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Jordan is one of the destinations for refugees escaping from conflict in Syria. Caritas helps provide those arriving with essential items, but life is very harsh for those seeking safety.
The numbers of Syrian refugees registered by Caritas Jordan is over 50,000. The majority are women and children. The primary focus of Caritas is providing non-food items with teams of volunteers actively involved in the distribution of jerry cans, warm bedding and hygiene kits for registered families, as well as school bags and kits for children.
“We are trying to create a channel of trust and credibility with those affected. We listen a lot and although when we cannot provide for all the people’s needs, at least we can empathise and provide emotional support,” says Jameel Dababneh, an Emergency Response Officer for Caritas .
While attention is focused on the refugee camps, Caritas Jordan works primarily outside the camps through their nine centres spread around the country. These long established antennas are now trying to cope with an estimated 80,000 Syrians refugees who have not been able to register with UNHCR or who are living in the camps. The urban surge has pushed up the price of accommodation and is creating a new set of economic issues that are harder to evaluate.
In order to provide for the food needs, Caritas is distributing food parcels and food vouchers. The use of vouchers has proven innovative and is having a positive impact on addressing people’s needs as they allow families to prioritise their most essential commodities. Distribution of the vouchers has been efficient and to date food and non-food vouchers have been distributed to over 1,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian families. Caritas is making plans to expand this system of assistance.
Caritas activities in Jordan are particularly focussed on the needs of children. Their programme of promotion of education and social integration is allowing children, who would otherwise be left out, to attend classes 3 hours a day , three days a week . A team of 12 teachers and 8 animators are offering formal classes and vocational training to over 350 children.
While Caritas is scaling up its assistance efforts to cater for new arrivals, Geroge Akl, project manager for Caritas Jordan is still worried about the living conditions faced by refugees already housed in the various camps located in Jordan .
“The tents are very basic,” he says. “They are located on desert plains and are exposed to violent sandstorms which have blown down some tents. Temperatures can drop dramatically during the night and become really cold. People are living in very precarious harsh conditions. We need to address this situation before it gets worse. ”
As for the urban refuges, Caritas has started a programme of “housing adaptation”. It is distributing vouchers allowing refugees paying rent to fix the most basic requirements of their accommodation such as sanitation, or window repairs or leaks.
Health programmes are under stress. There is an urgent need to address the health situation as Jordanian hospitals are unable to cope with this influx of people. Caritas clinics provide medical supplies and give medicine to the most needy , but according to Jameel other aspects of health care should be considered .
“I think what is also very important is to provide psycho-social assistance to people. So far we have registered over 120 children suffering with serious psychological trauma, I wish we could do more,” he says.