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Support Refugee Children

by International Rescue Committee
Support Refugee Children
Support Refugee Children
Support Refugee Children
Support Refugee Children
Support Refugee Children
Support Refugee Children
Support Refugee Children
Support Refugee Children

Education is critical in emergency situations. It’s one of the first things parents ask for, but it accounts for less than 3% of all humanitarian aid. International Rescue Committee’s senior education policy advisor is a mother to two young girls who are out of school during the coronavirus pandemic. She shared, "I now understand this firsthand."

"It’s so difficult to see my daughters — four and seven years old — out of school. I worry about their missing out on learning and socialization opportunities during their critical windows of development. Yet as much as I worry about them, I know that children out of school in crisis areas or refugee camps face even greater challenges. But these are challenges that we can meet, wherever we are."

In times of crisis, education is a lifeline, not a luxury. It provides children with routine and stability, along with the skills they need to heal and learn. Safe educational opportunities that include social-emotional learning and connections to nurturing adults can reduce or reverse the effects of stress caused by crisis and disruption, and build children’s resilience.

During health emergencies, schools also become critical resources for families and children to access health and hygiene information on how to prevent and mitigate illness.

In crisis settings, education also can provide physical protection from violence, abuse and exploitation that children in these contexts may be more vulnerable to.

All too often when children in crisis lose their right to education their wellbeing is at risk. But children are resilient, and love and support from parents can go a long way in building their strength and their ability to cope and thrive.


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The IRC supports children and their families around the world and in the U.S. through all programs—and partners with likeminded organizations to deliver programs. During conflict and crisis, education protects children and sets them up for a better future. It provides a sense of hope and enables them to recover, learn and thrive. However, over 62 million children in countries affected by war and displacement remain out of school, while many others receive only a poor quality education. Despite this great need, education has received less than three percent of all humanitarian aid in recent years. Below is a story of the IRC’s work to support children in Jordan with IRC partner Sesame Workshop:

Mohammad, Hasina and their four young children* left Syria under cover of darkness in 2016. It was 3:30am. They had to hide in the bottom of a livestock truck and could hear the sounds of sheep bleating above them.

“We were very scared—at any time ISIS could have caught us,” Mohammad recalls of the journey. “There are many people that have been killed trying to escape Syria.”

Mohammad and Hasina’s youngest, Rayan, was just 45 days old when her parents were forced to flee to neighboring Jordan. Their other children—Ali, Reem and Hiba—were all below the age of seven. “My children were too young to understand what was happening, that we were escaping from death,” Mohammad recalls. “We didn’t explain, we just moved.”

When the family first arrived in Jordan they had to stay on the border in Rukban, a makeshift camp where refugees like them had limited access to aid. “[Being in] Rukban was like dying,” Hasina says.

Later they moved to Azraq refugee camp, an hour’s drive from the capital, Amman. Miles of desert surround Azraq, where thousands of white metal containers with pointed roofs sit neatly next to each other. Each container houses families like Mohammad’s, many of whom have been living there in limbo for years, unsure of what their future holds.

While the family was living in Azraq, the mental health effects of their experiences in war-torn Syria started to surface. “One day, military planes went over us in the sky, Mohammad says. “Reem got scared. From that time, she didn’t want to talk to anyone: She wanted to eat on her own, play with her toys on her own, and be by herself.”

Then the family learned about Ahlan Simsim, an early childhood development program the International Rescue Committee runs in the camp. It’s part of a larger partnership with Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street.

The name means “Welcome Sesame” in Arabic, and the program helps children recover from trauma and deal with stress. Play is a huge part of that recovery, and for Reem and her siblings, it’s been vital. “Play is like medicine for my children,” Mohammad explains. “For most children, it’s fun to play—but for my children, it’s a need.” 

Reem, Hiba and Rayan have all benefited from attending Ahlan Simsim sessions. “At the beginning they were shy and wouldn’t talk to anyone,” Radia, a volunteer at the IRC’s Azraq children’s center, explains. “Reem used to put her chair next to the door and wait there alone. It took a month, but they started to interact.”

Today the girls clap along to songs, shout answers to teachers’ questions and play with other children.

“When Reem came back from the center she started saying, ‘Hey, Mom—I have a new friend,’” Hasina says.

Now six years old, Reem is enrolled in primary school in the camp. Hiba, who’s five, and Rayan, who’s three, still regularly go to the Ahlan Simsim sessions.

The beaming and confident Hiba breaks into giggles as she’s pushed in the makeshift swing outside the family’s container home. Meeting her, you would have no idea of what she’s been through.

Beyond the emotional trauma of growing up in a war zone, she’s also coping with another serious challenge.

“Two years ago, we found out Hiba had a brain tumor,” Mohammad says. “There are no treatments for her in the camp. She’s been referred, but it takes time. It took a year and 11 months to have the scan.”

Mohammad has struggled to get treatment for his daughter while trying to make ends meet. “I’m stuck inside this camp and I cannot find work,” he says. “I had to sell everything I owned. We spent all our money getting here and paying for food.” 

Though it all, Mohammad is focused on keeping his children positive—and Ahlan Simsim remains an important part of their life in the camp. But he dreams of the day his family will no longer be refugees.

“Maybe it will take time,” he says, “but we hope we can return to Syria and start a new life.”

*The family's last name has been omitted for their safety. 

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Every day refugee families face unspeakable circumstances. They're forced to flee violence in Syria with their toddlers in their arms, have little food to eat or water to drink in drought-stricken Somalia, are stranded in Greece in dangerous living conditions...

The reality of President Trump's decision to slash the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. next year by nearly half impacts so many refugee families who are already facing dire situations.

America has always been a beacon of hope for those in need — a true global leader in response to the refugee crisis. It’s unconscionable that this administration has turned its back on the most vulnerable among us. But I assure you, my colleagues and I will never stop working to help as many refugees as possible. And we need you with us in the months to come.

You can help us support stranded families now. We aid refugees around the world and help refugees who are resettled here in the U.S. Help us provide them with trauma counseling, health care, emergency aid, water and sanitation and other critical assistance by donating today.

Thanks for continuing to stand with refugees

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More than 62 million children and youth without access to school suffer in conflict settings around the world.

Yet, year after year, the international community fails to provide adequate support for them. Parents and children often rank schooling as a top priority, but programs that protect children and provide education receive less than 2% of humanitarian funding.

Too often it can take more than six months for the IRC to receive support from governmental funders at the start of an emergency. This delay prevents skilled humanitarian specialists from reaching children with responsive programs when they are most vulnerable in the first months of displacement. While underfunding in long-term programming prevents children from receiving continuous access to education when it is most important for their future.

This global funding shortfall leaves uprooted children and youth at-risk to prolonged psychological and physical abuse, abduction, recruitment into armed forces, and developmental stagnation. The consequences of underestimating the importance of programs that educate and protect children can prove dire.

As the average length of displacement for refugees and other uprooted people has stretched to 20 years, failing to invest in education in crisis settings may result in an entire lost generation of children.

At the IRC, we not only envision a world where the most vulnerable survivors of crises are protected: for more than 80 years we have designed, delivered and developed evidence-based programs that empower children and youth to develop to their full potential. Today, the IRC serves more than 1.6 million children across more than 30 countries, and in doing so, helps prepare them as future leaders in their communities and countries.

Backed by our legacy of expertise in providing high-quality programming, we want to raise the bar globally in delivering faster, better care and education for more children impacted by crisis.

There has never been a more important moment to prioritize this goal: Today, at least 68 million people have been displaced by war and disaster—a global record. More than half of those displaced are children.


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Once—and if—families are able to enter the U.S., they face detention in the infamous ‘icebox’ detention centers for an uncertain period of time, navigating an impenetrably complex and shifting system. Released into the U.S. while asylum claims are processed, families have often been left at bus stations with little or no information or guidance on what to do next, and in most cases, little to no monetary resources, after having exhausted their monetary resources on the long journey to the U.S. Because of backlogs in the immigration courts, it now takes on average of three years for an asylum case to be decided, with asylum applicants assuming the burden of legal fees for representation, compounding heightened risks of exploitation over the waiting period.

Leveraging decades of experience supporting refugees in the U.S., the IRC has developed outcomes-driven programming to provide asylum-seeking families with critical support both at the moment they are released from federal custody along the border, as well as in their final destination locations where they are awaiting the outcome of their immigration court proceedings.

In Phoenix, Arizona the IRC is providing critical temporary support, such as overnight shelter, clothing, meals, and transportation coordination, for families in the short period between their release from federal custody and the continuation of their journey to reunite with relatives in the U.S. We are using the shelter stay to improve longer-term outcomes for families as well, by providing them with information and guidance on their legal process. We have also adapted safety and mental health assessments for the rapidly evolving environment of an emergency transitional shelter to identify families in particularly vulnerable situations and provide tailored follow-up support.

With additional funding we are seeking to increase capacity to offer comprehensive case management and legal orientations to asylum-seeking families throughout our network of 24 U.S. offices, with a focus on helping families achieve stability as they await the outcome of their immigration and asylum proceedings. With the Trump Administration’s termination of the community-based Family Case Management Program (FCMP), there are currently no federally supported services or infrastructure to support asylum seekers. Services we can offer/are currently offering in these destination sites include:

  • Individualized service planning: Helping asylum seekers to overcome barriers to services related to food security, housing, health care, child care and preschool, English-language studies, job readiness, and financial counseling.
  • In-home psychological support: Providing asylum seekers psychosocial education, conducting psychosocial screenings, and identifying appropriate therapeutic support services.
  • Temporary housing support: Helping asylum-seeking families to secure temporary housing in response to the increasing trend of relatives with uncertain immigration status declining to host asylum seekers due to fear of reprobation from immigration enforcement agents.
  • Legal and social services: In Dallas, partnering with RAICES, Texas’ largest immigration legal service provider, to provide holistic legal and social services to children and their parents separated by the administration’s ”Zero Tolerance” policy. Other offices have developed networks of legal partnerships, and all offices orient families through the complex immigration legal system.

Through additional private financial partnerships, we seek to expand our comprehensive case management for asylum-seeking families in their new communities, working with local partners to develop evidence-based models that maximize opportunities to improve longer-term outcomes for the families we serve.

Additionally, under the federal Unaccompanied Children’s (UAC) Program, we are assisting children from Central America who have come to the U.S. to seek protection on their own, often with the intention of reuniting with family members residing in the U.S. That work includes:

> Information, training, and guidance for children and their sponsors

> Referrals to legal services organizations and legal providers to help with asylum claims

> Home visits with foster parents to ensure the safety of minors.

As policy decisions and conditions impacting asylum-seeking families shift, the IRC is prepared to respond to the most urgent needs. Your flexible support will allow us to rapidly evolve our response to ensure the most vulnerable people affected are met with the most timely and effective care. Thank you for your support.


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Organization Information

International Rescue Committee

Location: New York, NY - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @theIRC
Project Leader:
Caitlin Golub
New York, NY United States

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