and there’s no heating, there’s no support at all.”

Children in northwest Syria are continuing to bear the brunt of conflict. In July 2019, more children were killed in Idlib than in the whole of 2018.

“The number of families in Idlib and Aleppo fleeing once again for their lives is enormous,” said Sonia Khush, Save the Children Syria response director. “We are seeing miles of convoys with vehicles stretching out of vision as people again pack up what little they can and hope that they can travel to a place of safety. Our partners tell us that the sheer scale of displacement is unlike anything they have seen before.”

Save the Children is working through partners in Idlib who are assisting with the evacuation of people from areas of conflict using the limited means available, including mobile library vehicles. Save the Children and its partners are responding to the needs of displaced children and their families by providing medical assistance, food, education and child protection services.  Newly-displaced families living in communities are also being supported with hygiene and food kits.

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Our Response to date
Our Response to date

Emergency Alert: 

Families and children in North East Syria are fleeing for their lives. Military operations in the area threaten the safety and livelihood of nearly 90,000 already-displaced citizens who rely exclusively on humanitarian aid.

Save the Children’s teams in Syria are working across three displacement camps, preparing to scale up to meet the increased needs of vulnerable children. Urgent support is needed to help this impending humanitarian disaster.  

The conflict in Syria has devastated the lives of a generation of young people. Many of Syria’s children have missed years of their education, with 2.1 million children in Syria currently out of school. After more than eight years of war, it’s more important than ever that we show the children of Syria they are not forgotten. For the 6.2 million people currently internally displaced in Syria and the 5.6 million Syrian refugees with no place to call home, we must continue fighting for a future we all share.

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Hasina a 13 year old Rohingya refugee
Hasina a 13 year old Rohingya refugee

Hasina lives in the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh with her parents and younger brother. Since arriving in the refugee camps, Hasina has embraced the opportunity to learn and loves attending a Save the Children learning centre.

She says “I wake up very early in the morning and wash my feet and hands. I pray and then go to the Maktab (Islamic school) to learn Arabic. After Arabic learning, I come home and help my mother to prepare breakfast. I eat lentils for breakfast which I dislike very much. I wish we had better food to eat. Back in my village, we had all sorts of food which I very much liked. Sometimes I still feel hungry after eating breakfast, but I cannot ask for any extra as our food has to feed all the family for the month. I then walk with my friend to handicraft learning run by a women’s group in the camps. I have learnt how to sew a leaf and am learning to sew clothes. I hope to be as good at handicrafts as my mother. I really enjoy attending the handi-crafts group and have made good friends. We speak about lots of things at the community group and I enjoy it as girls from different ages go there. We stay there from 9-2pm. Most of the time we talk about our happy time in Myanmar and how our lives were good there in the past. I miss my home so much.

After lunch, I go to the Save the Children learning centre. It is located right next to my home and I meet my brother, who attend the shift before me. The teachers at the learning are very nice. I like all subjects but English is my favorite. It is an important language to learn because we do not have access to other languages. If I want to get a job in the future, it is important to be able to speak good English.

I am happiest when I am at the learning centre. I have so many friends there and I enjoy learning new things. Save the Children staff are very good to us, they do not beat us or yell at us. I have learnt from going to school to stay happy and if you face anything bad, talk to Save the Children.”

Hasina’s father Mohammed is happy that his daughter is learning other things apart from handicrafts. He is happy that Hasina will be able to be strong and to stick up for herself if she faces any issues.

Save the Children is one of the leading International NGOs in Cox’s Bazar, having reached more than 700,000 Rohingya and members of the host community since the start of the crisis. Save the Children has more than 1,800 staff and volunteers supporting our programs in child protection, access to education, health and nutrition, water and sanitation services, as well as distribution of shelter and food items.

Thanks to supporters like you we are running nearly 100 learning centres for Rohingya children like Hasina in the camps, reaching over 15,000 children.

Hasina goes to a Save the Children learning center
Hasina goes to a Save the Children learning center
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Sara’s story in her own words:

“I am fourteen years old and from Deir Ezzor. I now live in the camp with my parents, four brothers and baby sister.

One evening two years ago, I was watching television with my family when my street was bombed and parts of my house collapsed around us. When we went outside to see the damage, I got chemical dust in my eyes and was in great pain. My eyes were burning and I couldn’t see anything. I didn’t know how I could get out safely when I couldn’t see, but my older brother led me out by holding my hands. I thought the blast had hurt my brother too but thankfully he was unharmed.

After we escaped our house, we sheltered in the alley way just behind it. We could hear that the airplanes were still flying around so we waited until it was quiet. When we returned to our home, my family told me that the whole house had been flattened. I was so sad when I knew that our home was destroyed.

We fled in the car in the night and had to make a river crossing, which was really scary. We couldn’t take much with us, so I had to leave most of my belongings behind. I miss many things from my home - my toys, my family photos. After we arrived at this camp, I had to close my eyes for a whole month. I couldn’t see an eye doctor to get specialist care, and I still can’t see very far in the distance two years later.

Before the war, my life was very, very beautiful. I was happy with my family and my friends. I am not so happy anymore. My life and the war are one now. I hear warplanes and missiles falling all the time. Whenever I hear a plane in the sky I still get so scared.

But I love coming to the Child Friendly Space so much and I love that my parents let me come. It makes me feel less scared and alone. When I first came to this camp, I felt very lonely and like I didn’t have any friends. I thought there wouldn’t be anyone to play with. But now I have lots of friends and a football team! I love football so much, not just a little bit! I play goalkeeper and my team always beats the boys’ team because I save all the goals. It makes me so happy to play with my friends here. I think the Child Friendly Space is important as it makes me feel like I have a future and I have friends. In the future I want to be a teacher.

I loved taking part in the survey and I think it’s important to ask children about our lives. It’s hard to imagine the future of my country at the moment – how can we rebuild Syria when we don’t even have a house? In the future, I want to help my family and rebuild our home. I would tell the world’s children not to go too far from your families and don’t play with anything dangerous.”


Save the Children supports displaced children and their families living in camps across northeast Syria, as well as host communities, with Child Protection, Nutrition, Health, Education and emergency relief. We run Child Friendly Spaces, provide psychosocial support and carry out Case Management for the most vulnerable children. We screen young children for acute malnutrition, and support pregnant and breastfeeding women through group and one-to-one counselling sessions. We also help children continue their education by setting up temporary learning spaces and distributing essential school supplies.


Thank you for your continued support!

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Clinical officer, Agnes reviewing mother and baby
Clinical officer, Agnes reviewing mother and baby

Save the Children’s Health Centre in Omugo refugee settlement in Uganda is providing health care to around 24,000 refugees, and this is just one of four health facilities.

It has been a fairly typical morning for Save the Children clinical officer Agnes Alinde. She’s the “in charge” at the Ocia health centre in the Omugo refugee settlement in northern Uganda’s West Nile region, and that always means a busy start to the day. 

Agnes begins her rounds in the centre’s in-patient department: there’s a woman with high blood pressure; a girl with a broken hand who needs to go to Arua by ambulance and five new mothers who are all doing well.

Then it’s over to outpatients where most days around 130 people, mainly refugees from South Sudan, crowd in with malaria, acute respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia and coughs, rashes and diarrhoea to be treated by Ocia’s 14 health workers including doctors, nurses, clinical officers, laboratory technicians, dispensers and midwives. Agnes sends two babies with malaria and another with severe acute malnutrition for immediate testing and treatment.

“This facility is one of the biggest health care facilities in the refugee settlement,” says Agnes. “We’re serving a very big community of refugees who come in here every day. They have very many diseases, things like cough which if not treated will affect everyone in the family.”

The clinic treats a population, including refugees and locals, of around 24,000 people. It is one of only a few permanent structures in Omugo and provides care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Jane, a teenage mother from Yei in South Sudan, says the Ocia health centre saved her life when heavy bleeding during her delivery put both mother and child at risk.

“When my birth pains started my aunt ran here to the clinic to get the ambulance to come,” says Jane who arrived in Uganda with only the clothes on her back after she was robbed by South Sudanese soldiers at the border, a common experience among the refugees who were fleeing to Uganda. “Since it was my first child I wanted it to be born in the hospital where it would get the right services.

“I lost a lot of blood during the delivery, and I’m feeling really weak now, but I’m really happy. If I’d been in the bush maybe I would have died or lost my baby. Maybe neither of us would have survived.”

Before going home Jane’s baby will be vaccinated for tuberculosis and polio and the new mother will receive antibiotics to ward off infections caused by living in unsanitary conditions.

Rebecca’s three-month-old son Lawrence was born in the bush as she hid from rebel soldiers near her home in Morobo County, South Sudan. “We were chased to the bush and I gave birth to Lawrence right there,” she says.

Though Rebecca says the birth was without complications, baby Lawrence got sick with a cough and high fever when they arrived in Uganda. Agnes diagnosed pneumonia and admitted mother and son to Ocia for antibiotics and bed rest.

“I wanted to take him to another health centre but my neighbours saw that his health wasn’t good and told me to bring him here,” says Rebecca.

“When I saw that Lawrence wasn’t feeling well I was unhappy. But now my heart feels good. I feel good because Lawrence’s body is now healthy.”

Though Ocia has more and better medicines than most clinics in the area, Agnes says more drugs suited to African illnesses are needed.

“Some drugs we don’t get because they are not in the budget. We see few cases of hypertension here but we get these drugs. But we have very many cases of pneumonia and malaria but for the pneumonia cases we don’t have syrups for babies. The drugs we have are catering for adults and the syrups are very few. If we don’t have the treatment for cough then the child progresses to pneumonia when we don’t have the syrups to prevent the cough in the early stages.”

Ocia was built with a grant from the UK government and money to pay for the drugs and run the centre on a daily basis comes from the European Union. But that funding is running out. All four Save the Children health facilities in the refugee settlements, including Ocia and the mobile clinic in the Imvepi settlement, will close on 31 December 2018 unless more money is found.

The Ocia health centre team are doing their best to prepare the refugees for the possible closure. Coreen Auma, Save the Children’s regional area manager in West Nile, says the community is reacting with alarm.

“The response we are getting is ‘where will we go?’,” says Coreen. “They appreciate our services as Save the Children. I think that some walk up to 10 kilometres and even bypass other heath facilities because when you come to Save the Children you will get seen, you will get treated, the staff treat you well. You will find everything there.”

If Ocia and the other Save health centres close, Coreen believes the impact on refugees will be huge.

“Mothers will have to walk long distances to get services. Sometimes their children may even die on the way. We will be registering more deaths of children and pregnant mothers who cannot access our facilities.

“People will resort to traditional methods of treating themselves. Maybe mothers will have to deliver at home and that means we will register a lot of maternal deaths.

“We might also face a lot of malnutrition of children under five, which is a common thing in places with no medical services.

“Some of the refugees might say, ‘why don’t we go back to our country. If we are going to die here maybe we should return to our country.’”

“I feel so bad – especially for the children.”

Appealing directly to donors, Coreen says, “We are supporting the refugees, these asylum seekers who have left their homes. They have no one to rely on. We would appeal to the donors to continue supporting the women and children, because the majority of the refugees are women and children.

“I ask that they continue supporting us so that we can save the lives of these children and the pregnant mothers and the refugees. They’ve run away from a lot of trauma, and they should not be feeling the same way when they are here in a place where they think they will be treated with dignity.

“So for the sake of the mothers, for the dignity of humanity, we ask that the people from Europe and the UK continue supporting the refugees in West Nile.”

Adding her appeal to Coreen’s, Agnes says these poor and traumatised people need help.

“If a child is sick it will not go to school. If a child is sick the whole community is depressed. If health is addressed then all other aspects of the community can go on well. Cases of scabies, pneumonia, malnutrition, patients dying in the community without any hope will all be addressed if the funding comes.”

How Save the Children is helping:

Jane is a young mother and her delivery had complications including heavy bleeding. If she hadn’t delivered at Ocia both she and her baby may have died. Jane’s baby was also vaccinated against TB and polio and she was given antibiotics to ward off potential infections. Baby Lawrence is just three months old. He was born in the bush under traumatic circumstances. With severe pneumonia, being treated in a hospital with a safe, clean, well-equipped in-patient ward undoubtedly saved his life. He was also vaccinated and both mothers referred to the MBA for feeding and nutrition advice. Having access to free and comprehensive healthcare also helped Jane and Rebecca to conserve their meagre resources for food and other necessities.

Thank you for your continued support! 

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Save the Children Federation

Location: Fairfield, CT - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @savethechildren
Project Leader:
Lisa Smith
Fairfield, CT United States
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