UN: Syrian refugees overwhelm Jordan camp

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 29, 2013 at 8:12 am •  Published: January 29, 2013

Hyde said the influx to the camp means more showers, toilets, shelters, and schools need to be built. And more refugees also means a rising demand for water in Jordan, already the fourth most water scarce country in the world. She described the sharp increase in refugees as "daunting."

"You can see that many children at Zaatari — called the 'kids' camp' because they make up the greatest numbers here — don't have socks or even shoes in the dead of winter," she said as children played on swings and slides nearby.

Hyde said 24,000 Syrian refugee children entered Jordan in the past month alone — the highest number ever.

"This means that we need to be building a new school immediately," she said, expressing hope that a new one could be constructed by mid-February.

Classes are to resume at the existing school on Feb. 5, but desperate refugees moved in earlier this month because howling winter winds blew their tents down and others were flooded. They say they are still awaiting alternative accommodations. Other camp residents have started jokingly describing the school as "occupied territory."

"We've had officials come and visit — even the Bahraini government who built the school — and still no one has responded to our needs for new housing," said Abu Mohamed, a 35-year-old businessman who is staying in the school where about two dozen people share a single classroom partitioned by rows of desks.

"They haven't given us heaters, tents or trailers," said the man who fled fighting in the Syrian capital, Damascus, with his family of four. "Rain is forecast again. Doctors tell us at the camp hospital that our children are sick from the cold."

Anne Richard, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, says that as more Syrians pour out of their homeland, more countries are needed to contribute assistance.

Last year, the U.S. contributed $220 million to assist Syrian refugees. Speaking Monday in the Jordanian capital, Richard said the U.S. would announce additional funding for Syria at the conference in Kuwait, but declined to provide details.

Another Abu Walid, 46, from the southern Syrian town of Dara'a, said that as much as he and the other refugees need the aid, what they really want is an end to nightmarish killing, rape and shelling back home. His 16-year-old son was killed in Syria by shrapnel from artillery tank fire as he walked home from work.

"We want this awful crisis to end and to return home," said the slender man, a wool scarf tied around his neck to ward off the cold.

"The world is sleeping. It's failing us. ... How can it continue to turn its back on us every day as more and more are killed inside Syria?"