Aminna Syed, Senior Programs Officer for Islamic Relief Canada, reflects on her recent trip to Jordan and Lebanon.

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This month, I had the privilege of embarking on a journey to visit Islamic Relief Canada projects in Jordan and Lebanon. In these particular regions, our work focuses on Syrian refugees, Palestinian refugees, and vulnerable Lebanese and Jordanian host communities who have been affected by the Syrian conflict.

It was really upsetting to see their living conditions. The lack of adequate political and humanitarian response by the international community was disappointing. In Lebanon, people were living in makeshift shelters that were extremely crowded and very unclean.

Syrian refugee children playing with cement outside of a semi-constructed university that was converted into a shelter. The shelter houses over 350 families.
Syrian refugee children playing with cement and rocks outside of a semi-constructed university that was converted into a shelter. This shelter houses over 350 families.

In Jordan, though the situation was a bit better, the rent prices for Syrian refugees was almost double compared to the prices given to Jordanian families. This left disadvantaged refugees in an even poorer economic situation — one that they had to face after already facing the turmoil of fleeing their homes in Syria.

While the host communities for the two countries were welcoming for the most part, there was still tension that left the refugees disadvantaged solely because they had no nationality. For the Palestinians, it was also very difficult as they had been living in the countries for a very long period of time and were still not recognized as full citizens of the country. While the Syrians are eagerly awaiting for the conflict to finish so they can return home, the Palestinians living in these countries have no place to return to.

A slum inside of a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan. The Palestinian families living in these slums were 2nd generation Palestinains. Unlike syrian refugees, Palestinian refugees have no place to go back to — which doesn't give them the hope of leaving.
A slum inside of a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan. The Palestinian families living in these slums were second generation Palestinians. Unlike other refugees in the country, Palestinian refugees have no place to go back to — which doesn’t give them the hope of leaving anytime soon.

The most troubling part of their living conditions was the state of their mental health — the toll trauma, depression, and anxiety had taken on them was evident. It was heartbreakingly common to see a blank expression on the faces of widows who lost their husbands, or on the faces of mothers who had lost their children. While it is possible for their living conditions to improve, it is very difficult to heal all the trauma they are suffering from. It was not rare to find someone who could no longer speak due to witnessing the death of a loved one.

I pray that we gain the strength to change these terrible tragedies for the better. For now, the most we can do is play our part in making a difference — even if it is a small step forward.