An evening knock at the door brought the refugee crises closer to home recently for one of Operation Mercy's staff in Jordan. A neighbour knew the Operation Mercy expatriate family living up stairs was working with refugees from Syria, and so having met a Syrian woman with her four kids at the park she thought she would take them directly to their house.
The family had just left one of the few refugee camps for Syrians in Jordan and had arrived in the capital city with almost nothing. With the little money they had they were able to find a small apartment. They knew one other Syrian family in the area and believed that because there was a decent market near their home they would be able to find some work. Only three months earlier they had fled their home in Syria and travelled hundreds of miles to cross the border to Jordan. At every checkpoint along the way they lied saying that they were going to visit a friend in the next town or village. Eventually they made it to the refugee camp in Jordan, but after two months living in cold, dry and fairly rustic conditions, they decided to take the little money they had left and move to the capital city.
When the Operation Mercy staff person visited them, they had nothing besides a few basic kitchen items and the mattresses and blankets they had received in the camp. Their rent was nearly 250 USD a month and they had no work, and not even the legal permission to work. Their chances for really thriving in the city looked bleak. The only way they would be able to afford to live even the most basic life would require that their two young sons work in the market along with their Dad. Sadly, they were unwilling to put their two girls in school fearing for their safety and well being since there was a growing prejudice against refugees from Syria. On top of all this, the family had very little understanding of how to register as a refugee and make use of the various resources being offered to them by the humanitarian community.
This family and their story and present status is very typical of the nearly 500,000 Syrian refugees now living in Jordan. The UNHCR estimates that 80% of refugees are now living in the urban areas of Jordan and outside of refugee camps. None of these refugees have the legal right to work. The stress that refugee families are living under is intense, not to mention the stress of what they experienced in their home country and prompted their flight in the first place. The sheer number of Syrian refugees living in Jordan has stretched the country, and while there is promise of medical care and education for Syrian refugees there is simply not enough capacity to deliver.
It is in this difficult and complex situation that Operation Mercy is serving refugee families in the urban context with provision of basic household items, hygiene kits, food and medical support. Furthermore, Operation Mercy is doing all that it can to identify the most vulnerable of refugee families and ensure that their needs are prioritized, particularly for infant children and mothers of infants. In partnership with both other international and local actors, Operation Mercy is seeking to identify cases of malnutrition and ensure that where it exists it is properly treated. Refugees are spread all over, and the most needy are often difficult to find, but Operation Mercy, in partnership with numerous local partners, is seeking to provide personal relief and support to the most vulnerable of refugee households in the urban context. Because of Operation Mercy's history in Jordan it is well situated to identify and follow up in a personal way with the hard to find and hard to serve urban refugee households.