THE two women arrive at the gates of the crowded Zaatari refugee camp in northern Jordan, each travelling with several children and holding a baby in their arms, a small plastic bag of clothes their only possessions.
Exhausted by their terrifying journey from neighbouring Syria, where the violence killed more than 5000 people last month alone, they move to the side of the dusty road and silently survey their new home.
Although it opened only a month ago, there are now more than 26,000 people living at Camp Zaatari - half of them are children and, of those, 20 per cent are under four years old.
Aid agencies estimate there are 500 unaccompanied minors in the camp, living with the pain of separation from their parents and the trauma of their night-time flight across the border.
One extraordinary night last week, as people raced to leave Syria under the cover of darkness before the next full moon, 3300 people arrived in just 24 hours, aid workers said.
The rapid influx of refugees from Syria has made it almost impossible for agencies to keep up with demand and construction work at the camp is constant.
As the hot summer winds blew clouds of red dust across the camp built on Jordan's desert plains, the bulldozers, water trucks and food vans kicked up even more sand and residents sought refuge from the scorching heat inside the tents provided by the United Nations.
Most of the refugees the Herald spoke to had fled from the southern Syrian city of Daraa, where violence has again escalated in the past month.
It was in Daraa, in March last year, that the Syrian revolution began, as residents gathered to protest against the arrest and torture of a group of boys who wrote anti-Assad graffiti on the walls of the town.
Since then, the town has endured fierce fighting, shelling and attacks from fighter jets and helicopters that hover overhead, said Nasim Abu Ziad, as she sat in the doorway of her tent with two of her four children.
One of the first arrivals at Zaatari, Mrs Abu Ziad is six months pregnant and facing the prospect of having her baby in one of the three field hospitals.
''There were planes in the sky, they were shelling our house, they were shooting directly at the children,'' she said. ''We did not bring anything except the clothes on our bodies.''
Despite the hardships of living in a camp, Mrs Abu Ziad said her children were safer than when they were at home.
''They are able to have their freedom, something they were not allowed to do in their own country,'' she said.
In a nearby playground - one of several spaces for children established by Save the Children and the UN International Children's Emergency Fund - groups climbed over the swings and other equipment, laughing and squealing.
Abed, 12, arrived two weeks ago with his mother, four sisters and three brothers, smuggled across the border at night to avoid attacks from the Syrian army.
''There is shelling in Syria and here there is none,'' he said.
Another refugee, Miriam, 11, also arrived two weeks ago. She was fleeing the ''missiles and shelling'' and had left her father behind to look after their cows and their house.
''We see thousands of children here who have struggled through some of the most frightening circumstances of their lives - they have left their homes, they have lost their possessions, their toys,'' said Rae McGrath, the camp manager for Save the Children. ''Here in the camp what we are trying to do is bring back some normality into their lives … they can begin to enjoy life a little bit again.''
There was now electricity for 40 per cent of the tents and every day 750-800 cubic metres of water was trucked into the camp and 25 tonnes of solid waste garbage removed, said Pip Leighton of UNICEF.
Health problems caused by the red dust were taking their toll, he said, with respiratory illnesses in children on the rise.
But the provision of education remains a huge challenge - so far Jordan has managed to absorb Syrian children into its public school system but, as the flood of refugees increases, the schools are reaching capacity.
''There are 7500 children of school age here and education will have to be provided on site. We are looking at providing double shifts of school to cope with the demand,'' he said. ''We are all just keeping ahead of the tidal wave of tents. If we have another massive influx, we will have problems.''
The refugees living in the camp and the aid workers are worried about the approaching winter, in which freezing rain and cold winds will drive the temperature below zero.
But Syrian refugees are not confined to the UN-administered camps - many more live in towns in northern Jordan, sheltering in the homes of family, in rental properties or those donated by generous Jordanians.
The Jordanian government estimates at least 140,000 Syrians are living outside the camps. Thousands like Umm Abdullah live in Ramtha - seven kilometres from Daraa.
The 57-year-old grandmother shares a flat in Ramtha with her family - three sons and their wives and children.
Her journey across the border in late July, made with her 15 relatives and about 600 others from Daraa, was an exercise in terror, taking cover between the olive trees to avoid detection by the Syrian army.
Their home in Daraa was next to a checkpoint - the shelling was relentless and the soldiers were shooting at anyone who dared to venture onto the balcony, she said. One son was arrested and tortured for a month by the feared Air Force Intelligence, while her brother was killed in the shelling just two weeks ago.
''We hope the regime falls down today, not tomorrow,'' she said.