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From the Field3 min read


On the Syrian Border | Overcrowded Refugee Camp Braces for Thousands More

Vernon Brewer
Feb 10, 2013

Today, I spent the day at the Za’atari Refugee Camp near the Syrian border, a windblown tent city in the Jordanian desert. A sea of tents several miles long stretches as far as the eye can see, holding 80,000 desperate refugees . . . with multitudes more pouring in every day.


Those who make it across the Syrian border consider themselves lucky . . . thousands more of their countrymen never arrive. Traveling miles in the night to remain undetected, every hour in the desert is a perilous risk. Families are robbed, women brutally raped, and men are tortured and shot right in front of their children. Air attacks meant to target rebel forces rain down fire on civilians, slaughtering hundreds of innocent lives in the crossfire.


Those that survive and are able to reach the camps are faced with horrendous living conditions. The flimsy tent shelters crumple under the freezing cold rain and cannot shield the gusts of wind brought on by one of the harshest winters this region has seen in decades.

As temperatures continue to drop, so do the spirits of thousands who lie huddled together, bracing for another miserable night in temperatures well below freezing.

Here’s a short video clip of some refugee children I met in Za’atari:

Watch Video on Vimeo

I saw more children, curled up on the filthy frozen ground, barely covered by a thin tattered blanket. They were shivering uncontrollably from the cold.

Over 150 refugees are forced to share one single bathroom. The cramped conditions are worsened by the rain, which overflows latrines and pools up inside of tent dwellings. Disease is spreading like wildfire. Waterborne illnesses are affecting a vast number of children now . . . death is literally on every doorstep.

Clean water has to be delivered every day by truck—but conditions are unreliable and as the population rises, supplies are dwindling.

Water truck

There’s nothing to do but wait in the numbing cold. I saw an elderly man sitting huddled alone by a single tent. The rest of his family didn’t make it . . . he had no one left.

Elderly man without any family

To make matters worse, there are no jobs here, and most families have lost their able-bodied men in the fighting. As a result, hundreds are being forced into exploitative businesses to help keep their families alive.  Women have resorted to prostitution and must leave their other children to fend for themselves in the dangerous camp alone. I saw groups of children peddling cigarettes at the entrance of Za’atari just to earn a few pennies.

Child selling cigarettes

Despair is sinking in . . . there is no hope for the future here.

Food, medicine, and blankets are urgently needed. As more refugees continue to arrive, panic over the few resources that remain is steadily rising. We must continue to respond with immediate, life-saving aid, and we must do it now.

We must allow our hearts to be broken with what breaks the heart of God—to exit our comfort zones and step into the shoes of someone else. If you do this, even for a second—you won’t be able to stand by any more while this crisis continues.

Take a minute and let the reality sink in. Is this type of cruelty and evil acceptable? How can we allow this to continue?

It’s time for this insanity to stop. How many more need to suffer and die before we cry out with our loudest voice . . . ENOUGH.

Your gift of any amount will go directly towards saving the lives of these helpless refugees. Don’t wait—please give today. We have to stop the suffering . . . and we have to do it now.

Help Syrian Refugees | World Help


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