WHEN you leave the house for work in the morning, you usually say goodbye to your family, fairly certain in the knowledge you’ll be coming back home to them.

But Madeleine McGivern, a former Hereford Sixth Form College pupil and now the Middle East programme officer for Christian Aid, knows this certainty is not shared by the refugees of the Syrian uprising.

The 26-year-old from Hereford spent a week visiting two areas outside the city of Sulaimaniya in Iraq, where refugees – the number of which stood at 115,000 while she was there but which rises by around 8,000 each day – have gathered.

They lack basic healthcare and food and six toilets serve 600 people in some settlements.

One man Madeleine spoke to said that when he lived in Syria – which has been in the grips of a civil war between government loyalists and those who seek to oust the ruling body since March 2011 – he would hug his family and say his farewells before leaving the house to get bread, unsure that he would ever see them again.

Madeleine said: “The refugees live in dire circumstances.

"There is one organised camp near the border but most are just in settlements, some in old buildings used to house animals, some wherever they can find.

“People tell you awful stories. Parents speak of the violence their children witnessed when in Syria.

“We met another man who has cancer and is living in a settlement with no healthcare at all. Even if they could get to a hospital they couldn’t afford to pay for treatment once there.”

One family – Avaline and her two young children – share one contaminated water source with 150 others.

Since fleeing their home the refugees are relatively safe in northern Iraq from extreme violence. If they were to travel further south they could find themselves caught up in violence again.

Madeleine said despite the horror they saw in Syria, it is still the hope and dreams of the majority that one day they can go back home.

Disasters Emergency Committee member agencies, including Christian Aid, are providing aid inside Syria and to those who have fled to neighbouring countries. To help, visit dec.org.uk or call 0370 6060900.