The Camp No Child Should Have To Go To

More than 2.2 million refugees have fled their homes during the course of the Syrian civil war. Since 2012, more than 100,000, the majority of them children, have settled in the Za'atari Refugee camp in Jordan.


This week "Open Source with Leon Krauze" interviewed Kilian Kleindschmidt, the United Nation's refugee agency (UNHCR) camp leader at Za'atari. His job is to organize the camp and keep peace among war-torn, traumatized refugees.

Open Source Associate Producer Annie Rose Ramos produced the segment with Kleindschmidt, and emailed Krauze to help prepare him for the interview. Below is that email in its entirety:

Dear Leon Krauze,

Kilian Kleindschmidt is the camp organizer at the Za'atari Refugee camp for the UNHCR. His job? To organize the over 100,000 Syrian refugees who are homeless, tired, hungry and traumatized from years of war, who flock to Kilian's camp in Jordan nightly.


Kilian will tell you just how daunting the figures are. “Over 55 percent of the population are children,” says Kilian, which means over 500,000 children who need to be taken care of. Most of all, Kilian speaks of how in the faces of the children is where the crisis and suffering is most palpable. Not only that, Kilian will tell you that Jordan is not without its difficulties, one of the most concerning is the country’s lack of water in the northern, desert region.

Kilian has been working with humanitarian aid for over twenty years, starting out at the World Food Program. His first assignment with the UN was the crisis in Sudan, working to situate the Lost Boys in Kenya.

I first contacted the United Nations Refugee Agency back in June to make this interview a reality. Despite the crazy amounts of red tape and permissions that needed to be granted for this interview to happen, I think it is all worth it for the stories that Kilian Kleindschmidt has to share. This interview has been a long time coming and frankly I am honored that we are doing it.

One of the nights I spoke to Kilian and his assistant, Andy, over the phone. It was later in the evening and they were grabbing a drink at a local bar outside the camp. It struck me as odd at first but I realized that if anyone needed to take advantage of a happy hour it was those two.


While no one is ever turned away, Kilian must oversee who receives tents or permanent land plots and squash discontent (as much as possible) within the camp – it is a job never quite completed. Kilian works tirelessly and as you will see in the interview – spends hours in the camp, among the refugees and pouring over maps in order to make everyone fit into the little land he has.

I look forward to this interview directly from the Za’atari refugee camp - now almost a city in itself – in the wake of the Syrian war that has become one of the largest tragedies of our time.


All the best,
Annie Rose

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