In this drawing she made on her portrait in June 2019, 13-year-old Fatima*, a Rohingya refugee in Bangladesh, describes traumas she has faced as well as her dreams for the future. *Name has been changed. Photo Credit: Save the Children 2019.

In this drawing she made on her portrait in June 2019, 13-year-old Fatima*, a Rohingya refugee in Bangladesh, describes traumas she has faced as well as her dreams for the future. *Name has been changed. Photo Credit: Save the Children

Child Refugees Across the World Draw their Hopes and Horrors

  • Some 35 million children have been driven from their homes by conflict, danger or persecution – the highest number on record
  • One in five children—420 million globally—live in a conflict-affected area
  • Child refugees from the world’s worst conflicts draw their fears and dreams

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (June 20, 2019)—To mark World Refugee Day, Save the Children is releasing a powerful series of Polaroid images from children living in three of the largest refugee settlements in the world.

Conflict has driven millions of children from their home countries of Syria, Myanmar, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, forcing them to rebuild their lives in entirely new surroundings. Despite the horrors they’ve endured and the challenges they face, their optimism for their futures remains.

Save the Children ran a series of workshops with child refugees living in Jordan, Bangladesh, and Uganda, and captured the children’s portraits with Polaroid cameras. The children were then invited to draw their hopes and dreams for the future on the images.

The resulting drawings show not only loss and sadness, but also the resilience and determination of the children. They describe the trauma of losing loved ones and having to flee their homes because of fighting, as well as what they want to be when they grow up—from doctors to soccer players to teachers.

Beaufret*,14, drew the horrors he witnessed in the Democratic Republic of Congo before he and his family fled to Uganda. “Here is my house. Here is the person who cut my father. Here are the others, already dead. We are jumping over them while we are running. You can see the blood when they are dead...”

Despite his tragedies, Beaufret’s* other photos reflect his tenacity and hope for his future. “Here I am standing and the local doctors when we are helping people. Here we are finished now in the hospital, we are now playing football."

Hasina*, 13, is a Rohinyga refugee girl living with her parents and four siblings in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. She likes to make flowers and learn handicrafts, and her favourite subject is Burmese because it reminds her of home. “I was afraid of ghosts when I first came to the camp because they make the people senseless and sometimes crazy. Ghosts are what dead people become,” she said. “I want to be a tailor when I am older and to make my own clothes and I can use the money I make [tailoring] to get treatment if I became ill and to help my family.”

Omar*, 15, is from Dara’a, Syria and his lived half his life in Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan. He says he was very happy in Syria but his family had to leave because they were close to a lot of death and their house was destroyed. “I have drawn a doctor because this is what I want to be–I want to build a hospital and call it Syria,” he said. “My dad hopes I will become a doctor. I also want to be a footballer–here you can see my fans chanting my name. I also want to help all the refugees in the future. Like provide aid for them and help them access education because I’m a refugee too.”

The world is currently experiencing the highest levels of forcible displacement on record. Every two seconds a new person becomes displaced, and children are disproportionally affected by the crisis. The latest statistics show an unprecedented 70.8 million people around the world–more than the population of the United Kingdom–have been forced from their homes as a result of conflict or persecution, including around 35 million children.

Renewed crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Myanmar, along with the ongoing conflict in Syria, have fuelled the overall rise in the displaced and refugee population. People from these three countries account for the highest number of refugees globally, including 5.44 million Syrians, 900,000 Rohingya, and 850,000 Congolese. These numbers do not include those that have been forcibly displaced within their own country.

Save the Children helps child refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, and Myanmar through the provision of food rations, psychosocial support, education programs, child-friendly spaces, and health centers. 

Syria–Za’atari Refugee Camp, Jordan

  • Syria’s 8-year conflict has resulted in 6.2 million internally displaced and 5.44 million refugees.
  • Most refugees have sought safety in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon.
  • More than 650,000 Syrians have registered as refugees in Jordan. Around half of them are children.
  • Less than half of Syrian refugee children in Jordan are in education.
  • Girls are at risk of early or forced marriage as a result of poverty and the fear of sexual violence.

Myanmar–Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

  • Renewed violence against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar in August 2017 resulted in a wave of more than 740,000 people crossing into neighboring Bangladesh.
  • There are nearly 1 million Rohyinga refugees, and the vast majority have found refuge in Cox’s Bazar, home to the largest refugee settlement in the world.
  • As of April 2019, 902,000 Rohingya refugees live in 35 congested camps in Cox’s Bazar, and more than 55 percent—or nearly 500,000—are children.
  • Twenty-three percent of Rohingya refugee children in Bangladesh aged three to 14 have no access to regular learning opportunities.
  • Only seven in 100 children and youth aged 15-24 have access to education.

Democratic Republic of Congo–Kyaka Refugee Camp, Uganda

  • After decades of ongoing violence, an estimated 4.5 million people are internally displaced within the Democratic Republic of Congo. Nearly 850,000 people from the Democratic Republic of Congo are refugees.
  • In 2018, 120,000 Congolese refugees fled to Uganda, and more continue to arrive. Uganda is already hosting the most refugees in Africa–more than 1.25 million. More than half are out of school.
  • Militias routinely abduct, recruit, and abuse children—both boys and girls. Children are killed and made to commit atrocities on the battlefield, forced into sexual slavery, and exploited. 
  • 2017 saw the highest level of verified child casualties on record, and the highest level of recruitment of child soldiers for nearly a decade. 

*Name has been changed

Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. Since our founding more than 100 years ago, we’ve changed the lives of more than 1 billion children. In the United States and around the world, we give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We do whatever it takes for children – every day and in times of crisis – transforming their lives and the future we share. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.


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