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Jordan: preparing for a bigger crisis

Roger Hearn, Regional Response Team Leader, visits Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan.

This week I visited Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, home to more than 90,000 people who have fled the conflict in neighbouring Syria.

The size of the camp is overwhelming – and it’s getting bigger by the day. Some days we are seeing up to 5,000 new arrivals.

Dedicated staff

I was incredibly impressed by the work of Save the Children in the camp.

I met some staff who earlier this year, despite the evacuation instructions given by the UN, went back into the camp during a major storm. The storm saw the flooding and collapse of tents sheltering thousands of refugees. Some people worked for 72 hours straight getting families to safety and making sure they had the basics to get through this event.

While this particular crisis is over, every day is a struggle for the thousands of people living in the camp.

Tensions rise

Tensions in the camp can rise and people’s frustration can reach breaking point, making the working environment for our staff incredibly difficult.

For example, Save the Children staff now provide bread on a daily basis to more than 90,000 people. Despite how well this is organised it is hard not to avoid tempers flaring from time to time.

We are  looking at ways of reducing tension and to continue ensuring that people can receive the basic necessities in dignity.

Safe spaces for children

Visiting one of the kindergartens run by Save the Children was a welcome break.

For a short time I felt I was somewhere normal. Somewhere where children can be children: have fun, play games, laugh and sing.

I also saw a few of the 22 child-friendly spaces providing a safe environment for children to have fun and escape the hardships of the camp.

A large number of Syrian volunteers support the running of these centres; people clearly proud at being able to support their communities at this time of crisis.

A bigger crisis looms

The latest projections by the UN stand at up to 1.1 million refugees in surrounding countries by June – I fear even this is a major underestimation.

If the fighting intensifies in Damascus, we are likely to see a major exodus of refugees into surrounding countries.

As well as doing all we can for people now, we must all prepare for a much bigger crisis.

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