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Refugee women in Jordan donate to UNHCR for earthquake survivors

Mar 13,2023 - Last updated at Mar 14,2023

Syrian refugees Fatima (Left) and Nour (right) have contributed to UNHCR’s efforts in supporting the earthquake survivors (Photos courtesy of UNHCR)

AMMAN  — Affirming that solidarity knows no frontiers nor social condition or economic status, growing numbers of refugees in Jordan felt the need to support the survivors of earthquakes in Syria and Turkey. 

Syrian refugees Nour and Fatima have contributed to UNHCR’s efforts in supporting the earthquake survivors.

“I could not believe what happened in Syria. People were already suffering and now everyone has lost everything,” says Syrian refugee Nour about the recent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. “I still have some family and friends in my home country, and although they were not directly affected, they are psychologically in distress after this catastrophe,” she added.

One month after the devastating twin earthquakes in south-eastern Turkey and northern Syria, the figures are staggering: at least 54,000 dead, 214,000 buildings collapsed or in danger of collapse, and there are still families living in tents, flimsy shelters and partially destroyed buildings.

Nour Waleed Al Shaar, 34, is a refugee in Jordan who fled Damascus in 2013 with her husband and eldest daughter, a toddler at the time. Now, 10 years later, she and her family have their home in Maan, south of Jordan, and she is a volunteer with the “Community Support Committees” that brings together host communities and refugees. The committees focus on enhancing and supporting the cohesion between both communities.

Nour, too, felt it was time to act and share the little she has with others in dire need.

Fatima Mohammad Saleh, a 37-year-old Syrian refugee, also wanted to help the survivors. Although she does not have much, she decided to donate to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. 

“A small gesture, a small action”, Fatima shrugs, “but added to other small actions, it will make a very big whole”.

Fatima arrived with her family from Damascus 10 years ago while pregnant with her first child and without having any relatives in Jordan. She knows first-hand what it means to lose it all and receive a helping hand in those critical moments. She volunteers at the “Women Empowerment Network” in Maan, which aims to raise awareness on women’s rights and support psycho-social wellbeing of refugee and Jordanian women and girls.

The disaster caused by the two earthquakes is unseen in the area, and its consequences will probably last for years. The conditions of the survivors are now of utmost concern for the humanitarian community, including UNHCR, as more than two million people have been affected. The earthquakes have destroyed homes, livelihoods, and the local infrastructure and as the disaster occurred during the harsh winter months, families are struggling in the bitter cold and are in urgent need of shelter and relief items.

“I am especially concerned about the children that lost their parents and the families that lost their houses,” Fatima says. “I feel lucky because I have a roof over my head, shoes on my feet and a place where my three kids and I feel safe,” she adds. “It’s time to take action,” she concludes.

“When you put a grain of sand, it means you have done something to help”, Nour says, “even if it is only five Jordanian dinar (around $7). “I do not want them to experience what I lived through”, she explains “I know what it means to live in a tent, I know what it means to lose everything and have nowhere to go.”

“I trust UNHCR because I know the money will reach the right people. In my case, I am receiving cash assistance from them, so I know the funds reach those in need,” Nour stresses, hinting at UNHCR providing shelter to the survivors.

UNHCR is on the ground in Turkey and Syria responding where possible with emergency supplies to earthquake survivors. In Turkey, the provinces heavily affected by the earthquakes are also the ones in which refugees live in large numbers. UNHCR is working under the leadership of the Turkish authorities and with other UN agencies and is responding with urgently requested support to both refugees and host communities, including blankets, food packs, kitchen sets, mattresses, and tents. 

In Syria, UNHCR is coordinating the response with other UN agencies and humanitarian partners (including in Northwest Syria) and is delivering assistance to those in need. UNHCR has deployed tens of thousands of core relief items, including high-thermal blankets, mattresses, kitchen sets, plastic sheeting, jerry cans and sleeping mats. UNHCR is also taking part in cross-border convoys bringing more desperately needed aid into North-West Syria.

In addition to this, UNHCR has mobilised its stockpiles from the global warehouse in Jordan and airlifted 8,794 tents and 2,592 blankets which have been delivered to Turkey — Adana (Incirlik mostly). The airlifts were conducted through donated flights facilitated by the Government of Jordan, Qatar, and Turkey. There are plans to ship over 1,000 tons of core relief items including blankets, kitchen sets, solar lamps, plastic sheets, sleeping mats and jerrycans.

UNHCR contributed this story to The Jordan Times

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