Syrian refugee narratives: "Living in a refugee camp is like having to die very slowly"

Younes, a 5 month old baby from Dara’a, with his mother at MSF’s inpatient department in Zaatari camp. Enass Abu Khalaf-Tuffaha/MSFYounes, a 5 month old baby from Dara’a, with his mother at MSF’s inpatient department in Zaatari camp. He arrived at Zaatari camp with his family in February 2013, and was admitted to MSF’s hospital on 10 May suffering from gastroenteritis

Younes is a five month old baby from Dara’a, Syria. He arrived at Zaatari camp in February, 2013, with his mother, father and other 7 siblings.

Younis’ mother, Im Younis, brought her son to the MSF paediatrics hospital inside the camp on 10 May 2013. He was diagnosed with gastroenteritis and had to be hospitalised for treatment. Im Younes was so concerned about the health of her son and at the same time worried about her other children who were left in the tent.

“Living in a refugee camp is like having to die very slowly. Yes, you are alive but the life you live is so far from the minimum level of good living conditions! I used to be a school teacher in the village where we lived and our life was a decent one. Look at me and my family now!

“Younes fell ill the day we arrived at the camp due to the cold weather. Now it’s getting hot and he has problems in his stomach. Whether it is cold or hot his suffering continues! I try to be grateful and thank God that such a hospital providing good care for sick children exists inside the camp. Otherwise, I don’t know what would have happened to my child.

“Although I am at the hospital, my thoughts are with my other four girls and three sons who I have left in our tent. Their father was severely injured last year during an airstrike. His leg had to be amputated above the knee and now he needs a caretaker all the time. My oldest son who is 25 years old refused to come to Zaatari camp and crossed the border to Lebanon. I haven’t heard from him in a while.

“We have some family members in Amman. They advised us to go there and rent an apartment but it’s too expensive and we can’t afford it just yet. I’m willing to do anything, clean houses and cook food for other families, anything to get us out of Zaatari camp.

“In any case, I have to wait till Younes recovers and can leave hospital. The nurse told me that he is getting stronger and that we can leave the hospital by tomorrow. He’s able to smile now.”