Located in the Jordanian desert and south of the Syrian border, the Za’atari Refugee Settlement, constructed by the Government of Jordan, is one of the world’s largest housing over 80 000 Syrian refugees. Since fighting began in 2011, half the 22 million Syrian population have been forced to flee their homes and more than 400 000 people have been killed, creating the worst humanitarian crisis the world has ever seen.
More than 4.8 million have fled to neighbouring countries including, Lebanon, Jordan, Greece, Serbia and Turkey placing a strain on local infrastructures. The Za’atari Camp established in 2012, as a temporary facility, has grown into Jordan’s fourth largest city.
International Aid agencies are doing their best to provide refugees with life-saving support-
In Jordan and Lebanon, we are supporting refugees with clean drinking water or cash and relief supplies, such as blankets and stoves and vouchers for hygiene supplies. We are helping families get the information they need about their legal and human rights and connecting them to medical, legal and support services. (Oxfam.org)
Five years on, there is talk of Za’atari becoming a permanent settlement with piped water schemes and other infrastructures being developed for the future. Residents have used their skills and innovation to establish a thriving economy within the camp allowing some to become more self-sufficient. A main trading street with makeshift shops selling everything from meat and bakery goods to electronics is referred to as the ‘Champs-Elysee’.
..these acts of resilience and entrepreneurship are all the more poignant and impressive considering the difficult conditions faced by those living in the camp. (J. Corbett, 2015 RAND)
One of the biggest fears for the refugees is the uncertainty of their futures and that of their children. Continued education and psycho-social rehabilitation is vital for the future of these displaced children. Currently there are only 24 schools within the camp not all of them easily accessible to all children. Families have also reported it is sometimes dangerous getting the children to schools with certain areas of the camp experiencing high levels of crime. The other sad reality is that a large number of school-age children are forced to work to help their families with financial support.
The average time spent living as a refugee is 17 years. (UNHCR)
Unfortunately, all Syrian refugees want is to return home with their families, but nobody knows if, or when that will be possible or what they will be faced with when they return. In the meantime, there is a nation in need of the world’s help to assist them to rebuild their lives and provide hope for the next generation.
Fact sheet as at October 2016 –factsheet-zaatarirefugeecamp-october
Life in pictures taken by the children of the Za’atari Refugee camp-Za’atari: life in a refugee camp- a picture essay