The most current UNHCR statistics on Syrian refugees in Jordan report that some 20% live in established refugee camps like Za'atari and Azraq, while over 80% live in Jordanian cities. However, due to increasing costs of living, especially rent, some refugees establish what is known as Informal Tented Settlements (ITS) outside the cities.
These settlements are highly vulnerable; they are not officially recognised by the Jordanian government, and can therefore be dismantled without due notice. Furthermore, refugees living in these conditions are often not eligible for education, healthcare, and basic services. The UN and REACH found that the number of ITS camps increased by 320.8% from 2014 to 2015, with an estimated 11,000 people living in them across the country. Some reports are stating that this year, the number is closer to 16,000 refugees.
This week, we went to one of these camps in Mafraq, a city where around 50% of the population is now Syrian. This camp has 20 families from Syria who live together in a mix of tents and basic brick houses. While we were there, we distributed 20 boxes of a month's supply of food for each family, as well as two boxes of animal food for their livestock. The inhabitants of the ITS told us that their most pressing need at the moment is clothing and shoes for the children, as well as diapers and basic food supplies. Despite the difficulties they face, a former teacher who now lives in this settlement have started a school. All the children are now able to read and write, and attend school daily.
To help them, we are going back next week to provide one man with a wheelchair, and we will begin reaching out to the community here in Zarqa and Amman to organise a clothing drive. We also hope that through donations made to us for our Christmas Project, we can buy these people gas heaters to keep them safe and warm this winter.