Iraq

Secondary education critical so Syrian youth won't feel lost, stresses UNICEF Iraq's Maulid Warfa

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Iraq/2013/von Groote
Maulid Warfa with children in Baherka refugee camp, northern Iraq. “Being a refugee is one of the most dehumanizing things anyone can experience,” he says. “You reach the point where you don’t care about anything at all.”

By Chris Niles

UNICEF’s Maulid Warfa inspects the refugee camps of Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, with empathy, and with concern about the lack of secondary education.

ERBIL, Iraq, 16 October 2013 – Visiting a refugee camp is a very personal experience for Maulid Warfa.

“It’s like going back in time,” he says.

UNICEF Iraq’s South Zone Chief is based in Basra, but he’s come north to help with the influx of more than 61,000 refugees who have arrived from the Syrian Arab Republic since the middle of August.

When Maulid was 7, his family were forced to leave Ethiopia and become refugees in Somalia. The experience has shaped his life.

“Being a refugee is one of the most dehumanizing things anyone can experience,” he says. “You lose your privacy, your life, your dignity. You feel like a nobody. You reach the point where you don’t care about anything at all.”

One Saturday, a day during which he could reasonably be expected to take time off, finds Maulid in Baherka refugee camp. He spends hours talking with families about their concerns, grateful that he’s able to help simply by listening.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Iraq/2013/von Groote
Refugees in Baherka camp. Mr. Warfa is concerned about the lack of secondary schooling in the camps in Erbil. UNICEF has established schools for children in Grades 1 through 9, but there is little for older children.

“I feel their pain,” he says. “I relate their story to mine. I see their emotions, and I’m really touched by what they’re going through.”

It took a long time for Maulid to overcome the stigma he attached to being a refugee, but he came to see his experiences in a positive light. “It made me strong, knowing what a really hard life is. My life got better because I had nothing to lose.”

Inspecting the camps in Erbil, Maulid is concerned about the lack of secondary schooling. UNICEF has established schools for Grades 1 through 9, but there is little for older children.

UNICEF has warned of a ‘lost generation’ if more is not done to support all the needs of Syrian children. Maulid uses Somali pirates as an example of what happens when children grow up and feel they have no option but crime.

“There’s an urgent need for secondary schools and vocational training. We need to engage young people so they don’t feel lost. If we don’t, this will be a big problem,” he says.


 

 

UNICEF Photography: Syrian crisis

New enhanced search