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!”
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