Leah's blog from the Zaatari refugee camp

  • 6 March 2013
Leah reports from Zaatari refugee camp

The number of refugees who've fled the violence in war-torn Syria has reached one million, half of whom are children.

The announcement has come from the United Nations, who say most of the children are aged under 11.

The conflict in Syria began two years ago, between government forces and rebel fighters who want their country run in a different way.

Many of those fleeing have gone to Zaatari refugee camp on the border of Syria and its neighbouring country Jordan.

Newsround's Leah has been visiting this refugee camp and here are her first impressions...

"It wasn't until we were driving along the rocky, dusty road that leads to the Zaatari refugee camp that I started to feel a bit nervous about my day ahead. From a distance I could see the tops of thousands of tents, no doubt occupied by mums, dads, brothers and sisters - trying to live as normal a life as possible.

As we reached the iron gates at the entrance there were a few hundred people standing around. It was a tight squeeze to get through because there were so many people - we had to drive very slowly. Some kids would run by the side of the car and tap on the window. I certainly wasn't expecting it to be so busy.

Image caption Lots of children were excited to see us, another new visitor.

Before we reached the main camp there's a strip of road where people have set up stalls selling things like mobile phones, clothes and fruit. There's even a stall selling wedding dresses. It struck me that people wanted to keep themselves busy with something to fill their day and I also thought it was incredible that people had adapted so quickly.

I was surprised to see how many children were mulling around too - some selling sweets and clothes. There are three schools inside the camp but not all children go - some help out on the many stalls.

Image caption Some children help out on the stalls.

You also see adults building up their lives right in front of you. It's not out of the ordinary to see children carry mattresses to their tents or pushing wheelbarrows with stuff to sell.

This camp is gigantic. It's also chaotic with lots of people - people honking their car horns and people shouting trying to sell their goods at makeshift stalls.

Not all the refugees inside the camp live in tents, some have made their home in caravans and this is where we met Amani Al Masri, a teacher who fled Syria eight months ago.

Back in Syria she told me she had a good life with her husband who is also a teacher, but they left because they feared for their safety. They welcomed me into their new home.

We drank some beautiful sweet tea and spoke about how much they miss Syria. Amani's mum still lives in Syria - she hasn't been able to speak to her for a while because the internet is so bad. She told me she hopes one day to go back, but for now the most important thing is that her family are safe.

All the while, Amani's two children and nieces and nephews are watching cartoons in the background. The children seem happy, sheltered perhaps from the reality of what they left behind in Syria. We giggled and taught each other English and Arabic words as the Newsround team packed away our camera kit.

Image caption This camp is chaotic, people shouting trying to sell goods at makeshift stalls.

Other children have told me how unhappy they are though - mostly about the lack of variety of food. Every 14 days their parents can collect a box of supplies including rice and pasta. Others said being in school helped pass what would otherwise be a boring day.

The people I've met are not used to being refugees. Many have left everything they had behind and are starting up again with very little. And there's no real idea what the future holds."