Fernande is a freelance journalist based in Beirut, Lebanon. She iscurrently a correspondent for de Groene Amsterdammer (NL) and workedfor Baladna English in Syria in 2010. Fernande recently graduated withdistinction from King's College, London with an MA in War Studies. Shepreviously completed both a BA in Political Science and in Arabic atthe University of Amsterdam.
Killian Kleinschmidt has seen a lot of refugee crises, but nowhere have refugees been as tricky to handle as here. “I have to be more bossy here than anywhere else in the world,” he says from his office, which is a caravan in the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) compound of Zaatari camp.
In a recent report to the Human Rights Council, the UN Commission of Inquiry found that “there are reasonable grounds to believe” chemical weapons have been used in a limited way in at least four attacks since the Syrian civil war began in March of 2011. However, the council said it needed “more evidence,” including tests of samples taken directly from victims or at the sites of the alleged attacks.
In early April, two trucks belonging to the World Food Programme (WFP) were hijacked en route to Aleppo. It was but the latest in a string of incidents primarily involving rebel forces that have challenged the ability of UN organizations to provide aid and health care to those Syrians who need it most.
"There is very little food, we share everything we have," says 16-year-old Zeinab al-Musta, wise beyond her years. Having fled Homs with her family over three months ago, she spends her days "working in the house"-- as she now calls the feeble tent pitched in a parking lot in Lebanon's northern Wadi Khaled area.
“There is no comparison to this life and our life in Syria,” says Bilal, 42, shivering. “We live with seven people in one room where we don’t see the sun, the rain drips through the roof, and we feel the humidity.” Bilal and his family fled the outskirts of Yarmouk camp last November with one suitcase each, after being stuck in the middle of rebel and regime forces.
Sixteen year-old Rasha had dreamt of being a doctor. Now she spends her days in a tent provided by The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), awaiting news that food has arrived in the Zaatari camp, located in a swath of desert on Jordan’s northern border with Syria.
“It is what it is,” says 49-year-old Khaled Nahar. “People have been trying to help.” Khaled, his two wives, and their seven children fled their house in Homs when it was being shelled seven months ago. They used to be an affluent family, living in a four-story house. Now they live in a single room of a half-constructed house in Aarsal, a Lebanese town near the Syrian border. They share a kitchen with six other families and have no plumbing.
When the Syrian Army bombed Nahla’s home in Aleppo last month, she fled for her life with her five children, across the border to Lebanon. She now lives in Shatila, a suburb of Beirut, in a sparely furnished apartment; mattresses are her only possession. Receiving no aid from any agencies, and surviving off her husband’s $500 salary he earns as a chauffeur, she is just one of Syria’s 170,000 refugees.
The international community took a new stab at solving the Syrian crisis on Saturday by agreeing to guidelines for the political transition mentioned in Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s Six Point Plan. The outcome elicited a host of reactions from those it is supposed to guide, as well as UN actors. Few seem confident that talking will end the bloodshed.
Syria and the world were shocked by news of a massacre in Houla, the largest scale violence since the UN deployed 300 monitors to the country. The monitors were sent to observe the implementation of UN-Arab League Joint Envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point plan, but so far their deployment has failed to stem the violence.