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'Before the war life was sweet': Teen tells of life robbed by sniper's bullet

Jordan refugee camps have become overwhelmed with Syrian refugees, as families seek medical attention and fear a cutback in food.  ITN's John Ray reports.

ZAATARI REFUGEE CAMP, Jordan - A sniper’s bullet ripped through Hazem Mahmoud’s back seven months ago in Homs, Syria. The 15-year-old has felt nothing below his waist since then. His legs are pale, wasted and scarred by sores.  One bites deep into his thigh.

“Before the war life was sweet,’’ Hazem said as he lay in a tin hut next to his sleeping sister. “Then the bombs and the shooting started. Now there are no hospitals in Syria, no one to help me.’’

Mohammad Hannon / AP, file

Refugees walk through water and mud in Zaatari refugee camp near the Syrian border in Mafraq, Jordan, on Jan. 8.

A wheelchair and a single suitcase are the family’s sole possessions in the camp. The family discarded everything else along the way.

Hazem is a boy the world has all but forgotten. At the Zaatari camp he is only one of thousands of desperate new arrivals on a recent morning. Only when we alert the United Nations staff is an ambulance summoned.

In the overcrowded camp, medical services are overwhelmed, and aid running dangerously short. Humanitarian officials estimate that more than 1.2 million Syrians have fled the country to escape the war between President Bashar Assad’s forces and the largely Sunni rebels trying to unseat him.

All the aid agencies complain they are approaching a funding crisis as big as the camp itself. Just one example: The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) provides the water for 120,000 refugees in Zaatari. Three hundred huge tankers lumber through the gates each day.

“This is for drinking, for washing, for the toilets, and yet we are not in a position to renew the contracts to keep that water coming,’’ says Simon Ingram of UNICEF.

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A look back at the conflict that has overtaken the country.

Many aid workers report tensions are mounting among the refugees; scuffles are common. Violent protests are no longer rare.

It doesn’t help that the huge sums promised by the international community have not been fulfilled. More than two-thirds of the funds needed to cover the basic needs of Syrian refugees have not materialized, United Nations officials say.

The result on the ground? Even food hand-outs might have to be cut, says Laure Chadraoui of the World Food Program.

"There is a lot of anger here. The assistance we provide helps hold that in. Take it away and the pressure cooker will explode,’’ she said.

Invisible wounds

Hazem and his family’s escape from Syria was both exhausting and miraculous.

After that his family – mother, father, sister and sister – moved from safe house to safe house, dodging Syrian army checkpoint.

Finally they were smuggled out of the city; first to Iraq and finally to Jordan.

The final stretch of the journey was 250 miles, with Hazem at times hoisted on his father’s back.

“What could I do, leave him to die?’’ said the father, who kept his face hidden around journalists.

Human Rights Watch alleges that Syrian leader Bashar Assad's warplanes are carrying out indiscriminate airstrikes, with one medical facility being hit eight times. ITV's Richard Pallot reports.

The family’s story is one of thousands. Many times the wounds aren’t visible.

Ibrahim, a serious-faced boy of 13, says he dreams of joining his four brothers who fight with the rebel army.

His nightmares are more real, about the day his home was bombed and he saw his friend shot dead.

“He was just in front, it could easily have been me,’’ Ibrahim said.

There is help. Ibrahim attends a school funded by UNICEF and a therapist helps him deal with his terrifying memories.

Doctors will not be able to help Hazem walk again. The news is not good when he was finally taken to Jordanian medical center in the camp. His spinal cord is severed, a doctor says.

“If we had a chance to treat when this first happened, maybe we could have helped. But it’s too late now,’’ said Dr. Ahmad A’Sanah.

Hazem at least will live, when so many have died. But what kind of life among the refugees of Zaatari is hard to imagine.

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