Europe is not the only destination for Syrian refugees. Many families fleeing the war in Syria have sought sanctuary in Egypt.
Plan International is providing assistance to refugee families in Egypt, particularly children. It is supporting local community centres providing a safe space for children to play and for families to talk about their harrowing experience, so they can start to move forward with their lives. We are also helping children to go back to school and supporting Syrian families with fees and other school materials for their children.
Syrian refugee Nour and her children arrive at a community centre, run by NGO Ansan and Plan International, in Greater Cairo. Her oldest son Moutaz, 10, carries a small bag with one of his prized possessions, a pair of sunglasses. Nour and her children spend a lot of time at the centre. She thinks of the other Syrian mothers as her sisters as they have formed a strong emotional bond.
The hallways of the centre are decorated with colourful signs and ornaments. The centre serves as a second home for many Syrian families, as their children can play freely and safely here.
Nour’s* three children (from left, Moutaz; 10; Mouaiad, 4; Omar, 8, and) are slowly recovering from the trauma they endured during the war in Syria. In the first year, they kept asking their mother, "Why did this happen to us? When can we return to our friends and our toys? Will we ever see them again?" Even now,her children are terrified of loud noises, fireworks and even knocks on the door.
Mouaiad really enjoys playing with his brothers on the centre’s swing. The community centre is one of the few places where he is able to relax with his family and feel safe and comfortable.
Moutaz, Omar and Mouaiad play on the swing together with a friend. Their mother, Nour, is grateful that Egypt has accepted so many refugees. However, life as refugees remains challenging. Their family has great financial needs and they cannot afford basic necessities such as school expenses, medication or clothing for their children.
Mouaiad has flourished since attending the community centre and he is very happy to make new friends and play with them.
Along with childcare services, the community centre also supports groups for mothers where women can discuss any problems they face integrating into Egyptian society. Hasnaa** attends the women’s group at the centre. Her three children are still recovering from the trauma of conflict. When she drops them off at school, they ask her in a panic if she will still be there when the school day is over. Like many women, Hasnaa is afraid to show her face, she does not want to cause harm to her family still in Syria. She is also afraid that with all the recent attention Syrian refugees are getting in Europe, resources for refugees in Arab countries such as Egypt will decline.
Plan International is working with local organisations in Egypt, supporting Syrian refugee children and their families in Greater Cairo, Alexandria and Damietta, helping children to go back to school. With most public schools running out of space and necessary amenities, Plan International is assisting 40 public schools in improving their facilities by refurnishing and repairing their infrastructure. This will benefit nearly 60,000 Syrian and Egyptian children over the next two years.
* Many women in Egypt are afraid to show their face, so they have been photographed from behind, as they do not want to cause harm to their family still in Syria.
**Name has been changed.