Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Zaatari Camp in Jordan

I've been trying to write this blog post for days now...I spent five days in Jordan as a bit of an exposure visit with the team there so I could better understand the situation and the work we're doing. On Tuesday I went to Zaatari camp, which is about an hour and a quarter north of Amman, with a project our partner organisation is managing called Voice which is doing some really great work. Our first stop was one of the newer 'caravans' (pre-fab containers, like a site office in a construction site) to meet with a men's group. They were a fantastic bunch, and included Hassan, who took over our twitter account last week and provided a really interesting insight into life in the camp. Hassan is in the grey striped jumper, and it's his son in green. His wife had also just given birth last week so we went to meet the little one who was so tiny. The men have formed a bit of a singing group and have taken traditional Syrian songs and changed the lyrics to be about Zaatari. 
 This is the 'street' that Hassan lives on. He's much happier in one of the caravans now, as it is warmer, quieter and safer for his family. 
Driving around the camp I got a bit of an idea of the conditions that many thousands of people are facing. The tents are very sturdy, but the massive storm that hit a few weeks ago damaged a lot of tents and in some areas we were told the water was almost knee high. You can see a bit of stagnant water below, imagine it during a storm.
We then met with a women's group that had been formed by a teacher (who is not allowed to be a teacher in the camp, only Jordanians can be, so she's now an assistant teacher) who had asked to form her own group of more educated women.They raised some really interesting points about the conditions of the camp and the struggles they're facing. While the discussion was going on I saw this little guy sneaking looks at me and giving me cheeky smiles. He's 18 months old and his mother thinks he's deaf.
This is the area of the camp that we're working in, it's not as populated as the old part of the camp as it is further away from where the distributions happen. But it's better planned and work is ongoing to provide better sanitation facilities than the temporary port-a-loos we've put in as a temporary measure.
It looked like a big storm was brewing. We'd had a thunderstorm in Amman in the morning, but it subsided by the time we got to the camp the second day.
This is a water kiosk we've been piloting. There are two basins on the left (at child and adult height) for people to wash their hands, and taps on the right for water collection. The response from the people in the area has been very positive so we'll be installing more of them. We heard that people from other parts of the camp have been coming to use it.
Zaatari is an incredible place. The sheer size of it is astounding, as it the bitumen 'ring road' that circles the camp. For those lucky enough to be in caravans it's still not an easy life. There is nothing to do, besides queue for distributions and people from different neighbourhoods and suburbs in Syria are all mixed up together. Family is so important, so it's often the case that when tents are pitched they disappear and reappear in another part of the camp, as people understandably want to be close to their loved ones. One woman told me, "we used to have our own homes, with trees, gardens and space. Now we have...tents."
Some of the families have been in Zaatari for six months, and more and more people arrive every day. They can't come and go freely from the camp (unless they want to return to Syria), and they have to apply for "warrant cards" to leave the camp, medical treatment included.

"We know the Jordanians are very kind and that they don't have many resources to support us. And if we were all allowed to leave the camp to work we would destroy the economy of Jordan. But we need help. Other agencies and governments need to help."


  1. I want to teach in a Zatari school, how do I do that? I have to get paid because I have obligations. Is there any place for a teacher who currently lives in the USA? I have dual USA/Jordanian citezenship.


  2. Somebody get me to Zatari! I want to teach there so bad!!!

  3. Hi Chad,
    The schools hire only Jordanian citizens (and assistant teachers from the Syrian community) through the Ministry of Education. Maybe your best bet is to contact them, but I assume it's a difficult process.