When the basics matter most

Jordan, Syria, December 21, 2012

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Jeremy Barnicle/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Hasna and her seven children fled the civil war in Syria with practically nothing. Mercy Corps-distributed clothes, blankets, mattresses and gas heating supplies will help them through the winter. Photo: Jeremy Barnicle/Mercy Corps

Two weeks ago today, I was drinking Turkish coffee on the floor of a cold, crumbling one-room dwelling in the town of Mafraq, on the Jordanian side of the Syria-Jordan border.

My host was Hasna Erhael, a 36-year-old Syrian refugee. We sat surrounded by six of her seven young kids. Her husband was back in Syria fighting against the regime; they hadn’t seen him in months. 
They left Syria with bullets flying behind them and they came across the border with nothing. And they still have pretty much nothing. They are renting the room we sat in, with support from some relatives. Hasna can't get work. The kids can’t go to school. 

There was no heat, no furniture. Their water was coming, cold, from a U.N.-supplied tank outside. The kids had no toys or books or art supplies. The bathroom was basically an outhouse and if they had electricity, I didn’t see it in action.

Hasna was no victim, though. She said as long as they could eat a little, they could hold out until peace came to Syria and they could go home.

I met the Erhaels because they’re part of a new program we're starting in that part of Jordan. It’s pretty straightforward: We’re providing winter clothes, blankets, mattresses, cooking kits, gas heaters and gas to 1,000 families. 

While Mercy Corps works on innovative ideas to solve problems for the long-term, this visit was a reminder to me that meeting the urgent needs of people in the toughest circumstances will always be at the center of our work. Right now, for Hasna, these basics make all the difference.

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