Syrian refugees the world has all but forgotten

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Hazem Mahmoud and his family were smuggled out of Syria; first to Iraq and now to Jordan. Photo: ITV News

In the midst of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, Hazem Mahmoud is a boy the world has all but forgotten.

We found him lying in a tin hut next to his sleeping sister. Their escape from Syria had been both exhausting and miraculous.

Beneath his blanket, Hazem’s legs are pale and wasted. They are scarred by sores. One bites deeply into this thigh.

But there’s no pain. Hazem, 15, has felt nothing below his waist since a sniper’s bullet ripped through his back.

That was seven months ago, at home in Homs.

After that his family moved from safe house to safe house, dodging Syrian army checkpoints.

Finally they were smuggled out of the city; first to Iraq and now to Jordan.

Hazem’s wheelchair and a single suitcase are the family’s sole possessions.

Everything else has been discarded along the way. Even hope.

"Before the war life was sweet,’’ Hazem tells me. "Then the bombs and the shooting started. Now there are no hospitals in Syria; no one to help me.’’

The final stretch of the journey was 250 miles, at times hoist on his father’s back.

"What could I do, leave him to die?’’ the old man said.

John Ray speaks to 15-year-old Hazem Mahmoud. Credit: ITV News

But at Zaatari camp he is only one of thousands of desperate new arrivals this morning.

Only when we alert United Nations staff is an ambulance summoned.

In an overcrowded camp, medical services are simply overwhelmed.

Sometimes the wounds aren’t visible.

Ibrahim is a serious faced boy of thirteen.

He says he dreams of joining his four brothers who fight with the rebel army.

But his nightmares are more real; about the day his home was bombed and he saw his friend shot dead.

"He was just in front, it could easily have been me,’’ Ibrahim says.

There is help. Ibrahim attends a school funded by UNICEF and sees a therapist to help deal with his terrifying memories.

But all the aid agencies complain they are approaching a funding crisis as big as the camp itself.

Just one example: UNICEF provides the water for 120,000 refugees here - 300 huge tankers lumber through the gates each day.

"This is for drinking, for washing, for the toilets, and yet we are not in a position to renew the contracts to keep that water coming,’’ says Simon Ingram of UNICEF.

Many aid workers report tensions are mounting among the refugees; scuffles are common. Violent protests is no longer rare.

It doesn’t help that the huge sums promised by the international community have not been fulfilled.

"Even food hand-outs might have to be cut", says Laure Chadraoui of the World Food Programme.

"There is a lot of anger here. The assistance we provide helps hold that in. Take it away and the pressure cooker will explode" she says.

Hazem Mahmoud is taken to the Jordanian medical centre in the camp. Credit: ITV News

Before we leave the camp we find Hazem; finally taken to Jordanian medical centre in the camp. The news is not good.

The doctor tells us his spinal cord is severed.

"If we had a chance to treat when this first happened, maybe we could have helped. But it’s too late now,’’ he says.

Hazem will at least live, when so many have died.

But what kind of life among the refugees of Zaatari is hard to imagine.