Dispatches from the Ground

MADRE Executive Director Yifat Susskind recently traveled to Jordan, meeting with our local partners organizing to provide services to Syrian refugee women and families. See below for updates and photos from her trip:

Voices of Syrian Mothers in Za’atari Camp (April 11, 2013)

The trauma of the war follows women even in the relative safety of Jordan. You can see it most clearly in their eyes: the hollow stares, the sudden tears, the inability to maintain eye contact in conversations. Among the refugees, even those who appear physically unharmed are wounded.

We talked to Meena who came across the border from her home in Homs after Assad’s forces burned down her house and killed her 27-year-old sister. Meena is 39 years old, the mother of 12 children and a grandmother of four. One of her older daughters was married here in the camp. “It is better,” she said, “for protection.” For Meena, married at 15, her daughter’s wedding was a blessing. But other women say that girls in the camp suffer the most.

We spoke with Sabeen, whose 13-year-old daughter was married shortly after arriving in the camp. “We had no money when we arrived in Jordan,” Sabeen told us. “Marriage was the only option to give my daughter protection and security.” Her daughter is now pregnant. Sabeen worries that her young body cannot properly handle the stress of pregnancy. And reproductive health services are scarce in the camp. 

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Finding Light in a Refugee Camp (April 12, 2013)

When I visited Za’atari camp, where Syrian refugees have fled by the thousands, I spoke to a woman named Hanan. She said the biggest problem in the camp is the toilets. They are far away from the tents and very dark at night. No woman or girl goes there after nightfall. And in the daytime, the women go in groups for safety. There is no way to lock the door, and they don’t feel safe.

One part of camp has lighting, but it’s only a small part, and the electricity is intermittent. “We need light,” the women told us. “It is too dangerous for us here in the dark.”

The camp is so big that some women have to walk an hour and 15 minutes to reach the area of the camp where there are services — clinics, feeding centers and schools. But services can’t keep pace with the exploding population, so people don’t have access to care or basic supplies.

We talked to Rima who is helping to distribute basic needs like diapers in the camp. She told us how the women help each other, even just by talking together. “This fills a huge need that we have — to share our pain and our strength,” she said. “That’s the support that women give each other here. We have no money, clothes or food to give, but we can give our ear to listen and our shoulder to cry on. I never cry when my children are watching. They have seen enough tears.”

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"It’s like you are living without your life." (April 18, 2013)

I’ve been in refugee camps where people are listless, resigned; where everyone seems suspended in a state of traumatized limbo. But Za’atari camp in the north of Jordan, where tens of thousands of Syrian refugees now reside, is different. Za’atari is seething.

People here give off a manic, restless energy. Some seem ready to snap from the sheer, relentless boredom. There are people who have been here now for more than two years, with literally nothing to do. “It’s like you are living without your life,” was how one young man described being a refugee. He was quiet, with a sad smile. But other men here exude pure anger.

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Photo Gallery:

(c) Meena Lenn(c) Meena Lenn(c) Meena Lenn

Photo Credit: Meena Lenn, Circle of Health International