Growing Up As A Refugee: What Is Life Like?

Mohamed Malim

growing up as a refugee


The world today is littered with conflict. Every single day there are people who are forced to make life changing decisions to either stay in the country they were born and raised in, risking continued persecution or conflict, or leave everything they’ve ever known behind in the hope of a better future. 

Around the world there are over 26 million refugees who have made the dangerous choice to leave and seek safety in another country or region. This is the largest number of displaced people since World War II.

Where Are Refugee Crises Happening?

One of the largest refugee crises can be traced back to World War II, which caused the displacement of 40 million people. Today the number of displaced people around the world has grown to be almost 80 million people. This has been an ongoing worldwide crisis that often only receives media attention when a new conflict or crisis occurs, even though few of the former crises have been resolved. The average number of years a refugee spends in a camp is 17 years. 

Here are just a few of the countries who have been experiencing high levels of internal displacement and refugee crisis situations:

  • Syria - 9 years since their internal conflict began over 13.2 million individuals have been displaced.
  • Afghanistan - it was estimated that 1,100 people were displaced per day due to the political unrest and conflict which happened in 2017.
  • South Sudan - more than 4 million people have been forced from their home since the start of the country’s civil war in 2013.
  • Somalia - almost 30 years of conflicts has driven over 3 million people from their homes.

These refugees have settled in either planned camps or self-settled camps in areas of their own country or in neighboring countries. They are overcrowded, some of which have over double the intended capacity. As a result, resources are stretched thin. 

Unfortunately, with not enough funding to assist every individual in a refugee camp, that means there are few opportunities for education, business development, and limited access to medical care. The inability to provide these services means the likelihood of refugees leaving these camps begins to drop.

Ethiopian refugees report obstacles to reach safety



Life As A Refugee During World War II

During the beginning of the refugee crisis towards the end of World War II, those in Europe fled to seek relief in the Middle East and Egypt. Although those tented camps would look fairly similar to those seen today, the conditions have changed greatly. A refugee in World War II could expect:

  • Official Registration and camp placement with an ID card listing special skills
  • Daily food rations
  • Medical screening prior to camp entry and regularly after acceptance
  • Opportunity to use skills to work and ability to use income to purchase additional goods at local markets

Today, the sheer number of refugees has made it virtually impossible to provide this level of support. Conflicts move, droughts occur, disease runs rampant, and there is a constant influx of refugees into these camps. A lack of funding results in fewer resources for inhabitants. Education and medical care, which was once the primary care-giving focus, has been replaced with providing small portions of life-saving rations of food and makeshift shelters. 

Growing Up As A Refugee Today

The sound of a child’s laughter is heartwarming. Their innocent view of the world is something to be admired, they don’t pass judgement, and aren’t subjected to life’s constant stressors. Unfortunately this idea of childhood only represents a fraction of the children around the world.  

Children in many American households have typical responsibilities such as performing household chores, going to school, cleaning their plates after a meal and completing their bedtime routine. Their recreation time is spent, playing with children their own age, participating in organized sports and many other extracurricular activities.  

However, children in refugee camps are not able to experience this version of childhood. In fact, of all of those who are a part of refugee camps and caravans, they are oftentimes the most vulnerable group of individuals. Children are usually the first to suffer from malnutrition and illness, and once they’re uprooted from their homes they often do not receive any type of formal education. They spend their day performing daily tasks, hauling water, and other basic duties. Only 50 percent of children are in a camp with access to some form of education. If a child has lost one or both of their parents, often they are the ones to fill in and take on those adult responsibilities.

UNHCR ramps up support to Iraqi returnees



What Can We Do To Help Refugees In Need?

Here are just a few ways that you can offer assistance to refugees in need:

  • Through sponsorship
  • Donating to reputable non profit organizations
  • Donating school supplies and learning materials
  • Volunteering your time to help advocate for better refugee camp conditions

Refugees have the unique ability to overcome their environments when given the tools and opportunity to do so. One of the simplest ways to support all refugees, is spending money on goods provided by companies who actively support refugee causes. 

Epimonia is a great example of a company who does this. Not only does our organization donate 50 percent of their profits to help displaced refugees, but we involve refugees in the design and manufacturing of their products. 

If you’re looking to support refugees and provide them with meaningful jobs, check out our full line of products available. From our popular embracelets, to our entire collection of apparel, accessories and more!

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