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There are over half a million Syrian refugees who have fled the war to Jordan. Caritas Jordan has helped over 217,000 people, providing €20 million worth of aid including shelter, healthcare, education and counseling. Caritas Switzerland’s Monica Matarazzo and Dana Shahin of Caritas Jordan spoke with two families that Caritas supports.

Grieving for a lost mother

Yahia's children in their home in Jordan. Credit: Alessio Romenzi/Caritas Switzerland

Yahia’s children in their home in Jordan. Credit: Alessio Romenzi/Caritas Switzerland

Yahia Khaled comes from a village near Aleppo. He has five children, from one to 15 years old.  “My wife was killed when our village was bombed,” she said, still suffering from shock. “She was just working nearby. I fled to Jordan with my children.”

Even if the children are silent, their eyes speak volumes about the tragic death of their mother. They are obviously in need of therapy.

Yahia must not only cope with the loss of his wife. He is suffering from cancer that requires medical treatment. It’s help he wouldn’t be able to find in Syria, where the health service has collapsed.

Even in Jordan, it’s difficult to find the painkillers Yahia needs.  It was impossible to find the necessary help when he was in Zaatari, the sprawling refugee camp run by the UN where 130,000 Syrian live.

With the help of his friends, Yahia found a place to stay with two rooms in Zarka,  a town north-east of Amman. He must pay around 160 Euros for rent, electricity and water. Caritas takes care of his bills and gets him the medicine he needs.

Yahia with a Caritas Jordan social worker. Credit: Alessio Romenzi/Caritas Switzerland

Caritas Jordan social worker, a Syrian refugee herself, visits Yahia. Shattered Syrian families wait in Jordan, dreaming of returning home. Credit: Alessio Romenzi/Caritas Switzerland

Because of his illness, Yahia cannot take care of himself. His brother and grandmother also live in the small apartment and help.  He fights for his survival, but also for his family. They need food, medicine, clothes, bedding and soap.

Yearning for home

Fawaz and his wife Heba and their four children lived a quite, good life in Damascus. They owned a restaurant. The business was a success and they lacked nothing. “We had a home and settled life. Our children Khaled, Muhammed, Amal and Lana went each day to school,” said Fawaz.

“Now there is nothing left,” he said. When their area in Damascus came under continuous bombardment in Syria’s long-running civil war, the family searched for other places to live inside the country. In the end they had no choice but to flee.

Thanks to the support of friends, they’d managed to escape via the Lebanese capital Beirut. On the 1 January, the family arrived in Jordan.  All of their processions were left behind in Damascus. They took with them only the clothes that they were wearing.

During their escape through Syria, they were stopped and searched many times by the security services.  They feared that Fawaz would be taken and recruited into the army. The soldiers took all their food. They arrived exhausted and hungry at the border. To get across, they had to pay smugglers.

Fawaz Khaled. Credit:  Alessio Romenzi/Caritas Switzerland

Fawaz and his son. Credit: Alessio Romenzi/Caritas Switzerland

With the help of fellow Syrians, they found a modest place near the capital Amman. They must pay about 80 Euros a month. And that doesn’t include electricity, water or heating. Because they have nothing, Caritas pays for their place to stay.

The family is suffering. They have lost everything. Fawaz can’t find work and the children cannot go to school. The parents don’t know how they will meet their needs. Everything is expensive in Jordan: food, bedding, household items and fuel.

Fawaz is an entrepreneur. It’s hard for him to be living in such a limbo of uncertainty. “We spend the whole day long day with our arms crossed. I’m not allowed to work in Jordan. It’s against the law,”  he said.   “I would accept any job, but I’m frightened that I’d be found out and sent back to Syria.”

If the present is uncertain,  the future is even more so. The family hopes for better times. They would like to live in security and send their children to school.