Safe homes for refugee families

Jordan, Syria, March 11, 2014

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Henna and her family are Syrian refugees living in Jordan, where even dilapidated housing is in high demand as the population continues to swell with refugees. Their damaged home received much-needed repairs as part of our program to rehabilitate substandard housing for refugees who have sought safety there. Photo: Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps  </span>
    The family's original kitchen is pictured here. The house had a damaged sewage system and holes in the walls. And although it was filled with odor, dust, insects and rats, it was all the family could afford after fleeing their home in Syria. Photo: Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps  </span>
    To start, we fixed the home's sewage system, replaced the windows and repaired the walls so the family would have a clean, comfortable place to cook and live. Photo: Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Before, the windows were broken and there were no locks on the doors. On several occasions, burglars attempted to break in during the night. Photo: Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps  </span>
    New windows, screens and locks have given the family a renewed sense of safety. Photo: Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps  </span>
    The house was in such disrepair before the rehabilitation that the entire family of nine shared one room — the other two rooms were too damaged to use. Photo: Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps  </span>
    New paint, plaster and carpet are just a few more of the repairs we made to improve and increase the family's living space. Now, all three rooms in the house are fully utilized. Photo: Sumaya Agha/Mercy Corps

“After Mercy Corps rehabilitated our house, my son came home and said joyously, ‘Oh my God, this is not our house!’” Henna told us during a recent visit to her family’s refurbished home.

Henna is a Syrian refugee and mother of six whose family is now living in Jordan. They are a few of nearly 600,000 Syrians who have fled to Jordan in the three years since the conflict in Syria began.

QUICK FACTS: What you need to know about the Syria crisis ▸

The rapid increase in population has stretched the country’s resources, and housing — even dilapidated shelters without heat or running water — are in high demand.

That’s why we’re rehabilitating substandard shelters, like Henna’s, in the most refugee-concentrated areas in Jordan. So far, thanks to continued support from the humanitarian arm of the European Commission (ECHO), we’ve given more than 1,000 refugees safe, clean places to live while they try to rebuild their lives.

After the death of her husband a year ago, Henna and her children left the dangerous Yarmouk Camp in Damascus, Syria to join relatives from Syria in Azraq, Jordan. With limited funds, they moved into the only home they could afford with her widowed and pregnant sister-in-law, Layali, and her eighteen-month-old son.

The decaying home had holes in the walls, and a faulty sewage system that filled the house with odor and caused the children to regularly be sick. Among other issues, the place was filled with rats, dust and insects.

Every day Henna’s 13-year-old daughter, Hadeel, would cry, “Mama, why are we living here? Why can’t we go back to Syria?”

Through our home rehabilitation program, the sewage system was overhauled, and the home received desperately-needed improvements including paint, new windows, locks, a water heater, electricity, lights, carpet, plaster and mosquito screens.

“Life at home is much better now. Before it was uninhabitable, now it is livable,” Henna said.

She told us the rehabilitation is making a significant difference in their daily lives.

“Before locks were installed on the doors, thieves tried several times to break into our home in the middle of the night,” she explained. But the family feels safe now after the repairs and they no longer worry about intruders.

“Before the rehabilitation we lived in only one room! All three rooms are inhabitable and used now,” she added excitedly.

And the family welcomed the simple upgrade — mosquito screens — that keeps pests out of the house.

“There used to be so many insects, now there hardly any,” Henna said.

Layali explained that she used to clean the house constantly, but it never seemed clean.

“After washing the dishes they didn’t look clean because the walls weren’t plastered [and] there were holes in the walls.” Now the holes have been covered, the dust from them has been eliminated and the house is easy to clean.

And Henna happily reported, “My kids have not been sick once since the sewage was fixed. It no longer smells and there are no more rats!”

Today, Hadeel enjoys staying home instead of going to her grandmother’s house every day. And the family’s friends and relatives come to spend time with them in their "new" home, which is important as it is an integral part of their culture.

“They come to the house and say how nice it is now. They like to visit,” Henna told us with a smile on her face.

Over nine million people like Henna have been forced from their homes since the start of this crisis, and more flee every day. While the number of affected families continues to grow, we remain committed to providing the critical support — food, water, clothing, shelter — they need to survive this disaster.

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