Photos from the field: Winter storm hits refugees

Jordan, Syria

January 14, 2015

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  • Syrian refugees in Jordan are facing terrible conditions after snow, rain and wind hit the middle east last week. Photos: Mercy Corps

Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon are struggling to stay warm since a frigid winter storm hit the Middle East last week. Some areas have been blanketed with snow, while others have sustained pounding rains and strong winds.

Most refugees are living in spaces that are not designed to withstand any kind of inclement weather — fragile tents, uninsulated shelters, or buildings with no heat.

To make sure that refugee families are safe and warm, we work in the region to repair drafty shelters and give refugees the supplies they need to make it through another winter away from home.

More than 95,000 refugees are currently living in Zaatari and Azraq camps in Jordan, and the conditions over the past week have been grim.

To help them get through this unusually-brutal winter weather, we've been providing heaters and distributing coats, shoes and warm boots to children in Zaatari.

Throughout the storm, Mercy Corps staff and volunteers have been at the camps, working to help refugees as they face freezing days and cold, bitter nights. Our team in Lebanon, where many Syrian refugees live in informal tent settlements, is also helping people get through this storm safely.

“We've been hit with quite a bit of now over the past few days. The camp is very wet, cold and muddy,” said Mercy Corps’ country director Rob Maroni after visiting Zaatari. “Everyone has their clothing and blankets hanging out to dry, even though there's no way anything will dry under these overcast, cold conditions.”

The freezing temperatures are unusual for the area — it’s the first time Zaatari has received any snow since its opening nearly three years ago. Refugees have been forced to push inches of snow off their tents and huddle inside for warmth.

“One of our volunteers explained how he helped one family get a tent back up after it collapsed under the weight of snow at 10 pm with a person inside,” Maroni told us.

Mercy Corps has more than a dozen child-friendly spaces throughout the camps, designed to bring a sense of normalcy to refugees who are far from home. On most days, hundreds of children and adolescents come to play, take dance or martial arts classes, exercise at the gym, or learn computer skills.

We’ve kept these spaces open during the storm, offering a place for children and their families to come play or take shelter. Our staff and volunteers have been working to make sure that all the spaces are equipped with gas heaters and generators.

“Our facilities are open for everybody during the storm. Not just the kids,” said senior camp coordinator at Zaatari, Osama Telfah. If the weather gets worse, the Mercy Corps team is prepared to shelter refugees in these facilities, which are spread throughout the large camp.

Below are photos of the storm from the Mercy Corps team in Jordan. The photos, from both Zaatari and Azraq camps, show the hazardous conditions that refugees have faced over the past week.

Learn more about how we're helping Syrian refugees in Jordan get through the winter ▸

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