AL ZAATARI CAMP, JORDAN // A plea for donations from countries, organisations and individuals has gone out from the operators of a camp that contains a large percentage of women and children Syrian refugees.
Financial aid is needed to support education, infrastructure, medical care and basic living conditions for the 80,000 inside the UNHCR and Syrian Refugees Affairs Department-run Al Zaatari Camp.
According to UNHCR, nearly 20 per cent of the refugees at the camp are under five, and one in five households are headed by women.
“There will never be enough funding for the refugees. They need healthcare, education and better living conditions,” said Maeve Murphy, UNHCR senior operations manager. “They also need cash assistance to help them in their day-to-day lives.”
With refugees living in 26,000 caravans, constant maintenance is required at the camp in Al Mafraq Governorate, near the border with Syria.
“The rooftops of the caravans need to be well maintained and drainage systems need to be fit to withstand the weather conditions, where temperatures are up to 40°C and as low as -5°C,” said Mrs Murphy.
One piece of good news for the residents is that, from next week, camp officials will start issuing work permits that will allow them to seek employment in neighbouring towns. Until now, refugees were only allowed to leave the camp after getting permission from administrators.
“Being able to work is beneficial to all parties. It will boost their morale and contribute to the economy inside the camp,” said Mrs Murphy.
Currently, 20.5 per cent of male refugees are between the ages of 18 and 59, while the figure for women is 21.2 per cent, so there are many of working age.
According to UNHCR, the majority of the refugees are dependent on humanitarian assistance.
Since the beginning of the war in Syria, UNHCR has documented 650,000 Syrians in Jordan. Seventeen per cent of them are in refugee camps and 83 per cent – who mainly came before strict border rules were enforced – live in Jordanian towns.
“Refugees need cash assistance to help them live on a day-to-day basis. Those outside the camp need to pay rent, utilities, and cover their expenses. We have identified the most vulnerable and needy through house visits, however we don’t have enough funds to help them out, so they are on waiting lists to receive assistance,” said Mrs Murphy.
The director of Al Zaatari Camp, Col Maher Shraideh, said tents have been replaced by caravans thanks to aid money.
“In the beginning of the crisis, the refugees lived in tents, however they were substituted with caravans through the assistance of donors, and the generous contribution of the UAE Government,” he said.
In the past six years, the UAE has given more than US$750 million (Dh2.7 billion) to support Syrian refugees.
Relatives and families have been grouped together for privacy, with each set of caravans having a shared kitchen and toilet, he said.
Al Zaatari is divided into 12 districts, each housing between 7,000 and 10,000 people. It has 29 schools, where 21,587 pupils are enrolled.
“For the refugees, it is a temporary situation. Many of them are waiting for the conditions to improve in Syria. At the end of the day, they had lives in Syria that they wish to return to,” said Mrs Murphy.
To donate, visit donate.unhcr.org/gu-en/general.