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A Syrian mother sheltering in Iraqi Kurdistan wants just two things for her young daughters - peace, and to return home

© UNICEF Iraq/2013/Niles
(Centre) Shereen holds her children – Yasmine, 2, and 7-month-old Ayenda – in their tent in the Kawergosk refugee camp, Iraqi Kurdistan. Shereen’s sister, seated nearby, and her family made the long journey with them.

By Chris Niles

Shereen and her two young daughters are sheltering at Kawergosk refugee camp in Kurdistan Region of Iraq. One day, she hopes, her children will enjoy peace, and their home in the Syrian Arab Republic.

ERBIL, Iraq, 9 October 2013 – Shereen’s younger child is named Ayenda, which, she says, means ‘future’.

She is worried about Ayenda, who is 7 months old and has diarrhoea. Two trips to a clinic in Kawergosk refugee camp have not cured the baby. 

Shereen, 25, her other daughter, Yasmine, 2, Ayenda, Shereen’s sister Mizgen, and Mizgen’s husband and their four children were among the first to cross the border from the Syrian Arab Republic when it opened in mid-August. Home is now a small tent in Kawergosk. There’s carpet on the floor, and an air cooler works hard to ensure the children are not overheated.

“It’s very, very different to be here,” Shereen says. “It’s not my own world. I had to leave that.”

She says the conflict came close to her family in the Syrian Arab Republic, and they began to run out of food. When the opportunity to come to Iraqi Kurdistan arose, they took it. Like tens of thousands of others, they walked hours to the border and arrived with only what they could carry.

© UNICEF Iraq/2013/Niles
Shereen is worried about Ayenda, who continues to suffer from diarrhoea despite two trips to a health clinic in the camp. “It’s very, very different to be here,” Shereen says. “It’s not my own world. I had to leave that.”

The family is among the 61,000 refugees who have come into Iraqi Kurdistan since the border was opened in the middle of August.

Kawergosk is one of several camps that have been built in response. It’s a temporary establishment, and it was home to about 12,240 people, as of 12 September.  UNICEF is working with partners to tanker in 500,000 litres of fresh water daily and support a Médecins Sans Frontières clinic that opened this week and immediately began treating children like Ayenda.

With the Norwegian Refugee Council, it’s promoting hygiene so that families can keep themselves healthy, despite high temperatures and shared sanitary facilities.

Having family around helps ease Shereen’s burden, but she longs for the comforts of her old life. “The most important thing is to have a proper house,” she says.

But despite the difficulties, she is glad that her children are now safe from conflict. When asked what she wants for the future, she lists two things – peace, and to go home.

“But I’m wishing all of this for my children, not for me,” she says. 



UNICEF Photography: Syrian crisis

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