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Exodus from Syria

27th Mar 2012

Since the conflict erupted in Syria, tens of thousands of refugees have fled over the borders to neighbouring countries. According to the UN, there are more than 16,000 refugees in Lebanon, while in Jordan more than 6,000 have registered with UNHCR, with a further 2,500 awaiting registration. Here Oxfam staff relay stories from people who have sought refuge in Lebanon and Jordan - some have lost loved ones, others have been terribly injured and almost all have been traumatised by the horrors they've witnessed.

Oxfam has launched a petition calling on the UN Security Council to condemn the violence with one voice, push for unimpeded access for humanitarian aid and to ensure that arms that could fuel further human rights abuses are not supplied.

Fatima's story

"The situation back home is terrible. There's no food. Those who stayed behind have to break into abandoned houses to find food. Nothing gets into Hama - no food, no water, and no medicine. Those who got out are safe, but those still inside... God knows what will happen to them.

"I left Hama two months ago due to the shelling and killing. Houses were being destroyed, and there were random arrests and shootings. It wasn't even safe to stay at home. It was unbearable so we decided to leave. Once the heavy fighting started, whoever could leave got out however they could. We left our family and relatives behind in Syria.

"It's become crowded here [in Northern Lebanon] because of people coming out of Syria and there are no more houses to rent. We are five families living in two rooms. There is no kitchen and we cook in one of the rooms. We do our washing on the roof and take showers at our neighbours' houses. We knock on their doors and make friends just to take showers.

"There's no work here. We were well off in Syria - there were houses and shops but the regime's destroyed it all. It's all gone. Due to shelling, and fighting all the buildings have been looted. There's nothing left but the walls.

"We're ok here thanks to god. We depend on the assistance that's being distributed as there's no work, or very little. When the men work it's in construction. But construction needs dry weather, and now it rains a lot.

"My husband is sick. He's in depression from what he's seen - the killing and the wounded. He can't control himself, he's depressed and as if he's lost his mind from everything we've seen. He's been like this for almost a year since all the violence began. If we went out to get food we'd be killed by snipers, and if we didn't we'd die of hunger. Both ways we'd die."

Ishtar's story

"In Syria, we owned an olive farm and were considered middle class but now we're totally poor. We came here by bus a few months ago with only a few belongings. My husband stayed behind in Homs, and I'm very worried as I haven't heard from him in over two months. It was a very sad feeling leaving my parents behind, and I feel sick with worry about my mother who is still in Syria - there are no phone lines or communication.

"I came here to escape death. I'm very happy to be in Jordan - at least here there are no sounds of war or bombs dropping. When we arrived, we knocked on doors until we found this house. I'm living with my husband's first wife which is very difficult. Back in Syria, we were living in separate houses but now we have no choice but to live together. I'm coping by remaining silent.

"The situation is unbearable here. There are eight children living in this house and we all have to sleep in one room as there is only one heater for two families. It's impossible to sleep because the children are crying and slamming doors all night.

"I'm worried that I won't be able to support my twin babies in the future. It's my daughter's first birthday next week and I wish I could buy her a toy but I can't afford one. I can't even afford nappies for my babies and have to use old clothes. My priority is milk and due to money, I have to reduce the amount of milk which I give to my children. I used to give them milk four times per day but now I only feed them once and give them rice instead. They used to look happy and well but now there appearance seems to have changed, and I think it's affecting them.

"One day I hope I can return to Syria."

*Names have been changed for security reasons