Zaatari refugee camp
Deep in the Jordanian desert sits the largest Syrian refugee camp in the world. It is called Zaatari, and from the air it looks like an island of white huts in the middle of an ocean of sand. Nearly 80,000 men, women and children who have escaped horror and war in Syria since 2012 now have no choice but to call Zaatari home. Operated by the government of Jordan and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), this massive camp is now overflowing with displaced people, struggling to survive and navigate a very unstable situation with an uncertain future. As a host country, Jordan has made a tremendous effort in providing for refugees, yet there are still many challenges to overcome in camps like Zaatari. Water can be scarce. Black markets have sprung up to provide for both necessity and vice. The desert climate brings suffocating heat and dust during the summer, while in the winter months the camp turns into a giant mud pit due to constant freezing rain. Education opportunities are severely lacking, especially for high school and university students. Resettlement opportunities, scholarships, and aid for refugees are all decreasing each year even, though the problems being faced in the camp are not going away. Most people feel abandoned by the international community and unable to go back to Syria.
In the six years since Zaatari opened, it has morphed from a makeshift camp to a bustling city of refugees. More than thirty percent of those living in Zaatari are age 5 to 17 and resources to help these children are scarce. As with all refugee camps, limited access to education and health facilities are serious concerns. Aid workers who help refugee children warn that the biggest dangers for refugee youth are a loss of identity and motivation, and overwhelming feelings of hopelessness. Without education and positive direction, an already uncertain future becomes significantly more perilous, and the risks of being forced into early marriage, child labor, or being courted by extremist groups makes life in refugee camps particularly dangerous for young people. With over 50 million child refugees worldwide, it is more essential and urgent than ever that we find and highlight ways to safeguard these children from danger and ensure they are given an opportunity for a productive and safe future.