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'Heartbreaking': Prince Charles meets traumatised children as he tours Jordan refugee camp


The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall came face to face with the huge human cost of the conflict in Syria today when they visited a refugee camp in Jordan.

The royal couple saw first hand the situation that faces the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the war-torn country as the conflict enters its third year.

Charles described the plight of Syrian refugees as “heartbreaking” as he toured the King Abdullah Park camp near the Syrian border, which is home to just under 1,000 people who have fled their homes.

Speaking at the refugee camp headquarters after meeting with UN staff, he said: “Many of these children have been traumatised by the horrors of what they've witnessed before they got here,” he said.

“Some of them have lost their parents and had horrendous experiences and it is remarkable what all these wonderful NGOs (non-governmental organisations) are doing to deal with this unbelievable and heartbreaking situation.

”In some ways children are quite adaptable and resilient but at the same time one of their teachers was telling me that just looking at trees reminded them of where they have been.

“The hope is that they will get back there again.”

Camilla said she too had found the experience quite heartbreaking.

“Seeing all these children, some of them have lost their parents and been adopted by others, I feel it is quite heartbreaking,” she said.

“They are doing a fantastic job.”

The camp, run by the United Nations, Unicef and Save the Children, is currently home to 921 refugees, of whom 529 are aged under 18.

Saba Mobaslat, 41, the programme director for Save the Children in Jordan, said the children at the camp are bussed to local schools to continue their education but go to the children's centre every day for therapy sessions.

The UN agency and the Jordanian Ministry of Health are also undertaking a vaccination programme against polio and measles, and ensuring sanitation in the camps to keep diseases at bay.

Charles and Camilla visited a craft skills training centre for women and children, meeting half a dozen women who were making crafts and knitting goods, which they sell to raise funds for the refugees.

Camilla immediately gave the ladies a thumbs up, prompting them to laugh and smile.

They then went to a nursery where around 20 children, many of whom have lost family members, sat around tables and sang songs to them.

They also visited the camp's clinic, where they were greeted by doctors and medical staff who treat the refugees.

Charles added that he had been struck by the generosity of the Jordanian people.

“I think the great thing that's come out of this is just how unbelievably generous the Jordanian people are, who are truly remarkable I think.

”They've managed to cope with and deal with all these hundreds of thousands of refugees and it's very nearly the second anniversary.

“It's a desperate situation and the Jordanian people are so fantastic.

”The generosity is extraordinary but it's putting more and more strain on food and hospitals so clearly the Jordanians need more assistance and help to be able to cope with this immense challenge.“

More than 330,000 Syrians have sought refuge in Jordan since the war began, according to Unicef figures, with 1,700 refugees registered in the past 24 hours.

Andrew Harper, the humanitarian co-ordinator for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in the country, said the number of refugees in the country could top one million by the end of 2013 if the fighting does not end.

He said entire villages have come across the border during what he called ”the preliminary stages of a mass migration“.

”The most important thing is to highlight the enormous challenges that a country like Jordan is facing, given the unprecedented number of people coming across the border,“ he said.

He added: ”Jordan has done a fantastic effort so far but words are not enough and the visits are extremely important because Jordan can't continue to take hundreds of thousands or a million with nice words from the international community.

“We need significant support and investment. We are all running out of money. International aid is too slow and too little. We are faced with a looming disaster.”