Tag Archives: Caritas Jordan

Syrian refugees in Jordan: huge strain on medical services

A Syrian refugee receives medical care from Doctor Joseph Shnoudi at a Caritas  Community Centre in Amman, Jordan. Credits: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

A Syrian refugee receives medical care from Doctor Joseph Shnoudi at a Caritas Community Centre in Amman, Jordan. Credits: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

With his final Syria Crisis blog, Caritas Scotland-SCIAF’s Media Officer Val Morgan tells the story of the Caritas doctors dealing with the physical impact of the war

It was heartening to hear that the first thing he became aware of after his home was hit by a bomb was his daughter crying – she was alive.

Initially Nidal had been knocked unconscious whilst he took shelter with his family and neighbours from the bombardment taking place in his suburb of Damascus. Three died in the attack. Nidal was taken to a hospital with severe leg injuries. After three days the hospital came under attack and was eventually destroyed – thankfully Nidal and his family had narrowly escaped again.

I met Nidal in a hospital in Amman, Jordan, where Caritas runs a range of medical services in association with the Italian Hospital. Here, Caritas Jordan provides primary care including an initial medical assessment, treatment and medicine. Secondary healthcare is also provided including referrals to other services and supporting in-patients, for instance, by paying the costs of their medical care.

Cartas Jordan uses the Italian Hospital and four others across the country, together with five migration centres, to provide direct humanitarian aid such as food, cloths, blankets, stoves and fuel. But the increasing demand being placed on Jordan’s healthcare system by the influx of refugees is placing huge strain on services.

Suhad Zarafili of Caritas Jordan told me, “The healthcare system is now very over-crowded. We did not expect to have the high number of Syrian refugees that we have. When we have seen such high demand we have had to establish a new medical centre here in Amman.”

Caritas Jordan has seen a six-fold increase in Syrians needing medical attention in recent months. Dr Khalid Shammas, the Director of the Italian Hospital told me:

“We are used to working with refugees since the Iraq conflict, but the Syrian situation is much worse. I believe the Syrian war will continue to run for several years and the impact on Jordan with last for 20years. The Syrian refugees have lost everything and have nothing to go back to.

“There are more people being referred to us all the time. They have a greater need for medical help, and there’s also more wounded. To deal with the great number of people with diseases related to poverty and war is extremely challenging. We are not used to dealing with this amount of people.

“We also have to deal with people affected by war trauma, those who have lost relatives, and everything they know. We need to treat everything, from the psychological to the physical.”

Thanks to Caritas Jordan and its partners, many thousands of Syrian refugees have received urgent medical care and humanitarian aid at this difficult time.

The demands on the county’s health system and wider society continue to mount, but it would be much worse without the love, care and practical support being provided by the Caritas family.

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Syrian refugee crisis: Call to action

A Syrian refugee camp in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, where six families are charged US$133 each to rent the land where a three room makeshift  accommodation has been constructed in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. By Danny Lawson/PA Wire

A Syrian refugee camp in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, where six families are charged US$133 each to rent the land where a three room makeshift accommodation has been constructed in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. By Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Val Morgan from the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund blogs on the Caritas Syrian refugee emergency response from Lebanon and Jordan.

They flee with nothing but the clothes on their backs – many traumatised by the horrific violence they have seen and experienced. Now they are homeless, often grieving for the loss of their previous peaceful lives and the death of their children, parents or wider family. This is the situation for the ever increasing Syrian refugee population as they flee for their lives over the boarders into neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

In Tripoli, Bekaa Valley, Saida, Amman and Zarkq and elsewhere in Lebanon and Jordan Caritas is running emergency projects to help refugees and vulnerable people in the host communities. The individual stories of suffering are harrowing, their outlook bleak.

One woman who spoke to a Caritas aid worker, Shaha Ibrahim, was four months pregnant when she fled with her husband and first child. Her new baby girl, Bayane, is now just 2 months old. Like many others, she has lost family: “My two cousins were killed in a bombing. We ran away from our home but our cousins didn’t make it,” she said.

Her husband, Abboud, said that before they fled “We could see the bombs falling and the buildings on fire around us. There were so many dead bodies and body parts in the street. A lot of our neighbours were killed or injured by shrapnel. When we saw the bodies we thought we would be next. We ran from one place to the next but didn’t even have food – our children were starving.”

Once over the border, the plight of Syrian refugees remains one of immense struggle. The conditions many families find themselves are absolutely appalling.

There are no official refugee camps in Lebanon so the they have to find shelter wherever they can in derelict buildings and temporary shelters made from waste

For those with some money, the rent rooms. Some families are extremely vulnerable. I spoke to Ahmad Salameh who had been living with his wife, children, and five other families in a cow shed with a pipe leaking human waste into it. This is where they had been sheltering, sleeping and eating.

The space was approximately three metres by five metres. The other five families were all headed by his sisters-in-law as two of his brothers had been killed and three remained in Syria. Fortunately Ahmad and his extended families have now built a shelter on land they are renting nearby. It is cleaner and they have more space.

There is less illness in the family and it is a little warmer. These are the people who Caritas are providing aid to. Ahmad and his wider family received food, blankets and mattresses. Others receive hygiene kits including soap, cloths, diapers, medical care, trauma counselling, fuel, stoves, school fees, uniforms and books for children and rent vouchers depending on their situation.

As the horrific war in Syria continues the problems are set to deteriorate further as between 3,000 to 4,000 new refugees cross the border into Lebanon every day. Put simply, there isn’t enough emergency aid for the growing number of refugees.

Syrians now make up around 25 per cent of the country’s population with conservative estimates of refugees at 1.1 million with a Lebanese population of 4 million. It is easy to imagine the enormous impact the Syrian war and refugee crisis is having on Lebanon.

There are also many poor and vulnerable Lebanese families who need help. There is now a shortage of cheap rental accommodation, food prices are rising, growing waiting lists for schools, and unemployment and crime are soaring. With such an intense scramble for resources the prospect of civil unrest between the refugees and their hosts is a very real possibility with isolated trouble already occurring.

Fantastic work is being done by Caritas on the ground, working alongside other charities and the UNHCR. But the needs remain great. That is why it is more important than ever that we continue to support the Syrian refugees and their host communities. This is already a deep humanitarian catastrophe and no one should be fooled into thinking that it cannot get worse. It can. And it will be the innocent and desperate refugees and their hosts in neighbouring countries who will suffer.

Now is a time for action.

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Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon: violence against women

Photo credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Photo credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Val Morgan from the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) blogs on the Caritas Syrian refugee emergency response from Lebanon and Jordan

“Sexual violence and abuse of women is a major problem but it is not in our culture to talk about it. We have heard some terrible stories from the Zatari camp,” said one aid worker I spoke to in Jordan.

I had seen this problem before in the Democratic Republic of Congo when very large numbers of people flee their homes and are displaced by war. It is often the case in these situations that women and girls become much more exposed to abuse and sexual violence.

This horrific problem now seems to be spreading as an indirect result of the ongoing war in Syria. Yet again, ordinary people are carrying the heaviest burden. In Lebanon, I spoke to Fatme Mchawreb, a senior social worker at the Saida migrant centre. Fatma told me the problem was on the rise.

“Mothers have no protection if they are on their own. Sexual violence and abuse is increasing. However, people do not talk about it as sex is a taboo subject in this country. But rape is happening here in Lebanon.

“Before, UNHCR would deal with these cases but we have taken over from them and in the last three months we are discovering more and more of these cases. Up to now we had referred them to Abaad, a specialist NGO in Syria.”

“We already have a sexual violence and abuse programme with workers doing training for people in the community. The support we provide includes trying to help those affected meet their material needs, and also a referral to a psychologist.

“With the abuse of women we often discover it when we do our first home visit. Sometimes the women come to us after they have been beaten by their husband.”

They need someone to support them and they trust the social worker.

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Syrian refugees helping Syrian refugees in Jordan

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Tehane, a refugee who fled Syria after her home was bombed, now works as a volunteer with Caritas Jordan. Photo by Murad Saidawi/Caritas Jordan

By Caroline Brennan

Along the Syrian border, conversations with refugees from Jordan to Lebanon to Turkey strike a recurring theme: a yearning for the world to see Syrians as they know themselves to be—a hospitable, warm and civilized culture.

The quest by Syrian refugees to hold onto their identity is tangible. You see it in the small grass and rock arrangement that is placed as a centerpiece on the mud floor of a desolate tent. You see it in the care of a mother bathing her daughter each day with a bucket and cloth to keep her clean in the dusty refugee camp, far from the nice home they enjoyed just 10 months ago.

And you see it in the Syrians who are refugees themselves, but who are helping other refugees because “it is part of our culture.”

Like Tahane, a 25-year-old woman from the Syrian city of Homs. Tahane fled Homs in late 2012 when it came under siege by planes and indiscriminate bombing. When she arrived in the Jordanian town of Zarqa, she had nothing: no food, no shelter, no way to earn a living, no answers about what was to come.

“I arrived at Caritas Jordan needing help. But, when I was at the social center, I realized there were people around me who needed even more than I did,” says Tahane.

Caritas Jordan is supporting 140,000 refugees across the country with vital relief and assistance, including urgent food, medical care, hygiene supplies, trauma counseling, and education for children.

Within a few months of arriving in Jordan, Tahane asked Caritas if she could volunteer for them – to help reach out to Syrians who are living in some of the most difficult, inhumane conditions in the area.

Tahane is now part of a three-person Syrian team that visits refugee families who have just fled Syria and arrived Jordan. She meets them wherever they are staying – in tents, as squatters, in crowded apartments with other families.

Most refugees prefer to live outside refugee camps and in many cases they have no choice, as camps have the capacity to accommodate only about a third of the refugee population. Since December 2012, the number of “urban refugees” has more than doubled, with families living in overcrowded conditions with other families in small apartments. These urban refugees often depend on savings, limited work opportunities and the generosity of the host population to survive. Many have experienced trauma, violence and the loss of loved ones.

When Tahane meets them for the first time, her purpose is to let them know that help is available to them, that they are not alone.

“When we show up and they see we are Syrian, they are relieved. They hear our voices, they connect to our stories. We tell them we understand, that we went through this, too,” Tahane says.

Tahane lost all that she had built when her house was demolished by bombs. Thankfully, she and her family survived.

“We were all hiding in my basement and we could hear the planes above us and feel the shaking from the bombs. We grabbed our things and just ran,” she says.

“I can’t explain what it felt like in that moment. We just wanted to make sure the kids were OK. We ran out onto the street and waved the first car to get in and get out. There were many cars passing and carrying the injured…we went in one of those cars to Damascus.”

Tahane listens to families who share stories of grief and loss remarkably similar to her own, showing patience and care as they come to grips with their new reality.

“I can’t forget my first visit. I could cry as I think about it. I could not have imagined that the situation facing other Syrians was worse than my own,” she says. “Those who are newly arrived literally have nothing with them. So anything can help them to start their lives. Every time I visit a new family, I wish I had more to help them.”

Tahane recognizes that, in many ways, helping fellow Syrians helps her, too.

“My volunteering here with Caritas helps me to adapt, to not to forget what I’ve left behind. When I’m helping others, I know I’m helping myself. I might be unable to help Syrians within Syria. But when I am helping a Syrian family here, I am helping Syria in one way or another.”

As the needs dramatically grow for the millions of refugees across the region, more Syrian refugees are part of the humanitarian response to save their brethren.

“What gives me great joy is when I see these families the first time they enter the Caritas Jordan center. They know no one. Then they see me, they see our Syrian volunteer team, they know us and they feel instantly secure.”

Tahane loves her work so much she can’t imagine not doing it. She says one of the first thing she hopes for is that she can work back in Syria to help Syrians when they return to their country and start to rebuild, to recover.

“The difference of where we are from, our economic backgrounds, the things that made us different in Syria-that is not relevant here. We are all refugees. We are all in need of help. We are all the same.”

Caroline Brennan is CRS’ senior communications officer for the emergency response team. This post first appeared on the CRS website.

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A spark of hope for Syrian mothers in Jordan

Syrian refugee children in Jordan recieve counseeling and education help thanks to Caritas. Credit: Caritas Jordan

Syrian refugee children in Jordan recieve counseeling and education help thanks to Caritas. Credit: Caritas Jordan

By Dana Shahin, Caritas Jordan

Hanan Yousef Abdel-Razaq lost her home and a four-year old daughter during an attack on Dara’a in Syria in January. She fled to Jordan with her two remaining children, sons aged five and three.

Hanan is one of the over half a million Syrian refugees now living in Jordan because it’s too dangerous to remain in Syria where a bloody civil war is raging into its third year. The refugees come with nothing, and need food, shelter, education and healthcare.

One in eight Syrian refugees in Jordan are women or children.

“I heard about Caritas first from my sister,” said Hanan. “When I came here to register, they asked me about my family and I said I had two children. They immediately offered me services for me and for my children.”

Caritas Jordan has register 130,000 Syrian refugees to receive its aid. They will receive food vouchers, help with accommodation, medical care, counselling and other aid like blankets and heaters.

Hanan with her son in the counselling sessions with other  Syrian refuge mothers at the Caritas Centre in Zarqa. Credit: Caritas Jordan

Hanan with her son in the counselling sessions with other Syrian refuge mothers at the Caritas Centre in Zarqa. Credit: Caritas Jordan

Hanan was enrolled in Caritas Jordan counselling sessions for Syrian refugee mothers. These sessions are meant to help those mothers know more about how to deal with their children.

“I was really happy to come and be a part of this programme, and I have seen that now they [my children] have changed,” said Hanan.

“In the classes, we talk about how to deal with children, how to keep eye contact with them, how to change the mood of the children if they are angry, afraid or upset. I’ve learned how to deal better with them, to not yell all the time, to change my own behaviour,” she said.

Randa Zoumot is the counsellor. She said that the purpose of the classes is to help mothers know how important they are to their children and their futures. “They feel helpless and traumatized. Those mothers definitely need a spark, a hope,” said Randa. “We talk about trauma and we talk about their kids.

“Each one has an individual story. In the first session, they were all complaining about their children’s behaviour, how they hit each other; how they are tense. Now they talk about listening to their kids more, playing with their children more.”

Hanan has witnessed a change.

“ I was really nervous with my children but this has changed. I used to shout but now I’m more patient.  I count to three before I react,” she said. “Previously, they were always frightened because of the death of their sister. My son started to have nightmares that someone would come in and kill him. They have changed. I can really see the difference.”

Much more can be done. And with the number the Syrian refugee population in the region expected to double in the next six months from 1.6 to 3.5 million people, the needs will only grow in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and elsewhere.

“Thank God I can be here and I have the legs to stand and the mind to think. I am glad my children are with me, that we have Caritas, that we can feed our kids that we have a roof overhead,” said one of the mothers.

Notes by CRS/Caroline Brennan

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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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