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People of Cyprus bring relief - and fun - to Za'atari refugee camp, Jordan

By Toby Fricker

A new playground in Za’atari refugee camp provides much-needed relief for Syrian refugee children.

ZA’ATARI, Jordan, 22 April 2013 – There’s excitement in the air – hundreds of children are waiting for the official opening of Za’atari refugee camp’s fifth playground.

UNICEF correspondent Toby Fricker reports on the arrival of a new playground for children in the Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan.  Watch in RealPlayer


Key part of recovery

The camp is now home to more than 100,000 Syrians. Half of them are children.

Providing opportunities for play is a key part of the recovery process for children who have experienced conflict and displacement.

“Children need to be children. They need to be doing things that are normal for children – and play is normal,” says UNICEF Child Protection Specialist Jane MacPhail.
A rush for the swings and slides means that, for at least a brief time, the children can forget the horrors they have been through and the uncertain future ahead.

“The duty of everybody”

Construction of the new playground was managed by UNICEF, working together with Mercy Corps, and with financial support from Cyprus.

© UNICEF video
Providing opportunities for play is a key part of the recovery process for children who have experienced conflict and displacement. Here, a girl plays at the new playground at Za'atari camp. Financial support for its construction was provided by Cyprus.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Cypriot Ambassador to Jordan Charalambos Hadjisavvas highlighted why, despite his country’s tough financial situation, it’s critical to support the Syrian refugees.

“We still have, in Cyprus, people who are refugees,” he said. “We can understand how children might feel right now. They don’t know when they go back home what they are going to find. So, I believe it is the duty of everybody to help and to make a contribution.”
UNICEF Representative in Jordan Dominique Hyde reiterated the importance of simple facilities like playgrounds for children in the camp. “One of the most important things is for children to have the right to play and to enjoy life again – and this is, at least, a start towards that.”

Coming together

Ms. Hyde also highlighted how countries such as Cyprus, Greece and Spain, which are currently experiencing difficult economic times, are still providing support to the refugees.

“The generosity of the people of these countries to pay for a playground like this and for schooling – you are really understanding that the humanitarian community is coming together to help the Syrian refugees.”

Despite such generous support, just 21 per cent of the required funding has been raised for UNICEF’s global intervention in Jordan. Sustaining current levels of emergency assistance in education, health, child protection and water, sanitation and hygiene is a significant challenge.



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