The vast majority of refugees (approximately 78 percent) live in cities, whilst the remaining 22% live in refugee camps. Most camps are temporary facilities, initially intended as short-term solutions. However, as conflicts and uncertainty drag on for months and years, many camps become home to hundreds of thousands for decades. In protracted refugee situations - where mass displacement has affected a country for five years or more – it is common to have entire generations growing up in camps. In such cases, the camps are expanded to include education, livelihood opportunities, and resources for building more permanent shelters. This support is also extended to local host communities.
Some of the world's largest refugee camps are in Bangladesh, Ethiopia Jordan, and Uganda. The Zaatari camp in Jordan was established in July 2012 to house the large flows of refugees coming across the Syrian border. The camp was set up in nine days riddled with problems like the lack of electricity for lighting and for refugees to charge their mobile phones.
Today Zaatari is a sprawling, bustling camp and home to around 80,000 Syrians. Prefabricated shelters including family compounds have largely replaced the rows of tents that were initially there. More than half the population are children, presenting challenges not just on how to provide schooling and but also on how to restore halted educations in Syria. A third of the young children do not attend school. There are some 9,500 young people in the camp aged between 19-24 who need skills training and - like their older counterparts – more livelihood opportunities too. Some 5.2 percent of these were at university in Syria but had to drop out due to the conflict, while just 1.6 percent successfully graduated. More long-term solutions must be found for this generation and for millions of others in similar predicaments.
Other challenges that refugees and internally displaced persons are facing in camps include protection risks (violence, exploitation, and abuse within camps, women and children are particularly vulnerable to gender-based violence, trafficking, and child labour), limited livelihood opportunities, poor living conditions due to overcrowded camps, limited access to basic needs.