The situation in Syrian refugee camps has taken a turn for the worse as poverty and morality is being breeched on a daily basis. Women are left without any means of meeting ends meet and have turned to selling their bodies just to survive.
As a result, babies are being born daily in Syrian refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. These overcrowded safe havens are already struggling to deal with the influx of those fleeing war, are not properly equipped to cater to any more lives and are continuously calling for aid from the international community.
Life on the inside
At the moment, prostitution is rife in Syrian refugee camps with young girls and women selling their bodies to provide for the household. Due to the stigma around prostitution in the Middle East, it has been very difficult for non-governmental organizations to document its prevalence.
These desperate measures are being taken because these women have been left with no other means of survival. There are dozens of young females of childbearing age in these camps; some have children and some are victims of sexualized violence who have fallen pregnant and are struggling to survive with no livelihood and husbands.
Camps in Jordan and Lebanon have started a growing fad of child marriage where men from across the Middle East head down to the makeshift camps to pick up young brides. Preying on young Syrian women is easy, given, neither she nor her family is in a position to negotiate or refuse.
A heavy burden hangs over these mothers’ heads as they worry about giving birth in indefinite exile and bringing their children up in camps that lack basic services. Most of the time, these refugees do not have access to clean water, are having to ration food and money in their pocket seems to be out of the question.
Asmaa Donahue, an advisor with the International Rescue Committee, has described certain challenges facing these women and children who fled Syria and arrived in neighboring countries.
“Many are struggling to make ends meet, barely able to scrape together the monthly rent for overcrowded apartments, or squatting in abandoned buildings or makeshift camps. Many are not able to work legally and have no steady source of income,” she said.
This is just one spectacle that results from eternal displacement and raging poverty.
Muna Idris, the assistant representative to Jordan for the U.N. population fund, has said, “There are 10 to 13 births taking place every day in Zaatari camp alone. We are expecting that number to increase." Moreover, she has estimated that there would be 1.2 million refugees in Jordan “of that number there will be 30,000 who are pregnant," all by the end of this year alone.
One mother in Zaatari was quoted by the media as saying, “You’re born inside a refugee camp and you are registered as a refugee. That says it all. It is never the same as being born in freedom in your own country.”
Being born and raised in a refugee camp can and will leave a child traumatized, resentful and angry. Millions of these children are displaced creating a great risk of having an entire generation scarred by war. Their lives disrupted and changed because of hostility they took no part in creating. Many of these youths are now scattered in and around Syria and have witnessed unspeakable atrocities. Images they will have to live with their whole lives with only hope to hold onto for a better future.
These young Syrians have been exposed to a wide range of violence and providing food and shelter - although a necessary component for survival - is not enough to ease the trauma and pain they have experienced. It is known that the cycle of war is violence, displacement, resentment, aggression and then, inevitably, more violence.
Examples of this can be seen across the global spectrum from Iraq and Afghanistan to the Congo and Rwanda.
The international community and the western world have the means and the moral responsibility to make a move on this refugee crisis. The issue, of course, can be ignored or passed off as a regional conflict. But, instead of brushing it under the carpet, they could gather the courage to stand by these suffering Syrian people. Take a meaningful position towards peace and break the cycle of displacement and violence, which is a result of a patriarchal government that decided to go to war.
Sophie Ghaziri is a Shift Editor at Al Arabiya English. She has previously worked as a producer, presenter and a writer at the BBC, Al Jazeera and she was Head of English at Future News in Lebanon for 2 years. She can be followed on Twitter on: @sophieghaziri