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Syrian refugees outside camps struggle to meet needs

Jordan, Syria, June 11, 2013

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Rama, 9, Elaf, 1, Bayan, 12, and Safa, 7, fled their Damascus home in January with their mother and older sister (who asked not to be photographed). Their father, a Syrian army defector, is in hiding. Photo: Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Their mother, Wasefah, left Zaatari refugee camp after two months, believing that Hartha would be a better environment for her daughters than the crowded camp. The family of six now lives in this one-room house. Photo: Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Without money or a job, Wasefah works the olives groves in exchange for staying in their windowless dwelling. Photo: Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps  </span>
    There is room for the young girls to play outside — in view of the Syrian border past the olive grove — but they miss going to school and being with friends. Photo: Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Wedad and her husband Omar escaped Dara'a when their home and the nearby hospital where Wedad received dialysis were bombed. They now live in Hartha with their son, his wife and their two granddaughters. The men are unable to find work and worry about how to feed the family. Photo: Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Nayef brought his family to Jordan after a missile hit their home in Dara'a and instantly killed his oldest son, just 16 years old. His youngest son was born in Zaatari refugee camp two weeks later. Photo: Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps  </span>
    In town, many families are crowded into whatever available room they can find and afford — but most do not meet even basic living standards. Nayef and his family of five share a two-room space on this street with five of his brothers and nephews. Photo: Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps  </span>
    "The blankets and mattresses are very good — we had nothing to sit on or cover us at night time. But since summer is at the doorstep, we need a fridge," Nayef said. "But in all, we thank Mercy Corps for your efforts and follow up with Syrians." Photo: Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps

Hartha sits just across the border from Syria, in northern Jordan, but seems to exist in a different world than the violent conflict raging just miles away. The town and surrounding villages are marked by quiet olive groves and rolling hills scattered with Byzantine ruins.

About 1,000 Syrian families who escaped to Jordan have moved to this area — just one pocket of refugees who have chosen to live outside camps. More then 70% of the refugee population lives in host communities in Jordan and other neighboring countries like Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.

They want to be near family or believe they can find jobs and better living conditions outside the refugee camps. But they cannot legally work, shelters are inadequate, and kids are often turned away from overcrowded schools.

And worse, they are far from assistance provided in the camps by the government and humanitarian organizations — which itself is at a breaking point, strained by the overwhelming tide of refugees who continue to stream across the border to escape the escalating war.

The need is staggering. Last week, the UN released its largest ever appeal, asking for $5 billion in humanitarian aid to help the millions affected by the Syria crisis, both inside and outside the country.

These are a few of the thousands of families we've been able to reach in northern Jordan, improving their shelters and providing them with blankets, mattresses, heaters and other household supplies. There are many more like them who need our help.

How you can help

  • Follow the latest updates on Mercy Corps' response to the Syrian refugee crisis and share stories to raise awareness and support.

  • Donate today. You can make a difference for Syrian refugees. Your gift to our Syria Crisis Response will help us deliver clean water, distribute desperately-needed supplies and help children heal from the trauma of this crisis.