Photo credit: MEDAIR

Photo credit: MEDAIR

Hasna, 34, gave birth to her fifth daughter in Jordan. They named her Jawaher, meaning “diamonds”. Strong. Rare. Precious. 

Originally from Al-Ghouta, Syria, she and her husband fled in 2013, along with their five children, after the house they were staying in was hit by a bomb. For nearly a year they had moved from one village to another in an increasingly desperate search for safety.
“We left the houses with only the clothes we had on. We were exhausted, tired, and scared” she explained. “Many of our family members were killed. We had to flee to Jordan to escape the fighting.”

They found refuge in Jordan, but after two months of living in Za’atari chose to leave the camp and move to Mafraq. But life as an urban refugee presented its own set of challenges. 
The family had little savings, making it hard to secure nutritious food on a regular basis, and the previous 18 months had taken their toll on Hasna’s health. It is around this time that she became pregnant with Jawaher.

The hardship only seemed to increase after Jawaher was born. 

“I was really tired. It is so hard to see my children hungry, not going to school, and without clothes to be warm,” recalled Hasna’s husband, his eyes full of tears.

One day, when she was 8 months old, Jawaher stopped eating. No matter what her mother tried, she could not get her to breastfeed.  Fearing for their daughter’s life, the family took little Jawaher to the hospital. 

It was there that Elsa, Health and Nutrition Project Manager with Medair, first met baby Jawaher. 

A mid-upper arm circumference test – used to assess nutritional status - revealed that she was suffering from acute malnutrition. Precious Jawaher “was starving and in need of food” recalled Elsa.

Photo credit: MEDAIR

Photo credit: MEDAIR

Photo credit: MEDAIR

Photo credit: MEDAIR

The average weight of an eight month old infant is between 8 to 10 kilos; Jawaher weighed 4.6 kilos. 

The Medair Health Team provided immediate support. At the hospital, they administered Plumby’Nut, a peanut-based therapeutic food used to treat acute malnutrition in children. 
“It was amazing.  After 30 minutes she started to get her energy back. An eight-month-old baby should be making noises and interacting with people, and after 90 minutes she was doing just that” explained Elsa.

Once Jawaher was released from the hospital, Elsa and Medair continued to support Hasna through her daughter’s rehabilitation. When snow storm Huda threatened to put Jordan into a deep freeze, Elsa negotiated with the local hospital to admit Hasna and Jawaher; it was unlikely that Jawaher could have survived the storm in the family’s tent. Every day, Medair staff visited Hasna to assist with feeding Jawaher.

Three weeks later, when the snow melted, mother and daughter were able to return home. Jawaher was stronger, though Medair would make regular visits to the family’s home to monitor her progress. Elsa also taught Hasna about nutrition, feeding, and how to make sure her children were getting what they needed to stay healthy and strong. 

Hasna is happy to be back at home with all of her children and to see Jawaher’s health getting better: “Thank you, Medair, for helping us. You brought my child back to life.” 


Sector: Health
Project name: Assistance to vulnerable families affected by the Syrian crisis/Health
JRP Specific Objective: REF3: Comprehensive healthcare for Syrian WGBM and Jordanian populations in highly impacted areas.
Project description: Medair facilitates a malnutrition screening, education, and treatment programme in coordination with the Jordan Health Aid Society.  The project provides education on best practice for infant and child feeding, and the provision of therapeutic food for any with confirmed malnutrition, targeting pregnant and breastfeeding women and children under five. Medair also has a network of trained Community Health volunteers that do house to house visits, facilitate mothers support groups and help promote good health practices in their communities. 
Total Financing: USD 385,476
Financing Agency: Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and Swiss Solidarity (CDB)
Implementing Partner: Medair
Local Partner: Jordan Health Aid Society




Photo credit: World Vision International 

Photo credit: World Vision International 

Eight-year-old Qamar isn’t sure what she wants to be when she grows up. She’s trying to decide between becoming a doctor, so that she can cure people who ask for her help, or a tailor, to be able sew dresses for her toys.

For the last two years Qamar’s family has been living in Jordan. They didn’t want to leave Syria, but when the family’s four bedroom house in Homs was hit by a mortar shell, trapping them inside that they realized it was time to leave. Qamar says: “I was playing on a rocking chair when a sniper arrived in the area. There was a big hole in our house [caused by the fighting] that we had to climb through to escape.”

Their first stop was Al Za’atari Refugee Camp, before moving to one apartment outside of the camp, then another, and finally settling in their current building, where six of them are trying to adjust to a new life.

Their apartment is quite dark, with no carpet and just a fan to keep them cool during the sweltering summer days. There are two sofas in the lounge, and mattresses on the floor. Three months ago their landlord put the rent up without explaining why.

Right now, the only income the family has is what Rajaa, Qamar’s mom, makes selling spinach and chopped mulukhiyah [a middle eastern vegetable].  She earns between three to five Jordanian Dinars a day; their rent is 160 dinars a month, with electricity and water bills on top. It isn’t enough.

Qamar’s family is one of the 500 households – a total of 4,400 people - who have benefited from World Vision’s cash assistance of 150 dinars per month within the No Lost Generation project implemented under the framework of the Jordan Response Plan 2015.

Cash assistance has helped Qamar’s family ensure that their daughter receives an education and is not forced to drop out of school because of her family’s poor living situation. Her two older sisters, Nour and Zaynab, don’t like going to school, but Qamar enjoys learning: “I love to play in school and I like the breaks between classes. My favorite subjects are Arabic and Math. I am friends with Jordanians at school and there are two Syrians too. My wish is to obtain full marks and have my name written on the list of distinctive students.” 

Even with the assistance her family receives, it’s a struggle to put enough food on the table each day, especially since the value of the food voucher was reduced because of a lack of sufficient funding from the international community. “Ever since the [food] voucher’s value decreased from 13 to 10 dinars [per month] only, my fridge doesn’t have much food inside. We only buy vegetables, but our wish is to buy beef”, Rajaa said. She added that they had not had chicken for two months and had never actually had beef since their arrival. “We want to feel full. Fruits and vegetables are all we see and have,” says Rajaa.
While Qamar is adjusting as best as possible to her new life, her 21-year-old brother, Mohamed, barely speaks. He suffers from a speech disorder and didn’t finish school.

Rajaa, says: “The future of the children is lost, just like Mohamed’s, because he should have studied and worked, so he can eventually get married. As for the girls, I can arrange for them to get married. I just want their future to be better since they cannot do anything now.” 

The cash assistance has enabled them to make basic improvements to their accommodation. They installed a new water tank, so now they can shower with hot water; but, the ceiling leaks, and Rajaa needs to clean it every night with a mop.

No matter how comfortable they make their house, it can never feel like home. “My wish is to return back home. My wish for my children is to have us all gathered in our home country and be at our best,” says Rajaa. Qamar, who was five when she left Syria, agrees: “I prefer the old house because it is in my home country. When I was in Syria, I was never afraid of anything.” 

Qamar wants to return to Syria once the war and shooting is over. She grabbed a pen and said: “If I had a magical pen, I would draw a flower and a house in which my family would live. I would be happy if I stay here, but I will be happier if I can go back to Homs.”


Sector: Education
Project name: No Lost Generation
JRP Objective: REF 2 - Access to education sustained for all vulnerable boys and girls (children, adolescents and youth) affected by the Syria crisis
JRP Specific Objective: REF 2.1 - Equal access to education opportunities
Project description: The No Lost Generation project is implemented in six governorates in Jordan; Irbid, Mafraq, Jerash, Ajloun, Zarqa and Amman, and aims at strengthening and harmonizing access to emergency child protection interventions and services for boys and girls. The project also aims at sustaining and improving access to appropriate education opportunities in a protective learning environment for children and youth.
Project duration:  12 months
Project Budget: USD 1.7 million
Financing Agency: Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development (DFATD) Canada
Implementing Partner: World Vision International




Throughout her childhood, Fatima struggled to cope with her hearing impairment. She felt alienated from her peers, and her parents had difficulty handling her special needs. Discriminatory beliefs about disabled people were common.

But with hard work, the family learned sign language, and, when Fatima was 12, her parents discovered she had a gift for art. “I started doing all my siblings’ homework for their art classes,” Fatima told us. She learned to lip read, and with help from her elder sister Heyam, she began teaching her siblings and neighbours to draw. Her family encouraged her to develop her abilities, and she soon became skilled at embroidery and other crafts.

She was able to sell her work, and eventually became well known in the community for her talents. But when her family was forced to flee Syria, Fatima’s life was again thrown into upheaval. Fatima’s mother and her sister, Amal, tried to ensure she did not miss out on any important services or assistance in Jordan. Still, Fatima encountered the same negative attitudes and isolation she had experienced during her childhood in Syria.

“At first, I was really frustrated by people’s reactions and their way of treating me [because] I’m with special needs,” Fatima said. But she persevered. After arriving in Al Za’atari Camp, Fatima began to attend information sessions at a women’s centre operated by the Institute of Family Health supported by UNFPA. The centre is a safe place for refugee women and girls to receive counselling, health and human rights information, and other assistance.

She participated in some of the facility’s recreation classes, making handicrafts and picking up new skills. The staff quickly recognized her talent.

They asked Fatima to join the centre as a volunteer. Since March 2013, Fatima has taught sewing, illustration and painting classes, with assistance from a colleague who knows sign language. She receives a small stipend for her service. “The UNFPA-supported women’s centre discovered and believed in my talents and encouraged me to improve those skills,” Fatima said.

She has since settled into life at the camp. Last year, she got married. Her husband respects her a lot, she says, and she gets along well with his five children. Her schedule is now full with family activities, volunteering at the women’s centre, and developing new artwork and crafts.

“I got a new, great opportunity to be happy again,” Fatima told us, sitting at a table covered in her sketches and embroidery. “Now, I feel safe and happy,” she added.


Sector: Health
Project name: A practical emergency prevention and response to GBV and RH among Syrian refugees in Jordan
JRP Specific Objective: REF 1: Equitable access, uptake and quality of primary healthcare for Syrian women, girls, boys and men, as well as vulnerable Jordanian populations in highly impacted areas
JRP Project Title: REF 1.1: Primary health care for refuge WGBM in camps and out of camp, and vulnerable Jordanians
Total Financing: USD 2 million
Financing Agency: United States and EU, through UNFPA
Implementing Partner: Institute for Family Health / Noor Al Hussein Foundation





3,600 cubic meters of water is the equivalent of nearly 1.5 Olympic swimming pools. Nearly all of this water must be pumped from the aquifer 500 meters below the ground in Za’atari, loaded into one of around 80 delivery trucks, and delivered to thousands of locations over the 5 square miles of the camp in order to provide water to its nearly 80,000 residents. Every day.


The pump at borehole #3 in Za’atari Camp may not look like much, but it pumps 1000 cubic meters of water from depth of 500 meters every single day. 




Water storage tanks at Borehole #3.

 Photo credit: JRPSC/Alice Whitby/Aug2015


Drivers fill up their trucks are Borehole #3.

 Photo credit: JRPSC/Alice Whitby/Aug2015


Photo credit: JRPSC/Alice Whitby/Aug2015



A voluntary community leader, resident in Za'atari,  is responsible for ensuring that every person within his neighborhood receives 35 litres of water per day.


 Photo credit: JRPSC/Alice Whitby/Aug2015



The community leader signs off on every delivery, and keeps a precise record of how much water is delivered with every truck load.

 Photo credit: JRPSC/Alice Whitby/Aug2015



The community leader reviews delivery records with ACTED staff, who work closely with the community leaders to address any issues that might arise.

 Photo credit: JRPSC/Alice Whitby/Aug2015



Umm Adi and Umm Hassan washe dishes outside of a  caravan in Za'atari Camp.


 Photo credit: JRPSC/Alice Whitby/Aug2015



Sector: WASH
Project name: Provision of essential services and infrastructure in four camps: Zaatari, Azraq, Cyber City and King Abdullah Park and selected host communities in Mafraq, Irbid and Zarqa governorates
JRP Specific Objective: REF 1: Culturally and gender appropriate, safe and equitable access to water for drinking, cooking, and personal and domestic hygiene ensured
JRP Project Title: REF 1.1 Water Supply in Camps
Total Financing: USD 29 million
Financing Agency: UNICEF
Implementing Partner: ACTED






Photo credit: JRPSC/Alice Whitby/Aug 2015

Photo credit: JRPSC/Alice Whitby/Aug 2015


When Suhair Abdulhadi, principal of Al Taibeh Primary School for Girls in Al Taibeh, Irbid, had to inform a parent that their child could not be enrolled because the overcrowded school could not accommodate any more students, they weren’t deterred: “If there are no desks in the classroom, no problem, I’ll buy her a chair!”

But it wasn’t desks, or the lack thereof, that was the problem. Al Taibeh Primary School for Girls, like 47 per cent of schools nationwide, is struggling to cope with the large numbers of Syrian refugee students. The Syria crisis has had a profound impact on the education sector. A drastic increase in demand - particularly in the governorates of Amman, Irbid, Mafraq, and Zarqa, where over 70 per cent of registered refugees reside - has put tremendous pressure on education resources and infrastructure, especially space in public schools and human resource capacity.

At the beginning of the school year in 2014, “many Syrians were on the waiting list, more than 200 children risked missing out on the school year” Abdulhadi explains, “so I pushed as much as I could.” But there simply wasn’t enough space or enough teachers, and many children remained on the waiting list.

Al Taibeh Primary School for Girls is one of nearly one hundred public schools that have adopted a second shift to accommodate the rising number of students. But even doubling the school’s capacity isn’t sufficient, and some classes have up to 40 students; the national standard is 27. 

“It is very difficult for teachers to control their classrooms” says Abdulhadi, owing not only to their size, but also because of the special psychosocial needs of some of the children who have experienced trauma. 

This has very real implications for the quality of education children receive. Not only are classes oversubscribed, meaning that teachers have less time to dedicate to individual students, but even class times have been reduced from 45 minutes to 35 minutes to accommodate two shifts in one day. 

Low quality of education has lasting implications, particularly as boys and girls progress through school without mastering important foundational skills. This is a particular concern as students enter secondary level ill-prepared and with limited opportunity for additional support.

It is estimated that 300 new schools would be needed to ensure there are sufficient facilities for all school-age children – Syrian refugees and Jordanians – using the national standard of 19 classes per school.

“Education is definitely the most important thing for a child’s future, especially during formative years” said Abdulhadi.  “I will be here until there are enough schools for all students.”

The dedicated principal has been working at the school for 16 years, seven of which she served as a teacher before taking up her current role. As the 2015/2016 school year begins, Abdulhadi is one step closer to her goal.

Al Taibeh Primary School is one of nine schools in Jordan that will benefit from the construction of 59 classrooms and nine WASH facilities, as well as the renovation of nine playgrounds through a project being implemented by the Norwegian Refugee Council under the umbrella of the Jordan Response Plan 2015. 

Photo credit: JRPSC/Alice Whitby/Aug 2015

Photo credit: JRPSC/Alice Whitby/Aug 2015

For Abdulhadi, that means being able to accept 360 additional students each year. Nationwide across all nine schools, the figure is 2,500 additional students. And over the entire life span of the school (estimated at 30 years), it means 75,000 students who may not have otherwise had a chance to attend school, will. And no one will need to bring their own chair. 

Special thanks to NRC for organizing a field visit for this story. 


Sector: Education
Project name:  Increased access to quality education in the host community
JRP Specific Objective: RES 2: Capacity of education service providers increased to deliver quality inclusive education and training for all boys and girls (children and youth) – particularly the most vulnerable
JRP Project Title: RES 2.1 Increasing school absorptive capacity and utilization
Project Budget: USD 3.2 million
Project Duration: 13 months
Financing Agency: Government of Norway
Implementing Partner: Norwegian Refugee Council




When Fatima first arrived in Za’atari Camp, she felt that she was carrying a sadness that she could not escape. Even spending time with her friends couldn’t bring relief. They would reminisce about life in Syria, but these memories only filled her heart with grief. It was affecting every aspect of her life, even the time she spent with her children. 

But today, Fatima isn’t dwelling on the past. Rather, she shares her story to help illustrate the difference between where she was two years ago, and where she is now. 

Standing behind a large cutting table in one of the three tailoring caravans located in the Women and Girls Oasis in Za’atari Camp, Fatima holds up a tiny blue sweater adorned with a bright red collar. It is one of the 21 pieces of clothing included in the “baby kits” that the women produce in the workshop and which are then distributed to women who give birth in the camp; and it’s her favourite. In addition to clothing, the kits include other essentials like warm blankets, and even an insulated baby basinet. To date, they have produced over such 4000 baby kits. 

“I visit the women in the hospital and I see the happiness on their faces. Seeing that, it makes me happy,” says Fatima. “We are meeting a very real need for these women.” 

Across the Oasis in another caravan, this one fitted out as a hairdressing salon, a young woman also named Fatima is diligently applying henna to a repeat customer, Isra.  The women are friends from Syria, and Isra can’t help but praise her friend’s talents: “She was the best in Syria, now, she’s the best in Za’atari!” 

The tailoring workshop and the salon are but two of the many cash-for-work projects that the Oasis operates in the camp – which is also Za’atari’s largest female-focused such programme -  alongside other initiatives that aim to empower Syrian  women  refugees through  increased  access  to  economic opportunities  and  meaningful  engagement in  community  life.

Other offerings of the Oasis include language classes, information and protection referrals on key issues such as registration, hygiene, health, and sexual  and  gender-based violence. There is also a day care centre in each Oasis to allow women working at the Oasis to stay with their kids throughout the day, and to provide after school support to children enrolled in education.  

Back in the tailoring workshop, Fatima is explaining how her life has changed  since getting involved with the Oasis: “I am so busy now, I see my children less,” she says “but the time I spend with them is of better quality, because I am no longer burdened by the sadness.” 

Thanks to UNWOMEN for organizing a field visit for this story.


Sector: Social Protection
Project Name:  Enhancing the well-being of Syrian women refugees in Za’atari Camp
JRP Specific Objective: REF 2: Families and communities are strengthened, engaged and empowered in order to contribute to their own protection solutions, while the most vulnerable women, girls, boys and men are identified and their needs addressed through appropriate services and interventions.
JRP Project Title: REF 2.2 Support to community participation and self-management
Project Budget: USD 1 million
Project Duration: 12 months
Financing Agency: Government of Finland, Government of Italy, and the Government of Japan
Implementing Partner: UN Women
Local Partner: Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development – Legal Aid




The UNHCR registration center in Khalda is capable of carrying out up to 2,500 interviews in a single day. Today however, on a hot Monday in August 2015, there is no queue of people snaking back and forth in front of the center in West Amman. This is partly the result of the low number of new registrants, unlike at the beginning of the crisis when up to 3000 Syrian refugees flowed over the country’s border every day, today most of those visiting the center do so to renew their Asylum Seekers Certificate.

But it is also the result of an efficient and compassionate system that takes into consideration the harrowing and difficult journey that has landed people here. It is a system that is designed to limit inconveniences – same day registration and on-site referrals mean that very rarely does anyone have to make a return journey to the center, something that can be prohibitively expensive for some – and that aims to humanize the bureaucratic process of documenting human beings. But registration achieves more than a mere headcount.

“Registration may not be the first step in the refugee journey” explains Aoife McDonnell, External Relations Officer with UNHRC, “but it is the first step in accessing assistance.” 

In the pages that follow, three families explain the importance of registration in their own words. 


Abu Khaled

Abu Khaled is originally from Dara’a in Syria, where he used to work as a farmer and merchant. He is sitting in the waiting room with his wife, surrounded by nine of his 12 children. He is here to renew his Asylum Seekers Certificate, the vital piece of paper that enables him and his family to access critical support, like the monthly cash assistance of JOD150 which they use to cover their monthly rent of JOD170. Since their savings ran out, they make-up the remaining JOD30 by selling personal items like jewelry, or borrowing from a money lender, driving the family further into debt.  But for Abu Khaled and his family, having been forced their home because of insecurity, and facing an uncertain future, the most important “service” , as he describes it,  that the certificate provides is security. “It is peace of mind for me to know that if I ever have a problem, UNHCR will stand by me.”


Umm Khaled

Umm Khaled and her two children, Khaled and Hind, crossed into Jordan in May 2015, and are among the minority at the Khalda Center: they are registering with UNHCR for the first time. Khaled is sitting patiently between his older sister and his mum, staring out into the middle distance. Unlike the other young children who scurry around the waiting room or venture outside into the heat to scale the playground equipment, Khaled stays seated, quiet. It is not clear if he could join in with the other kids, even if he wanted to, as both his legs are encased in casts that extend from just below the knee all the way down to, and even in between, his toes.  Umm Khaled explains that his physical and intellectual impairments are the result of a lack of oxygen to his brain when he was younger, though she doesn’t elaborate further. She explained that back in Syria he wasn’t able to see a specialist for more than three years because of the fighting. “It was very hard for me, as his mother, because there was nothing I could do to help him” she said. “But not now, we have a solution. We are in Jordan.”



When Talal, his wife Ahlam, and their four children Houda (13), Abdullah (11), Mohammad (7) and Aham (5) entered Jordan over two years ago, they were transferred directly to Za’atari. But life in the camp was difficult. Back then there was no electricity, services were scarce, and the family’s tent provided little respite from the hot desert sun. Eventually, Talal and his family were able to join their extended family living in Jordanian cities, where over 80 per cent of Syrian refugees reside. The entire family is registered with UNHCR, meaning that Abdullah and his younger brothers can go to school, and the family is eligible to receive assistance from NGOs and other charity organisations. 

But the memory of home is a visceral one. “Ahlam” means “dreams” in Arabic, and when asked about her dreams, without hesitation Ahlam replies “to return to Syria.” 

Special thanks to UNHCR for organizing a site visit for this story.


Sector: Social Protection
Project name:  Quality of registration and profiling improved or maintained Civil registration and civil status documentation strengthened
JRP Specific Objective: REF 1: Access to territory and international protection is improved and protection space preserved
JRP Project Title: REF 1.2 Continuous registration and profiling of Syrian refugees
Project Budget: USD 3.2 million
Financing Agency: UNHCR
Implementing Partner: UNHCR





Life has always been challenging for the people of Mafraq but, since the Syria crisis began, day-to-day life has gotten tougher for the Bedouin families from the northern governorates. 

“In the past months, I started making some income and I hope that this work will help me in supporting my husband and family” says Umm Sultan, a 52 years old trainee with 6 children from Um el Jimal, Mafraq. 

Umm el Jimal is a unique archaeological site included on the Tentative List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Joint UNESCO and UN Women programme entitles ‘Empowering rural women in Mafraq Governorate’, builds on this potential, intertwining culture and women’s empowerment as a source of resilience. The initiative supports the creation of a range of cultural tourism services on site, including handicrafts production, hospitality services and heritage information and education activities. The goal is to encourage tourism and bring much needed income to the local community.

Umm Sultan, together with 20 other women is producing Basalt objects carved from the native stone of the Haurani Plateau using traditional techniques. The first item she learned to carve was a half-moon shape, and she quickly discovered she had a natural talent for the finicky work. “I was so happy when I finished it. Then I started making all kinds of shapes and accessories.” 

The project has also strengthened women’s involvement in their community through an activity that they very much enjoy: “I like carving Basalt very much because it’s a beautiful and unique art and craft”.

The programme has raised engagement among the communities on the value and potential of the Um el Jimal archaeological site. Umm Sultan is now aware of the importance of the site and wants to use this local heritage for the benefit of her community: “I believe we can present our culture and heritage better, therefore, we believe that Um el Jimal can receive and welcome many tourists to learn more about our history”.


Sector: Livelihoods and Food Security
Project Name: PHASE II-Empowering rural women in Mafraq Governorate through the management and preservation of the Umm el-Jimal’s archaeological site in Jordan as income-generating activities
JRP Specific Objective: RES 2: The local economies of the most-affected areas revived for sustainable employment and income generation
JRP Project Title: RES 2.1 Support establishment and growth of sustainable micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) targeting vulnerable Jordanian households
Total Financing: USD 482,486
Project duration: 30 months
Financing Agency: Government of the Netherlands
Implementing Partner: UNESCO and UN Women




Umm Adi and Umm Hassan are neighbors and best friends; they met in Za’atari Camp more than a year ago. Both women fled Syria with their young families, arriving in Jordan traumatized by the violence and bloodshed they had witnessed. 

“Za’atari was our escape” says Umm Hassan, whose son was injured by a bomb blast in Syria. But while the camp provided physical security, it could not provide respite from the memories of war. The children had nightmares, often refusing to be left alone in the dark. The women were sometimes fearful too, afraid of the unknown that seemed to permeate nearly every facet of their new lives. And it was worse at night, in the shadowy darkness of the mostly unlit camp.
“I didn’t like to go out alone in the nighttime. I would try to make sure I didn’t have to” explains Umm Adi, who lives in Za’atari with her five children – her husband is still in Syria. There is the risk of hurting yourself while walking blind in the dark, and the threat of being accosted by strangers you can’t see, especially inside the concrete WASH blocks. 

“Violence” says Umm Hassan by way of explanation, and both women shake their heads.  
But because the caravans are not connected to running water and don’t have toilets, sometimes going out in night is inevitable. 

“Alhamdulillah for the lights!” exclaims Umm Adi, and again both women agree, only this time they keep talking, one over the other, explaining how such a small change has made such a big impact on their everyday lives. 

In 2015, as part of a wider initiative to improve water and sanitation facilities in Za’atari Camp – one that will see the construction of a piped water network for the Camp - OXFAM installed solar-powered lighting both inside and in the area surrounding some of the WASH blocks in District 8, where both families live. The lights are on from sunset to sunup, and what was once a shadowy and foreboding excursion to the facilities has been made routine again. And there is an element of comfort in knowing what to expect.

“Before the children were afraid to go, but now, they feel safer” says Umm Hassan.

Life in the camp still isn’t easy, but the women have found some measure of solace in their friendship, and the solar lights have helped too. But “of course” says Umm Adi  “more would be better!” 

The walk to the WASH facilities during the day.

The walk to the WASH facilities during the day.

What the same walk might look like at night, without any lighting.

What the same walk might look like at night, without any lighting.

Special thanks to Oxfam GB for organizing a field visit for this story. 


JRP Sector: WASH
Project Name: Provision of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene promotion assistance to the displaced Syrian population in Jordan
JRP Specific Objective: REF 1: Culturally and gender appropriate, safe and equitable access to water for drinking, cooking, and personal and domestic hygiene ensured
JRP Project Title: REF 1.1 Water Supply in Camps
Project Budget: USD 1.7 million
Project duration:  24 months
Financing Agency: UNICEF
Implementing Partner: Oxfam Great Britain



Photo credit: WFP

Photo credit: WFP


Ibrahim is eighteen years old and lives in Mafraq with his parents and five younger siblings. His father is retired, meaning that Ibrahim must work to support his family. But finding work is no easy task in Jordan, where the unemployment rate for youth aged 15-19 stands at 36 per cent.  Also, Ibrahim suffers from a congenital deformity that has left him with no fingers on one hand.

Determined not to let his circumstances stand in the way of his desire to take care of his family Ibrahim jumped at the chance to participate in WFP’s Food for Training initiative, part of the Jordan Response Plan 2015. 

As part of the project, he receiving a one month training as an electrician's assistant at the vocational training center, after which he was placed under the supervision of a senior electrician where he received an on the job training and a daily allowance. Over the course of three months, Ibrahim completed 80 days of training and received USD 800 in return.

The business owner was so impressed with Ibrahim's hard work and talent that when the training was over, he employed him as his own assistant. "Now I work with dignity, I support my family and I can afford to pay the rent,” says Ibrahim. 


Sector: Livelihoods and Food Security
Project name: Assistance to food-insecure and vulnerable Jordanians affected by the protracted economic crisis aggravated by the Syrian conflict
JRP Objective: RES 1: More and better job opportunities created for vulnerable women, and young men and women
JRP Specific Objective: RES 1.1 Create short-term employment opportunities for vulnerable Jordanian households in host communities
Project description: The relief and rehabilitation operation aims to address the short-term food needs of targeted vulnerable populations, and enhance their resilience through the creation of sustainable household livelihoods as well as community assets to complement the national social protection and safety net systems. The modalities include both cash and food, bringing a flexible set of tools to a very dynamic situation.
Total Financing: USD 1.2 million
Financing Agency: Japan, USAID, Multilateral
Implementing Partner: WFP




There is a football championship happening Za’atari refugee camp, and Omar [1] has his eye on the prize. The key to his team’s impending success? Teamwork. 

“If we try our best, and make sure we work together, we can win,” he says. 

Behind him, another team plays one of the first matches on the astroturf pitch located in the Makani drop in center. Makani means “my space”, and the initiative is a holistic programme that provides alternative education, psychosocial support and life skills training under one roof. 

Teaching life skills through sport is just one of the ways that the Makani approach aims to empower adolescents and youth to become assets to their community while also imparting important life skills in the process – the very skills that Omar aims to leverage to take the championship: self-awareness, communication, leadership, and critically, cooperation. 
Playing sports also serves another purpose: it helps restore a sense of normalcy in the lives of children whose worlds have been turned upside down by war and displacement. It’s a gathering place to hang out with friends, enabling children to support one another. 

“Before, there wasn’t much to do” says Omar, “but now we come here, and it’s better.”

Elsewhere on compound children who for a variety of reasons aren’t eligible to enrol in school take part in an informal education class. Next door, a group of half a dozen boys are guided through an exercise designed to help them identify and manage their emotions. They are making woven bracelets, and each piece of yarn represents a different feeling or memory. The end result will be unique to the individual, and the process provides an opportunity to discuss issues that the children might otherwise never get the chance to talk about.  

Across the compound, older adolescent boys and youth are working out in the gym. The men are free to come and go so long as the compound is open. It’s a place to be among friends, and to blow off some steam if the need arises. On the wall someone has photoshopped the image of a body builder in peak physical condition against the dusty backdrop of the camp itself. “Because it doesn’t matter where you come from, or where you are, you should always strive to be the best that you can be,” informs a young man in track pants, “even if that place is a refugee camp in the middle of the desert.”  

Self-improvement is also at the top of Omar’s list. As soon as we finish talking he’s heading to football practice!

[1] Names have been changed


Sector: Social Protection
Project name: Promoting a Protective and Stimulating Environment for Displaced Syrian Children in Za’atari, King Abdullah Park and Cyber City Camp, 2015
JRP Specific Objective: REF 4: Equitable access to quality child protection interventions increased for girls and boys affected by the Syria crisis
JRP Project Title: REF 4.4 Provision of specialized child protection services
Total Financing: USD 4.5 million
Project duration: 12 months
Financing Agency: UNICEF
Implementing Partner: Save the Children International 





Standing among the ruins of what is claimed to be the site of the world’s oldest church, 22 year old Hanine reflects on the many challenges she has had to overcome to get to this point. She is one of around 25 Jordanian women and men working tirelessly to restore this archeological treasure in what is the first of a three phase UNDP project that aims to create sustainable livelihoods in the beleaguered governorate of Mafraq. 

First, there were the many objections from her parents. 

“They forbid me from joining” she says. They were opposed to the idea of their unmarried daughter working alongside single men, outside, for long hours. What would people think? 
“I had to work hard to convince them that this was important, that it was a good opportunity for me.”

Then there was the criticism that she and the team received from the wider community. During their first week working at the archeological site, she recalls neighbors shouting abuse and throwing trash over the fence.

“It is against our traditions to have men and women working like this together” she explains. “But, things are different now.” 

After witnessing the hard work and dedication of the young men and women who show up every day, logging long hours under the hot desert sun to unearth the beautiful stone mosaics and meticulously restore the ancient “cave chapel”, members of the community now greet team members when they arrive, and regularly bring them tea and water.  And her parents have come around too. 

The church rehabilitation project is one of eight similar community-led projects that are a part of UNDP’s Emergency Employment Initiative being implemented across Mafraq Governorate. 

In a country where women face marginalization in many aspects of socio-economic life because of traditional attitudes about gender roles - they suffer disproportionately from the effects of poverty, face higher levels of unemployment than men, receive lower wages for the same work, and are less well protected by social security -  the incremental changes in attitudes spearheaded by women like Hanine are key to unlocking the full potential of women to participate in and contribute to their country’s economic development. There is ample evidence showing that when women are able to develop their full labor market potential, there can be significant macroeconomic gains.

Of 100 participants in Rehab, 69 are women. 

“I have a place in society now” says Aisha, who works at the clothes bank, another UNDP phase 1 initiative titled “Together for a better life for poor people”,  that collects clothing donations and distributes them to families in need.  

The programme’s three consecutive phases are designed to link emergency employment to more sustainable livelihoods creation, acting as a “starting point” for long term sustainable development.

First, unemployed young men and women sign up to participate in voluntary community service projects that are responsive to local immediate needs, such as the restoration of archaeological sites, or the refurbishment of an all but forgotten community library. During this period, they receive a monthly incentive, part of which is saved in their own savings accounts, accruing the start-up capital necessary to establish their own business latter on.  

In phase two, participants are mentored on entrepreneurship and receive training on how to establish and run a small business. Each participant or group of participants submits a business plan, and the total amount of capital that the individual or group has saved is then multiplied by UNDP. 

Lastly, the project provides advisory and mentoring services (accounting, legal, marketing, etc.), as well as market development (value chain development, cooperative development and cooperative support etc.) to ensure the sustainability of the established microbusinesses.

The approach builds on traditional elements of socio-economic reintegration interventions – putting people to work and injecting money into local economy – and introduces innovative dimensions: promoting individual savings; enhancing social cohesion by encouraging community members to organise to realise economic activities collectively; and engaging other actors in joint economic ventures based on collective savings, outside investment, and risk sharing.

In the wake of the Syria crisis which has seen over 75,000 registered refugees move into Mafraq’s cities and villages, the governorate is struggling under a double burden of poverty and high unemployment.  Mafraq lies within one of Jordan’s poverty pockets, with a poverty rate of nearly 32 per cent against the national average of 14 per cent. Added to this is the stress of increasing unemployment. A 2015 found that unemployment among Jordanians in Mafraq, Irbid and Amman, three areas with high concentrations of Syrian refugees, rose from 14.5 per cent to 22.1 per cent between 2011 and 2014. 

A total of 200 men and women in Rehab and Hosha have started the three-month community voluntary initiatives with an incentive of 208 JD per month and a savings ratio of 50 per cent, increasing their household income by an average of almost 54 per cent. 

For participants like Abdul Rahman, who comes from a family of 15 in Rehab, the initial incentive is what attracted him, but the project turned out to be a life changing experience. 

“What I have learnt is one should not sit and wait for a job.  It is up to us to create positive changes and our own opportunities.  Indeed, we are making changes with our own hands,”   he explains.
Abdul enrolled in the church rehabilitation programme entitled “Our history reflects our civilization” – the same initiative as Hanine.  As soon as they began making tangible progress in renovating the church grounds, he was surprised to discover the extent of his own commitment to the project. It also made him reflect on his role within his own community. “The project helped me believe in myself that I am able to represent my area in a positive way” he says.

He eventually became a team leader, and under his direction his team managed to secure a building to be the visitors’ centre, in the vicinity of the archeological site, which is owned by the department of antiquities in Mafraq.  

“My dream is to start my own business that specializes in interior decoration, “ he says, and with the skills he’s acquired as team leader, he’s confident that he’ll succeed. And so are we. 

Special thanks to UNDP Jordan for organizing a field visit for this story. 


Sector: Livelihoods and Food Security
Project Name: Emergency Employment 3X6
JRP Specific Objective: RES 1: More and better job opportunities created for vulnerable women, and young men and women
JRP Project Title: RES 1.1 Create short-term employment opportunities for vulnerable Jordanian households in host communities
Total Financing: USD 1.1 million
Project Duration: 12 months
Financing Agency: Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA)
Implementing Partner: UNDP