by Hannah Burrows, ActionAid project support officer
Ahmed (not his real name) invites us into his caravan. He wants to share his story, to tell us about life in Syria and how the current crisis is affecting him and his family. Like many of the people I have spoken to though, Ahmed is wary of giving his real name and is reluctant to be photographed as he fears for his family’s safety.
Ahmed arrived in Zaatari with his wife, two of his daughters and their children in August. Slowly, over the last six months several of his family members have joined them. The family are from Dera’a, a rural area in southern Syria where protests against the Government broke out nearly two years ago and which has been at the heart of the crisis ever since.
He explains that in the last few months of living in Syria life became increasingly difficult for him and his family as the fighting increased: “The children were scared, we used to go to the middle room of the house, we were afraid that bullets would come inside the house and kill someone.” He said that food and water became more difficult to get hold of as roads were blocked and supplies cut off.
Ahmed and his family left Dera’a when the air strikes started: “My house and three of my children’s houses were burnt. I spent 30 years working hard, to build my home, to raise my children and to make sure they have a decent life. Now all of that is gone. We have been forced to leave our home behind and come here. You can see how we are living. This is our life, in one room. But I had to take away my family so they were safe.”
Ahmed’s search for safety is like many others. As we go to leave the camp we meet another husband and wife. Sleeping in a small cot inside their caravan is a two month old baby, her one year old brother sleeps on a mattress next to her.
The couple, who also do not want to give their names, came to the camp two days ago to join the husband’s brother who was already here - another family reuniting in Zaatari. The brother explained:
“Life is tough here. We used to live in the city and are not used to living in the desert. But what motivated us to come is our security. We are young and we have children. We wanted to be able to sleep through the night. But we feel safe here.”
Over the coming weeks and months, ActionAid will be offering psychosocial support to people to help them cope with the emotional impact of the conflict, including having to flee their homes and adjust to life as a refugee, as well as supporting them to face the new challenge of living in a refugee camp.