Category Archives: Jordan

Syrian crisis through the eyes of its refugees

A Syrian refugee at an informal education class run by Caritas Jordan in Zarqa.

A Syrian refugee at an informal education class run by Caritas Jordan in Zarqa. All photos Patrick Nicholson/Caritas

By Patrick Nicholson

“Each Syrian you meet will tell you a different story; but they are all the same tragedy,” said Fawaz, a refugee who crossed into Jordan last month.

Since the conflict began two years ago in Syria, its cities have been devastated, its people go hungry, living in fear, 70,000 are dead and around 3 million have been forced from their homes.

Half of the Syrian refugees who have fled their country are in Jordan. Most live in urban areas in rented rooms. Caritas Jordan provides them with humanitarian aid, housing support, healthcare, education and counseling.

Here are five of their stories.

Fawaz

Fawaz and his daughter Maram wait at the caritas medical clinic in Amman.

Fawaz and his daughter Maram wait at the caritas medical clinic in Amman.

Fawaz cradles his 20-day old baby girl in his arms as they wait at the Caritas clinic in Amman. The baby has a high fever and has been born with a hip problem. Thankfully her twin brother is healthy and happy.  The twins were born just days after Fawaz and his wife made the dangerous crossing into Jordan from Syria in January.

They had been running from hideout to hideout inside Syria for 6 months after they witnessed the massacre of 40 relatives in Hama. All the members of his aunt’s family were killed. “They were caught in a crossfire,” he said.  His village is a ghost town, its 7000 residents all gone. “In Syria, there is only death now,” said Fawaz.

“As we were expecting twins, a doctor advised us that we would probably need an incubator,” he said. “The hospitals are not functioning. It’s too dangerous to try to reach them. So when I found my name was not on the wanted list, we came to Jordan.”

Fawaz, his wife, the twins, his mother and sister live in a tent he has built from four wood sticks and bits of cloth on wasteland. “It’s like 150 years ago,” he said. They have no heater, only wood to burn. “It is very cold,” he said. “And the smoke from the fire makes the babies ill.”

As well as receiving medical care through the clinic, his family have also been registered by Caritas staff members to receive humanitarian aid like a heater and vouchers to buy food, blankets, warm clothing and fuel.  “I don’t know what will happen to us next,” said Fawaz. “We thought the crisis would be over in a month. It’s now been two years.”

Zarfeh

Zarfeh's son puts together a heater supplied by Caritas.

Zarfeh’s son puts together a heater supplied by Caritas.

Zarfeh Shibleyh has just received a new heater from Caritas and vouchers which she has bought blankets with. She lives in the Jordanian town of Mafraq with eight of her children. Two of the older boys and her husband remain in Syria, their whereabouts unknown.  Their photos are at the centre of a heart collage on one of the walls.

“We had to get the children out because it had become too dangerous,” she said. They left Aleppo in December 2012 with only the clothes on their backs. “I brought nothing of value, except my children. There is nothing more precious than that.” Her parents fled to Lebanon.

She registered with Caritas to receive aid, but life is still tough. To earn enough money to pay rent, the teenage children must work. They leave home at 5am for a long day’s labour,  of which they receive 2 Jordanian dinars, around three dollars.  Rent is 150 dinars a month.

“They are losing their education,” she said. “But what can we do. We have to pay rent.”

Rosan

Rosan Kurdi at home.

Rosan Kurdi at home.

“I cannot describe my daily life. It is empty” said Rosan Kurdi, a Syrian refugee in Amman. “I have nothing. I have no food to cook with. I have no friends. My husband is trapped in Syria. Apart from my child, I’m completely alone.”

She lives with her small boy in a tiny, dilapidated room in a Palestinian refugee camp in the city. Jordan is home to many waves of refugees, especially Palestinians and Iraqis. She doesn’t know anyone in the neighbourhood. Sometimes a relative comes to babysit, so she can go out to look for work.

Without a husband or family to provide income or childcare, Rosan must rely on Caritas. “I received many things. Vouchers for the clothes and shoes you see my child wearing. Medicine for him. And food and blankets. Without Caritas, I’m isolated,” she said.

She has lost almost all of her hope. “Only the welfare of my child gives me the strength to carry on,” she said. “He has had a very tough life, a life with no dignity. My only dream is that the boy will return one day to Syria. Nobody should have to grow up outside their own country.”

Halabia

Halabia Althaner recieving treatment at the Italian Hospital in Amman.

Halabia Althaner recieving treatment at the Italian Hospital in Amman.

“Our house was destroyed by bombs,” said Halabia Althaner. “One of our children died in the attack. Two more are missing after they went outside.  My husband had a series of strokes as a result.

“We searched everywhere for the children. But our neighbours told us that we must give up. If they were alive, they would have turned up.”

Halabia is suffering from severe headaches. She is waiting for treatment in the Italian Hospital in Amman. Caritas refers cases there from its clinics across the country.

She lives with her husband and seven of her remaining children. “It is very difficult. We can’t afford for them to study. We don’t have the money. But at least we live in peace and security.”

Mohammad

Mohammad Azroun picking up blankets and other aid at a Caritas centre in Madaba.

Mohammad Azroun picking up blankets and other aid at a Caritas centre in Madaba.

“It’s agony to see my beloved Homs destroyed,” said Mohammad Azroun, who fled the Syrian city last Spring and is now in Madaba, Jordan.  “At first we thought we could handle it, but then the bombs and destruction increased. We fled to Damascus, but the pattern started to repeat itself, so we left Syria.”

He arrived in Jordan five months ago with his family. “ When you first arrive, you are in complete shock. You are mentally and physically tired from the journey. You are in a weird environment where everyone is a stranger.”

Mohammad received help just four days after coming to Madaba. Caritas provided hygiene kits with things like soap, tooth brushes and nail clippers inside, as well as blankets, heaters, and  vouchers for food and fuel.  “Also we support each other,” said Mohammed. “We are four families living in the same house, and we look after each other.”

Rent for lodgings is one of the biggest challenges, and for that Mohammad must look for work. He is optimistic and tells his young children things will get better. “I tell them that our lives will return to how they were and one day we will be able to go home.” he said. “Syria doesn’t deserve this. Please save Syria. Tell everyone in the world to help Syria.”

 

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Exodus of Syrian refugees to Jordan

Manal Ahmad, a 30-year old Syrian refugee, using the vouchers she received from Caritas Jordan. Photo by Caritas Jordan

Manal Ahmad, a 30-year old Syrian refugee, using the vouchers she received from Caritas Jordan. Photo by Caritas Jordan

“This is a nightmare. We will wake up soon to find ourselves in our beloved Syria,” said Ismail Ahmad Al Ajrab, a 30 year old refugee from the Syrian city of Homs. “I feel sometimes that this is all just a dream, but then the difficulties hit you and I know it is our reality now.”

Syrian refugees are streaming across the border into Jordan, fleeing the 22-month-old uprising. More than 26,500 have crossed over the border since 1 January, almost double the figures for December. Tens of thousands more are waiting to cross to join the 300,000 refugees already in the county.

Ismail fled eight months ago with his wife, Jihan, and their three boys: Rafiq, 6, Mashaal, 4, and one-year old Yousef. “I was under arrest for 4 months in Syrian. Through a miracle, I managed to escape with my family to Jordan,” he said.

Once in Jordan, he learned from other Syrian refugees about the Caritas Jordan centre in Zarqa. He went there and was registered. “I was really happy to be met by welcoming people,” he said. He received fuel, food and other aid items.  “I couldn’t ask for more. Thank you so much Caritas,” he said. “I can’t wait to see the expression of my kids when I bring them to get new clothes.”

Icy weather is one of the greatest challenges. The refugees left on foot, with no warm clothes. In Zaatari Camp, heavy rain and harsh blizzards submerging 500 tents.

Caritas Jordan has launched the winterization campaign for the Syrian urban refugees along with vulnerable Jordanians. The project began in December and will last until February 2013.  So far, 1340 people in Amman, Irbid, Zarqa, Madaba and Mafraq have received a heater, blankets, a stove, and vouchers for food and other aid items.

“The vouchers are lifesavers,” said  Manal Ahmad, a 30-year old refugee from the city of Daraa.  Back in Syria, Manal and her husband had a normal life. “All of a sudden, we found ourselves here with nothing,” she said.

Manal arrived with her two children last September, both of whom have medical problems. Mariam, 4, has severe kidney problems and Omar, 1, is blind. “I had to flee to Jordan since my two kids are sick,” she said. “They need regular medical care. It can’t be provided nowadays in Syria”.

Over 68,000 refugees have registered with Caritas Jordan.

“I knew about Caritas first thing when I arrived from my neighbours. I went directly there and was received with much love and attention,” said Manal.

“I received 6 vouchers for different materials.  With them, I managed to go and choose by myself what my kids need from fresh food to clothes and shoes. I would have never imagined getting all these needs. These vouchers were definitely a lifesaver for me and my kids.”

 

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Syria: “A tragedy unfolding in front of our eyes”

Michel Roy, secretary general of Caritas Internationalis, has appealed to world leaders to get involved politically and diplomatically in the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

He singled out the conflict in Syria as needing particular attention from the international community: “What is happening in Syria is a big tragedy which is unfolding in front of our eyes and something has to be done.”

He was speaking at the UN World Food Programme in Rome. He was there to launch a massive global appeal with Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. The US$8.5 billion appeal will help an estimated 51 million people around the world in 2013.

Read more about the appeal.

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Syria Crisis: More than just a quilt

Fatima picks a quilt. Credit: Caritas Jordan

By Dana Shahin, Caritas Jordan

Fatima is a widow who recently fled the conflict in Syria to seek refuge in Jordan. She came to the Caritas Jordan centre in Mafraq where she would be able to receive essential help.

Once she’d registered with a Caritas staff member, she headed over to the volunteer’s desk to receive her aid items such as blankets, quilts and personal hygiene products.

There were large boxes consisting of different coloured quilts. The volunteers usually picks one or two, depending on the family size, and hand them over to the refugees.

Fatima, after taking her package, approached one of the volunteers. With a shy quiet voice, she asked, “Is it ok if I choose another quilt? I don’t like this colour.”

The Caritas team told her to pick another one. With a thrilled expression on her face , she ran happily to the box and took few minutes to pick the one she liked.

“This is my favourite colour, is it ok to have this one instead?” Fatima held proudly a blue quilt. “Of course,” said the volunteer. “This is actually yours and you have the right to get the one that you like most”.

A Caritas Jordan staff member said that they ensure all the refugees are treated with dignity. They’re not simply ‘beneficiaries’ but human people.

“There is a strong belief within Caritas Jordan volunteers and employees that aid distribution is part of an act of love done for and with all the people in need. They make up the patchwork quilt that is Caritas,” said one Caritas Jordan emergency staff member.

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Syrie : une équipe pluridisciplinaire soigne des enfants infirmes

Matthieu Alexandre/Secours Catholique

Par Secours Catholique

À Damas, le centre de soins pour enfants infirmes moteurs cérébraux (IMC) reste ouvert, en dépit des évènements. Il offre à 70 enfants atteints de paralysie cérébrale une prise en charge thérapeutique favorisant leur développement.

Le centre, créé par l’association Terre des hommes Syrie, veut aussi former des personnels locaux pour prendre en charge ces enfants et sensibiliser les familles aux méthodes d’accompagnement à domicile et à l’urgente intégration sociale de leurs enfants. À cet égard, il y a fort à faire dans un pays où les personnes handicapées ne disposent, de fait, que du seul soutien des ONG et des associations locales.

Dans ce lieu ouvert six jours par semaine, cinq départements spécialisés (physiothérapie, ergothérapie, orthophonie, psychomotricité et informatique) sont au service des enfants infirmes. Chaque mois l’équipe thérapeutique se réunit en présence du médecin et rédige un rapport dans lequel sont notés les problèmes rencontrés, l’évolution de l’enfant et le suivi à mettre en place.

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Escaping bullets and bombs in Syria

As Syria refugees pour into Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon, Caritas is giving them food, medical care, and emergency aid. Ilham, a mother of five, described a harrowing day in her home city to Caritas Communications Officer Laura Sheahen.

Ilham was shot in the leg after a sniper killed her neighbour as he returned bringing milk for her children. She later fled Syria with her children. Photo: Laura Sheahen/Caritas

I have nothing to do with the military, I am a civilian. We’re from Bab Amr, in Homs.

One day I wanted to go get milk. My neighbour Adnan said, “Don’t go, I’ll bring you milk. I’m afraid you’ll be killed.” The snipers shoot from a long distance. We don’t see the shooter, but he sees us.

It was about 2 pm and Adnan was bringing the milk to me, two containers. A shooter was up in a building in a small window.

He was shot. The bullet went through his arm to his heart.

I went out to try to save Adnan. The person who shot him also shot me, to prevent me from reaching him. The bullet went through my left thigh. I was lucky it didn’t hit the bone.

Some people came to help. I said, “Go to him first, he’s bleeding so much.” But the medical services are bad, no one could save him.

I hopped to other neighbours and they tied a bandage around my leg.

I kept hoping things would improve. But my house was bombarded three times. I slept in my clothes and headscarf because I was afraid we’d have to run out at night, or someone would come in.

We left for Damascus, but then bombardments began there. I thought, “It’s becoming too bad.” I was afraid my children would be killed. I realized we had to leave.

Now we live here in Jordan.

Ilham speaks with Caritas Jordan staff in the doctor’s office of a Caritas center. Photo: Laura Sheahen/Caritas

I have epilepsy, and so do three of my children. My daughter has seizures twice a day. She foams at the mouth and her whole body becomes stiff.

Here in Jordan, my neighbours told me about Caritas. I am going to talk to the Caritas doctor about epilepsy medicine. If this doctor wasn’t here, I don’t know what I’d do.

I didn’t want to leave my country, but I was afraid for my kids.

Adnan had five children. We were neighbours, and like family. May he rest in peace.

Caritas is helping thousands of refugees like Ilham. Read more about the crisis and consider donating.

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Fleeing Syria: refugee parents tell their stories

Available in French

Eleven-year-old Salem, a refugee boy, drew this picture showing what happened in Syria before his family fled for Lebanon. Photo: Laura Sheahen/Caritas

By Laura Sheahen, Caritas Communications Officer

“We’d move from neighbour to neighbour to escape the bombing,” says Ahmed, a father of six from the Syrian city of Homs. As civil war in his country escalated, he watched buildings bombarded and people injured or killed.

“There came a moment when I looked at my children and thought, ‘nothing matters but them.’ I knew we had to leave.”

If they only had themselves to worry about, thousands of Syrian parents might take their chances and stay in their country even as bombs drop and snipers fire. “If it were not for my children, I would never have left Syria. I should be there,” says Ahmed. Instead, he took his family to Jordan.

Ilham, an epileptic mother of six, was shot in the leg by a sniper. But for several months after, she remained in Syria. “I didn’t want to leave my country,” she says. Finally, though, it wasn’t about her: “I was afraid my kids would be killed.” She too fled to Jordan. Continue reading

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