Syrian refugee children face poverty and instability in Egypt


ALEXANDRIA: Syrian refugee children sheltering in Egypt are facing increasingly desperate conditions, according to a global child rights charity. Plan Ireland says stressful family environments, language barriers, lack of access to adequate educational resources and a lack of extended family and community is impacting the wellbeing of Syrian children and youth seeking refuge in the troubled African country. There are no refugee camps in Egypt and the sense of isolation amongst refugees living in disparate communities across Egypt is exacerbating the problem.


Ruairi McDermott, Country Director of Plan Egypt, said: “ What has aggravated challenges for some refugee families is that 10% of refugee households in Egypt are female-headed, due to the continuing absence of husbands and other male relatives who have left their families, including children, back in Egypt.  “The political and security deadlock in Syria does not seem to offer any hope for Syrian refugees to return to their country any time soon.  “Since access to the formal schooling system for the vulnerable children is constrained, especially for girls, physical and psychological wellbeing is severely impacted.”  


There are an estimated 333,000 registered Syrian refugees in Egypt, with 35,000 based in Alexandria, where they live in less affluent urban areas and coexist with the local Egyptian population.  The refugees are preparing for a long-term stay in the country, as the conflict in Syria shows no signs of abating.  Syrian refugees are often evicted from their rented houses due to their inability to pay rent, while many are also struggling to find and keep jobs, and gain access to health and education services.  

Faced with overcrowding, poor sanitation, poor information about the possible public social services available and a lack of school facilities, they are more and more vulnerable, says Plan.  While significant efforts are underway at governmental, UN and non-governmental levels to meet the needs of the refugees, there remain major gaps in the existing needs of children and their families.

 Children remain vulnerable to unprotected environments, exploitation and psychological distress.  Syrian refugees face severe social, economic and psychological challenges in coming to terms with a new life, including a lack of basic utilities, inadequate accommodation and lack of financial means to provide quality education to children and meet their basic needs.  “

The creation of protective environments and provision of psychosocial support are critical,” said McDermott, “as well as supporting community activities promoting social cohesion and coping, which are important to ensure the unfolding process of integration.  “The number one priority Syrian refugee families articulate today is the need to support them with income generation activities, and there are reports that Syrians receive lesser wages than the wages normal Egyptians receive in the country,” said McDermott.  “It really is imperative to look at how to help families bring in money.”

Plan Ireland, funded by Irish Aid l is working with both vulnerable Syrian and Egyptian populations to support the peaceful co-existence of the two communities. This includes a number of projects based on education, accommodation, livelihood, health and protection, food and financial assistance and registration of refugees.