In the above photo, Fatima is the woman second from the left in blue and white.
There are more than 16 million refugees around the world, many of which are women and children. This World Refugee Day 2015 we recognize the struggle of families who have been forced to flee their homes because of conflict or disaster and are once again reminded of the ongoing political and social struggles that have caused the greatest number of refugees in modern history.
With this in mind, we would like to share Fatima’s story as a Syrian refugee living in the Gawilan camp in Iraq.
Fatima arrived in Gawilan from Kobane province in February 2015. She has been in the camp for five months with her three boys, ages 10, 9 and 7. She was forced to flee Syria after the arrival of ISIS and the death of her husband who was killed while fighting ISIS.
Although the fighting is just seven km from Gawilan and at times she can see the smoke of rockets, she feels safe. Her children go to school, and with school now closed for the summer holidays, they go to the camp’s Mosque to learn about Islam.
When asked what it is like to be a refugee and if there is something she would like people to know about her situation, she began to shake her head. “This is not life — we don’t do anything, we have no money, no place to go and we don’t know what tomorrow will bring or when all this will be over.” She explains. “Life under the tents is very difficult, it’s not possible to live under a tent… It’s not like a house: if you have a house you can open the windows and even if it is hot you have wind. In a tent… if you open the windows all you have is dust”. For families like Fatima’s, the summer heat is quickly coming unbearable.
Fatima tells us these stories while drinking her strong coffee under her tent. She looks extremely tired and her face carries the signs of the ordeal and suffering she went through. However, in spite of everything her eyes sparkle with force and determination. While life is harsh now, she knows it is temporary and she must stay strong for the future of her children.
Fatima suffers from heart problems, and she has been to visit the camp’s health clinic, which is managed by a non-governmental organisation called PU-AMI. We tell her we will come to visit her and check on her, and inform her of the recreational activities she could do with our teams, as she is not aware of them. She says that she might try to come when her children are at the Mosque. We really hope she will.
Action Against Hunger has been running water, sanitation and hygiene programs – including ensuring access to clean, safe water and latrines, in Gawilan camp with Unicef support. We are now establishing mental health and care practices there to support young children and their families – many of whom have experienced great trauma – with the UN Refugee Agency.
This World Refugee Day 2015, remember people like Fatima and share her story.