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"I just want to live in dignity with my family”


"I have all the strength in the world!” This is how Khaled, a four-and-a-half-year-old ball of energy, welcomes HI’s team to his home.

Young boy smiling, sitting on a couch and interacting with a red segmented box. He sits across a specialist, a woman wearing a floral head covering and coat with fur hood, who smiles as she interacts with the boy and activity. The boys mother, wearing a red head covering, looks on in the background from another couch,

Esra (center) wants her children to be able to live with dignity and go to school. She proudly watches her son Khaled complete his concentration exercises with HI staff. | © Saleh Aliwa / HI

Khaled's family is originally from Syria and is now living in Jordan. Twelve years after the start of the conflict, there are still some 660,000 registered Syrian refugees in the country.

Fleeing to Jordan

The family lives in a modest flat in Azraq, about 30 minutes from Amman, Jordan's capital. To hear their story, HI met with Esra, the mother, Sheima, the 13-year-old sister and Khaled. The father is at work.

Esra and her husband fled Syria in 2013. She was newly married and pregnant with her first child. The couple had to walk a long way to avoid the combat zones before crossing the border. They stayed in the Zaatari camp for a while before settling in Zarqa.

"We can never forget; it will stay with us forever. Even today, when I hear a plane or gunfire, I am afraid,” Esra said.

Daily life

Then Sheima was born, followed by Khaled. The family lives modestly. Syrian refugees have very limited access to employment in Jordan. Esra's husband is a day worker. Today is a good day; he was offered work. Some days are not so good.

Life as a refugee is complicated, from finding enough money to support their families to accessing education and health care. Khaled, for example, suffers from cognitive problems. He has difficulty focusing his eyes and attention. Thanks to Yasmeen, a volunteer from HI's community-based rehabilitation project, he has received the support he needed and should soon be able to start school.

young boy wearing blue sweater placing an item in a red segmented box. he sits on a couch next to his sister, wearing a yellow hoodie, who watches on. they are opposite a woman wearing a head covering.

What does the future hold?

Over 660,000 Syrian refugees are currently registered with the UNHCR in Jordan, a country with a population of 11 million. Hosting such large numbers of refugees places enormous pressure on the country and the host communities. Several attempts have been made to facilitate their return home, without success.

Today, Esra does not see a future for herself or her family in Syria.

"There’s nowhere for us to go back to. Our house was destroyed. And even if it were still standing, right now it's complicated.”

Some of the refugees who have made their way back have been worried or even arrested by the authorities. And even if life is not easy in Jordan, in Syria a majority of the population lives below the poverty line. Today, 12.1 million Syrians are food insecure.

"There are no livelihoods, no services for children, no security there," adds Esra.

The children, on the other hand, don’t dream of a country they’ve never known. What do they want? A playroom or a place to play outside. Esra, for her part, has the same hopes as every other mother in the world:

"I just want to live in dignity with my family, in a safe place, and for my children to be able to go to school.”

Date published: 03/13/23


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