A boy who had to give up his childhood  

David Morrissey tells us about his journey to Cairo, where he met refugees from Syria, Somalia and Sudan.  

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© UNHCR/Pedro Costa Gomes


Actor David Morrissey has met many refugees in his role as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, including those who have made the perilous journey across the sea to get to Lesvos, Greece; Syrians living Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan; and refugees who have been resettled in the UK.  

In 2019 David travelled to Cairo, Egypt where he met refugees from Syria, Somalia and Sudan. It was this trip that inspired his definition for the Refugee Dictionary: “A refugee is a boy who had to give up his childhood to provide for his family.” 

In Cairo, David met Omran, a 14-year-old Syrian refugee who was the primary breadwinner and care giver for his family, working 11 hours a day, six days a week as a delivery boy.  


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The family had fled from Syria after their house in Damascus suffered a direct hit from a shall. Omran’s parents, Mohammed and Muna, were both injured in the blast. Muna lost a leg, and a shrapnel wound to his back has left Mohammed in constant pain. And so four years ago, Omran started work to support his family. 

David said, “That’s what a war can do: rob a wife of a limb, a husband of his livelihood and a son of his childhood. 

“The number of forcibly displaced people around the world keeps climbing, even during the pandemic. That’s why we need to keep taking action to help. Every one of us has a role to play, a voice to raise.”   

To submit your definition to The Refugee Dictionary, please visit this page.

For the latest facts and figures on displacement, take a look at the UNHCR global trends report.

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