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Refugees Magazine Issue 95 (The international year of the family) - My family

Refugees Magazine, 1 March 1994

Excerpts from essays written especially for the International Year of the Family by refugee children in Ghana.

A caring family can mean everything to a refugee child, for it is often all he or she has left in the world. The following excerpts are from essays written by refugee children in Ghana especially for the International Year of the Family.

"I, Emile Delano Cooper, am dedicating this essay to the loving memory of all the innocent boys and girls who have died or continue to suffer in one form or the other as a result of the senseless Liberian civil war, which seems to be endless.

"By African standards, my family is not a very large one. It is composed of six persons. My father, my mother, a brother, two sisters and myself. I am the third child in the family. "Presently we are refugees in Ghana. REFUGEE, a word I never dreamed I would ever be called by! This proves that no one knows what the future has in store ...

"Since the war began, we have had many hard times. We have gone from sleeping in a decent home with warm beds and drinking cold water from the ice-box, to sleeping on the ground in the open air with mosquitoes feasting on our blood and drinking unsafe water which causes us to get ill often.

"Living as refugees is a painful pleasure. Painful because we have to work very hard sometimes and we depend on food rations from the United Nations and contributions from relatives and friends to keep us alive. A pleasure because we have learned the dignity of working with our hands. I could never have imagined myself working in a garden as a means of getting additional food. Now I am proudly doing it."

Emile Delano Cooper,
14, Liberian refugee in Ghana

"My family; it's father, mother, the children and ... grandfather and grandmother, who live with us, too. They are old, both of them. Their faces are wrinkled, their hair is white and they lost almost all their teeth. But they are still in good shape. My grandmother is skinny, but she has remained beautiful, with her keen eye and her smile which illuminates her face. She is always ready to defend her grandchildren ... "

Kayi Da Silveira,
15, Togolese refugee in Ghana

"I am the seventh child for my parents and I am the only child who lives away from them. I used to live in the capital city of Liberia with one of my older sisters to attend school.

"In 1990, when the war started, my sister said she was going to our parents' so she left me with one of her friends, Felicia Toe. But when this friend went to Ghana, she brought me along with her.

"I have written so many letters to my family. I don't think they get these letters because there is no reply. In 1994, I will try to find my family because I am missing them too bad.

"Sometimes I cry for my parents, when I see some girls or boys walking with their parents. I can feel that I don't have anybody in this world. I sometimes miss my mother when I am ill or hungry. I miss my father when I am ill or when I need someone to tell me stories. And I miss my sister and brother when I need someone to make fun."

Beatrice L. Kollie,
17, Liberian refugee in Ghana

"My family comprises my father, mother, two sisters, my little brother and my grandmother. My mother was very dedicated, and one thing I admired was that she cared for every human she was everybody's mother. She never encouraged her children to do wrong.

"My mother was 22 when she married my daddy in 1957.... My father cared for each and every one of his children.

"During the heat of the war, the little food we had was taken away from us by some hard-hearted rebels. We were compelled to go up to the interior to farm.

"On our way to Klay we fell into a rebel ambush. A bullet caught my oldest sister and she fell and died. The little one was caught and raped and died.

"My dear friends, the only family and help I have now is UNHCR.... The rest of my family was killed by rebel forces.

"I was not pleased to leave my country, coming out to a foreign land (Ghana) where I don't have anyone to take care of me.... I cry nearly every night. I worry all day and all night about this kind of ridiculous life."

Julius Seitua,
17, Liberian refugee in Ghana

"My large family never had much money. We cultivated a small garden. We ate once a day, except our younger brother who ate twice.

"On Saturdays, boys went to the fields or helped around the house. Girls helped their mothers to cook or to draw water. In our family, when we get up, we greet each other and then we greet our parents.

"Our united family is now scattered like bird feathers. We arrived in Ghana with our little money. Today we are refugees. As refugees are given food, we eat twice. Our family is so poor that we do not even have shoes to wear."

Hoinso Koffi Mawuli,
9, Togolese refugee in Ghana

"My father's name is Kuevi Simon. He is 54 years old. He's retired. My mum is called Amoussou Marie, 53 years old. She is a teacher. I have a brother and a sister.

"When the strike started, we were suddenly separated. I came to Keta. My mother and my sister went to Benin and my father stayed alone in Lomé with his dog. It is the first time it happens to us. Before, I would see and hear about separation of families and about conditions of life for refugees in the media. But I never thought it could happen to us one day in Togo.

"The day of our separation was so sad. I even cried. It was a Saturday in December when I arrived in Keta. I felt so lonely. I thought of my family a lot. On 25 December, I did not get a present from Santa Claus."

Kokoe Diane Kuevi,
12, Togolese refugee in Ghana

Source: Refugees Magazine Issue 95 (1994)




UNHCR country pages


Almost half the people of concern to UNHCR are children. They need special care.

Refworld – Children

Refworld – Children

This Special Feature on Child Protection is a comprehensive source of relevant legal and policy documents, practical tools and links to related websites.

Iraqi Children Go To School in Syria

UNHCR aims to help 25,000 refugee children go to school in Syria by providing financial assistance to families and donating school uniforms and supplies.

There are some 1.4 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria, most having fled the extreme sectarian violence sparked by the bombing of the Golden Mosque of Samarra in 2006.

Many Iraqi refugee parents regard education as a top priority, equal in importance to security. While in Iraq, violence and displacement made it difficult for refugee children to attend school with any regularity and many fell behind. Although education is free in Syria, fees associated with uniforms, supplies and transportation make attending school impossible. And far too many refugee children have to work to support their families instead of attending school.

To encourage poor Iraqi families to register their children, UNHCR plans to provide financial assistance to at least 25,000 school-age children, and to provide uniforms, books and school supplies to Iraqi refugees registered with UNHCR. The agency will also advise refugees of their right to send their children to school, and will support NGO programmes for working children.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Iraqi Children Go To School in Syria

The Children of Harmanli Face a Bleak Winter

Since the Syrian crisis began in March 2011, more than 2 million people have fled the violence. Many have made their way to European Union countries, finding sanctuary in places like Germany and Sweden. Others are venturing into Europe by way of Bulgaria, where the authorities struggle to accommodate and care for some 8,000 asylum-seekers, many of whom are Syrian. More than 1,000 of these desperate people, including 300 children, languish in an overcrowded camp in the town of Harmanli, 50 kilometres from the Turkish-Bulgarian border. These people crossed the border in the hope of starting a new life in Europe. Some have travelled in family groups; many have come alone with dreams of reuniting in Europe with loved ones; and still others are unaccompanied children. The sheer number of people in Harmanli is taxing the ability of officials to process them, let alone shelter and feed them. This photo essay explores the daily challenges of life in Harmanli.

The Children of Harmanli Face a Bleak Winter

Erbil's Children: Syrian Refugees in Urban Iraq

Some of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees are children who have sought shelter in urban areas with their families. Unlike those in camps, refugees living in towns and cities in countries like Iraq, Turkey and Jordan often find it difficult to gain access to aid and protection. In a refugee camp, it is easier for humanitarian aid organizations such as UNHCR to provide shelter and regular assistance, including food, health care and education. Finding refugees in urban areas, let alone helping them, is no easy task.

In Iraq, about 100,000 of the 143,000 Syrian refugees are believed to be living in urban areas - some 40 per cent of them are children aged under 18 years. The following photographs, taken in the northern city of Erbil by Brian Sokol, give a glimpse into the lives of some of these young urban refugees. They show the harshness of daily life as well as the resilience, adaptability and spirit of young people whose lives have been overturned in the past two years.

Life is difficult in Erbil, capital of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The cost of living is high and it is difficult to find work. The refugees must also spend a large part of their limited resources on rent. UNHCR and its partners, including the Kurdish Regional Government, struggle to help the needy.

Erbil's Children: Syrian Refugees in Urban Iraq

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Play video

Greece: The Refugees' Grandmother in Idomeni

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Greece: Health risk to refugee children in IdomeniPlay video

Greece: Health risk to refugee children in Idomeni

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Syria: Homs war children find home in abandoned hotelPlay video

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