Wednesday, November 28, 2012

11.27.12 Zaatari Syrian Refugee Camp

The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.” ― Ben Okri

Just outside Amman on the road to Zaatari. 37 miles to the Syrian border.

We are approaching Zaatari on the right. Couldn't take pictures of the entrance for security reasons.

The main street into the camp and running the length of it now has many vendors selling goods. When the camp was first opened, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provided two meals a day to residents - breakfast and dinner. Some of the food started to go bad and created intestinal issues so UNHCR stopped the meal services and instead provided boxes of dried and canned goods. And gave them small gas stoves. But vegetables and fruit weren't provided. So the residents contacted relatives in the small town outside the camp and asked them to bring in fresh vegetables and fruit and cigarettes. The shops were born out of basic need.  

The camp is broken up in a grid with a main street running down the center. At present there are 21 streets on the right side of the main road and 20 streets on the left.  Each street has a 'manager' that helps families on his/her street.

The Norwegian Refugee Council which has 60 staff members working in Zaatari estimates that there's currently close to 45,000 Syrian residents. UNICEF has a count of 42,000 but you get the idea. 1/2 are children and 65% are under 18. Being as there are so many children UNICEF and Save The Children are very active with huge, visible tents where they conduct programs.

UNICEF and Save The Children tent with event presented by Physicians Across Continents (PAC)

I had great respect for how UNICEF and Save the Children protected children during the PAC presentation. They didn't allow any children's face to be photographed. Physicians and representatives from a number of organizations spoke for a special filming by a crew from Ad Dustour (Jordanian media).  Unfortunately the UNICEF and Save the Children managers were not happy with how the toys were laid out in three sections of the tent.  Just days before they saw how a delivery of toys was nearly destroyed by hundreds of out of control children (who have nothing) trying to grab as many as they could. These two organizations only allow toys to be handed out one at a time to teach the kids that only patient and orderly waiting will result in toys.   

I kid you not, bedlum broke out as soon as the filming was over. Children ran to the toys, grabbing up as much as they could and pushing other kids out of the way. All of us adults pitched in to try to bring some semblance of order. We took toys away from children who had arms full and escorted them out of the tent. Primarily the men in the group set themselves up at the opening of the tent to hold back the throngs of newly arrived children who were pushing there way into the tent.  It took us all about a half hour to empty the tent of children, keep any from entering and strap up the closing.  Once that was done we bagged up the toys in large plastic bags and removed them from the tent and then reopened the tent flap opening. 

Here's Nick securing the flap of the UNICEF/Save the Children tent after all kids were removed - forceably or otherwise.

The Saudi National Campaign to Support Brothers in Syria established this waiting tent, clinic and are developing a full hospital in Zaatari. The Amman-Jordan Hospital is running the healthcare facilities for them.

This is the waiting tent. Behind the tent are three medical clinics.

Emman M. Khader (left) was instrumental in showing us around Zaatari and explaining the medical services in particular. She is a strong, sweet lady.

Aboud Doujan Owaisat is one of the medical services coordinators.

Sister nurses!

Children playing. It was so refreshing to see children smiling and playing despite the unfair burdens they are coping with. Moments of forgetting their horrors.

These children were following us after we gave them treats. They rushed back to us and held my hand. They were so grateful for a little treat. Such sweet, beautiful children...

This is Mohammad Sukkar, a Syrian refugee himself who volunteers with the Syrian American Medical Society's office in Amman, Jordan. Imagine that. He can't work in Jordan. He can't go to school in Jordan. So he volunteers his time for his fellow Syrians. I so admire he and his cousin, Abdulaziz. They give of themselves despite having lost so much - their homes, their schooling, family members, etc.

Nick looking down the street of endless UNHCR tents.

The security official that let us into Zaatari took our passes and didn't give them back. That created quite the delay when we attempted to leave the camp to head back to Amman.  Our two guides are Syrian refugees and because our passes were erroneously held by the guard upon entering we had to find officials to prove that Abdulaziz and Mohammad were not camp residents and had permission to enter and then leave. Took over a half hour. I was worried beyond worried for my two friends. In the end the Islamic Relief officials vouched for them and we were allowed to leave.

I'm not sure this picture is clear enough but what it is portraying is a line of Syrians who didn't find life in Zaatari palatable so they are heading back to the war zone that is Syria. Unbelievable.

1 comment:

  1. An excellent insight and very well documented. Thank you for sharing

    Best wishes