What do refugees need after leaving everything behind?

Jordan, Syria, June 15, 2015

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  • Syrian refugees in Jordan have few options to support themselves, making it difficult to purchase even the most basic necessities, like food. Mercy Corps distributes essential supplies to help vulnerable families meet their basic needs. All photos: Sumaya Agha for Mercy Corps

Imagine fleeing your home with little more than the clothes on your back and what few items you can carry. You are running for your life — forced to leave your house, job, school, car, belongings and memories behind.

This is the reality for 4 million Syrians who have fled to neighboring countries for safety from the war that has ravaged their nation for more than four years.

MORE PHOTOS: We asked refugees: What did you bring with you? ▸

Once they cross the border — empty-handed and in a foreign land — how do they make do?

Below, learn about some of the essential items Mercy Corps provides to Syrian refugees living in host communities and camps in Jordan. The supplies help the most vulnerable refugee families survive and cope after losing so much.

It is illegal for Syrians to work in Jordan. Without livelihood opportunities, refugees struggle to purchase even the most basic necessities. We distribute food items like pasta, cooking oil and milk, to help them feed their families.

Cooking utensils and dishes help refugees prepare safe, nutritious meals. The tools also give Syrian families the opportunity to keep an important part of their culture alive — cooking and socializing around food.

Hygiene items like soap, toothpaste and razors are essential to helping refugees, who often live in crowded or makeshift shelters, stay clean and healthy.

Life doesn’t stop when someone becomes a refugee — people still have happy milestones like getting married or having a baby. We make sure parents have newborn supplies — bottles, blankets, diapers, formula — to care for the new addition to their family.

Children don’t stop growing, either. There is a constant need for clothing in refugee communities, especially for quickly growing youngsters.

Educational resources are limited for young Syrians in Jordan, and getting children into school can be challenging. When kids do get registered, school supplies like pencils, rulers, notebooks and backpacks are crucial to their ability to learn and succeed.

Stuffed animals are a small joy for children who have been uprooted from their homes, schools and friends — and forced to leave their toys behind.

Whether they're living in host communities or refugee camps, it's essential that refugee children have opportunities to grow, learn and continue their development. We provide books for kids to read in the Child Friendly Spaces we maintain in Zaatari camp.

We also provide soccer shoes to children who play on the sports fields in Zaatari. Safe places to play, like the Child Friendly Spaces and the camp sports fields, help refugee children heal from trauma and feel a sense of normalcy.

This work is made possible thanks to support from UNICEF, UK Aid, and Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, as well as generous donors like you.

How you can help

  • Donate today. Every single contribution helps us provide even more support to Syrian families in desperate need of help.
  • Tell your friends. Share this story and spread the word about the millions of people who need us.
  • Start a campaign. You can turn knowledge into action by setting up a personal fundraising page and asking your friends and family to contribute to our efforts to help Syrians fleeing the war.
  • Stay informed. Read more stories about our work and those we are helping on our Syria crisis response page. You can also learn more about our focus on protecting Syria’s children.