Anguished and Isolated, Syrian Refugee
Children Bear Scars of Conflict

December 5, 2012

Children make up more than half of the Syrian refugees living in the Za'atari Refugee Camp, located near Mafraq, Jordan. IOCC, along with local relief partners, have been distributing essential items such as bedding, infant kits and clothing to families seeking safety here from the Syrian conflict. photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance
Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — Sana was only three weeks away from graduation when a mortar hit her family's home in Homs, Syria. She fled quickly into the night towards Jordan with her mother and four siblings, carrying only a small bag filled with water bottles, bread and homemade jam. Now a refugee, the tears come easily when the girl thinks about the home they had to leave and the schooling she was forced to sacrifice.

"I wish I can continue my studies here in Jordan, but I have no certificates, no money, no documents or IDs," said Sana. "All we have is a paper given to us at the border that gives us permission to be in Jordan," added her mother.

Dust from blowing desert sand covers a growing sea of tents at the Za'atari camp that are now home to Sana and thousands of Syrian children and families are basic, with no electricity and no sanitation. There is little left of the comforts of home and the rhythms of the life they knew in Syria.

International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), a member of the global ACT Alliance, recently provided new school uniforms to 6,000 school-aged refugee girls living in the camp and in Jordanian host communities. The uniforms provide a measure of comfort to the children like Sana who have had to endure exhausting journeys to arrive at the camp and many who have been witness to the horrors of war.

The uniforms, required for girls attending school in Jordan, will allow the Syrian refugee girls to enroll in Jordan's public schools, and give thousands of displaced girls a chance to pursue an education and rekindle their dreams for the future. IOCC also distributed new track suits to 2,000 school-aged refugee boys living in Za'atari camp. While school uniforms aren't mandatory for male students, the boys are in dire need of warm clothing to help fend off the frigid winter months ahead in tents that offer little protection from the cold.

"These children have witnessed deadly violence, lost loved ones, homes, and most tragically, their innocence. Access to a school and regular class attendance will be the first step in restoring some normalcy to the turbulent lives of these youngsters," said IOCC Programs Director, Mark Ohanian, who oversees IOCC humanitarian operations in Jordan.

Girls line up before starting school in their new uniforms in the Za'atari Refugee Camp, located near Mafraq, Jordan. The camp, which opened in July 2012, holds upwards of 20,000 refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria. IOCC, a member of the ACT Alliance, provided uniforms and track suits to thousands of school-aged children now living and attending classes in the refugee camp. photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance

The effort to assist Syrian refugee children is critical to ensuring their emotional well-being, Ohanian added. "With this clothing, the girls and boys have an opportunity to learn and play with other students in a place of safety where they can begin to look forward to better days ahead."

The young refugees in Jordan make up a portion of the two million Syrians who have been internally displaced or driven from their country in search of safety and shelter. Inside Syria, IOCC is one of the few agencies registered to provide relief and continues to distribute bedding and personal health kits to the thousands of families and elderly displaced in the most volatile conflict zones. IOCC is also responding to the urgent health and nutritional needs of some of the more than 130,000 officially registered Syrian refugees now residing in Lebanon.

HOW YOU CAN HELP
You can help the victims of poverty and conflicts around the world, like those in Syria, by making a financial gift to the International Emergency Response Fund which will provide immediate relief as well as long-term support through the provision of emergency aid, recovery assistance and other support to help those in need.

To make a gift, please visit www.iocc.org or call toll free at 1-877-803-IOCC (4622), or mail a check or money order payable to IOCC, P.O. Box 17398, Baltimore, MD 21297.

ABOUT INTERNATIONAL ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHARITIES
IOCC is the official humanitarian aid agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America. Since its inception in 1992, IOCC has delivered more than $400 million in relief and development programs to families and communities in 50 countries. IOCC is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and agencies engaged in development, humanitarian assistance and advocacy.

Media contact: Rada K. Tierney, IOCC Media Relations, 443-823-3489, rtierney@iocc.org

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