THE BLOG
12/31/2015 08:17 am ET Updated Dec 31, 2016

My Year With Refugees (Audio Slideshow)

As 2015 comes to an end, I wanted to share with you some stories of refugees I met over the last year.

Ali is from Kobani, the Syrian village from where Aylan Kurdi came; the little child we all remember in that photo after he drowned on the shores of Turkey. I met Ali in a little shed in northern Iraq, where he had to flee with his family after their village came under attack. His shop and house were destroyed. He told me his village was like 'paradise' before the conflict. Never in his life did he believe they would have a war in Syria.

16-year-old Mahmoud suffers from a life-threatening blood disorder. He had to flee Syria on his own after hospitals ran out of blood. Here he shows me the medical papers saying he needs bone marrow transplant, that is unavailable where he is now in northern Iraq. Mahmoud is living with his uncle, who is worried about his deteriorating health.

I came across Lamiha when my colleagues were distributing emergency aid to newly displaced families from Ramadi in Iraq. She told me she has eight other siblings, who had to flee from their home when war broke out. This is her lovely little sister Jennat, just one and a half years old, holding on to her mother.

In an old, worn down house in northern Iraq I met Diab, a father and grandfather from Mosul. Three generations, a total of 30 people, live under the same roof here in this bare building. Having left everything behind, they depend on humanitarian aid to feed themselves and pay the rent.

In the Gaza Strip, one year after the last war, I found entire neighbourhoods still totally destroyed, 100,000 people still homeless. Like Riyaad from Beit Hanoun, whose house was flattened. I found him living in this metal shack with nine other family members.

Wajeha suffered the devastating loss of three of her children in different drone strikes. This is one of her orphaned nephews in front of the remains of the bomb that killed his own father.

And this is 12-year-old Bayan, staring defiantly at the camera. She is the oldest of four siblings who lost their mother in the last war on Gaza. She told me she was no longer afraid. There will be other wars, she said, and we have nothing left to lose.

Abeer is a Syrian woman who fled from Yarmouk Camp to Gaza with her Palestinian husband. She showed me a picture of her children from her first marriage, who were still in Syria. She was heart broken as she couldn't get back to them and felt she had abandoned them.

Alaa lost his leg and fingers when an Israeli bomb landed just outside his house in Rafah. His 15-year-old son died on the spot. He told me how life changed completely for him, how he feels ashamed to walk in the street. The doctor seeing him, Dr Nabeel al Shawa at Gaza's only prosthetic clinic, told me how once the physical pain subsides, it's the emotional scars that remain forever.

In Lebanon I met Abd Al Hameed, from Syria, who fled three years ago with his wife and seven children. He told me about the farm and house he had back home, which he had to abandon when a missile fell just in front of them. They now live in a tent, he has no work and he has loans to repay. He can't go back to Syria, where the conflict is still raging -- what would I do if they take away my children -- he told me. He was planning to go back briefly to sell his land so they could travel to Europe, but he's worried about the huge risks of crossing the sea with his children.

Those were just a few of the people I met last year. People whose biggest wish for the New Year is that they can return home safely and live in dignity. That they can have a future.