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Concerns mount for refugees as winter approaches

By Andrea Celeste - Oct 26,2017 - Last updated at Oct 26,2017

AMMAN — As winter is just around the corner, the situation of refugees living in Jordan raises many concerns.

The number of Iraqi, Somali, Sudanese and Yemeni refugees in Jordan continues to grow, putting an additional strain on an already shrinking protection space and limited humanitarian assistance, according to UNHCR. 

Nadera Yousef, an Iraqi who fled Mosul after a Daesh assault, said she arrived in Jordan “just with the clothes that she had on her”. 

She now lives in Hashemi Shamali in Amman, with 10 of her family members.

“It is different from Iraq here, it gets very cold,” she told The Jordan Times over the phone, expressing fears about the upcoming winter, which will be “difficult and expensive” due to the need for kerosene for the heater, warm clothes and blankets.

During the summer, she and her family managed to overcome the hot weather by sleeping on the roof, but she expects the winter to be “very tough”. 

A church provided the family with a fan for the summer and a heater for the winter, but she says it is matter of “luck” if the heater is working or not.

Besides, as she lives far from the oil station where she gets the heater’s kerosene from, “we need to take a taxi which costs money too”, she explained.

Although the family is well educated, she said Iraqi refugees are not allowed to work and are not given any kind of assistance. 

“We heard of aid given to Syrians with winter clothes, even money to buy winter supplies. But for Iraqis, there is no assistance,” Yousef claimed.

Despite her dreams to return home, she said: “Our houses have been burnt down after being robbed so going home has become really difficult.” 

Many efforts have been exerted by the government, in collaboration with a number of NGOs, which provide refugees with food vouchers and winter items such as heaters, gloves and blankets. 

Judy Oldfield-Wilson, director of communication at the NGO Collateral Repair Project, said that all refugees are affected equally by winter. 

“It is not really possible to say that one group is more affected by winter than others,” she told The Jordan Times, adding “there are a lot of refugees who need medical support or who do not have the resources to buy mattresses, blankets and winter coats.”

The main problem refugees encounter during winter is the increasing risk of health issues, with high levels of stress being triggered by the need to find a warm place to stay, which is often unavailable, she said.

“The second problem is the loss of sleep, because they sleep sometimes directly on the floor which is especially bad for children who do not sleep and go to school in the morning very tired,” Oldfield-Wilson added. 

“They need warm clothes, warm thermal blankets, mattresses and carpets to pass through the winter,” she said.

The NGO worker said they also encounter many problems during the winter season. “Because we are a small organisation, funding is an issue in terms of buying things that the refugees need like heaters, clothes, blankets,” she noted 

In spite of this lack of resources, she said the NGO is currently preparing itself for winter. “We are putting things together, organising in regards with the people who need help. We are also calling for donations from international actors,” Oldfield-Wilson continued. 

“We have 4,000 families registered with us. We give food vouchers to around 150 families every month, among other things. Currently, we still have hundreds of families waiting for help,” she added. 

Iraqis are the second largest refugee population in Jordan, and it continues growing every month, with an average registration of 821 newcomers each month, according to UNHCR.

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