Bahrain’s helping hand to Syrian Refugees

The education of the children of over 30,000 Syrian refugees currently in the Zaatari Camp, has been badly interrupted due to the political turmoil in Syria.

And, in my opinion, this swift and magnanimous gesture of Bahrain – to provide four school buildings in which, 4000 students, in two shifts, can continue their education until they can return to Syria – is a reflection of the great humanitarian ethos of this wonderful nation we call Bahrain.

Under His Majesty’s directives, the RCO (Royal Charity Organisation) completed this charitable project at a record speed of just 40 days, using prefabricated structures.

And now, the project is handed over to the Jordan Hashimite Charity Organisation which will run the schools, while UNICEF will be paying the salaries of 120 Jordanian and 30 Syrian teachers.

I was pleased to hear the words of the young and dynamic Chairman of RCO HH  Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, after he inaugurated the complex, where there was a joyous welcome by the school children with balloons. Soon afterwards, the young leader spent time chatting with children in their classrooms.

While saying that he hopes the children will soon be able to go back to Syria, and continue their education there, he stressed: “we don’t believe in just providing temporary help like food and shelter to the refugees. We are implementing projects which will help them sustain their life”.

Shaikh Nasser’s human touch was even more evident to me when I saw him leaving the school  and visiting the adjacent  refugees camp. This tall and handsome prince squeezed himself through the door-flap of one of the several make-shift tents, and spent time with the family inside, inquiring about their well-being. The impact it had on the tent’s residents was such, that Shaikh Nasser and a young boy from the tent kept walking hand in hand and talking until his  transportation took him away. 

Also, the fact the RCO  donated BD 1.3mn for the construction of a field hospital for Syrian Refugees in Turkey, last  week, is also  indicative of Bahrain’s generosity. Dr Mustafa Al Sayed, the Secretary General of RCO says that helping the displaced, whether in Gaza, Jordan or Turkey, is one of the main objectives of the organisation, under the directives of His Majesty the King and the guidance of HH Shaikh Nasser.

Bahrain is “a small country with a big heart” said Peter Ford, the General Commissioner of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians (UNRWA) and the former British Ambassador to Bahrain whom I met again, in Amman, after a long time. He was commending Bahrain for being among the first countries to join hands with UNRWA to support people of Gaza earlier this year .

My heart was greatly moved when some Syrian refugees came towards us, journalists, and said they do not get enough food, that the food gets rotten by the time it comes to them, that they have no medicines, that they do not have enough blankets to keep themselves warm, and that they hardly get three full meals.

I even saw a man who wailed aloud that his wife will die, if help is not provided quickly.

When I asked the authorities on these conditions in the camp, the UNICEF Jordan Representative Dominique Isabelle Hyde admitted that the conditions are somewhat challenging. But UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) representative Marin Kajdomcaj said that the Zaatari Camp was one of the best camps to be opened in recent years.

After seeing the new school buildings and their air-conditioned facilities, some children of refugees living in make-shift tents with not enough facilities, asked if they can sleep in these new buildings, built by Bahrain, instead of in their tents, said Ms Hyde.

Such is the pitiable condition of people thrown into a whirlpool of circumstances completely beyond their control.

But looking at the humanitarian effort of our country Bahrain, we must appreciate the rulers of this Kingdom  for their magnanimity in always being ready, to provide help when, and where, it mattered.