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Category: UNHCR

Zataari4 Nov2014
Food AidHumanitarian AidJordanRefugeesSyriaUNHCRWomen & Children

Za’atari Refugee Camp Needs Our Help

“After ten years, half of the Syrian population has been forced to flee their homes. (…) The gravity of this crisis must not weaken our solidarity for Syrians. On the contrary, we must redouble our collective effort to support both refugees and the communities hosting them. “

Filippo Grandi, UNHCR High Commissioner

Ten years ago, on July 28, 2012, the Za’atari Refugee Camp opened in Jordan to shelter the Syrians fleeing the war in their home country. At the time everyone thought it would be temporary. That was ten years ago. The camp now is on the top ten list of most populous cities in Jordan with 80,000 residents – just slightly less than the population of Aqaba. This is down from the all-time high of 156,000 in 2013 before a second camp opened in Zarqa to the east, but it is still a very large population of people living in poor conditions in the middle of an open semi-desert area. It is operated by the UN and has a number of other agencies and NGOs that help on a regular basis, but they are all stretched thin due to crises in other locations around the world.

The UNHCR has put out a call to all those currently working with the camp, and those, like SCM who have helped in the past but have had to move on to other emergencies, to step up in anyway they can to stop a rapidly deteriorating situation. SCM is going to answer this call with your help.

Za’atari has transformed into a medium sized city in Jordan with 1800 shops and businesses that employ 3600 refugees. The UNHCR also helps the refugees get work permits with an aim to reduce dependency on aid, but with the economic situation in Jordan, this is very difficult. The camp has 32 schools and over 55 community centers and provides basic medical services to the refugees. Each refugee family receives some assistance, and the economic activity in the camp spills out into the local area including the nearby city of Mafraq. The aid is being converted into mobile payments to make it easier for people to get and spend the aid, and even save a bit, especially if they have a job or operate a business in the camp. But for 80,000 people, it is not enough.

“Shams Elysees” or main shopping and business street in the camp. The name is a play on the Arabic word for Damascus. All kinds of businesses have opened here – cell phone shops, wedding dress stores, bakeries and restaurants, bicycle and motorcycle repair shops, and more.

In 2013 the UNHCR began replacing the tents with caravans (portable buildings) that are essentially four walls, a floor and a roof. They might have a small sink, some shelving and a storage cabinet, and mattress pads for sitting and sleeping. The lifespan of the caravans is only 6-8 years, so the majority are in urgent need of repair. These shelters have become home to the Syrians, and they are trying to make the best of them, but the structures were not meant for long-term continued use.

The economic fallout of covid is also affecting the refugees, which are allowed work permits to get jobs in most sectors in Jordan, but the lack of job openings means many remain unemployed. They are forced to depend on dwindling assistance from the UN and other agencies to survive.

Water is another issue creating hardship for the refugees. Most refugees at the camp say the water they have access to is not enough to survive on. This is a problem intensified by water shortages from the Euphrates River and extreme heat in the region. Jordan gets some of its water from Israel, and some from the Euphrates River in Syria, which is dammed by Turkey, and access is sometimes used as a bargaining chip, or threat, depending on the issue.

The camp is powered by solar power, but the camp has grown beyond the original required output estimates of the power plant, leaving the residents of the camp electricity for 9-11 hours per day. Water storage tanks are inadequate to their needs and the delivery of water to the tanks needs to be increased, especially during the hot summer months.

SCM has a plan to help refugees living in Za’atari and our goal is $75,000 to do the following:

  1. Provide more water tanks for more families
  2. Help with the cost of filling those tanks on a regular basis
  3. Provide funds and/or supplies to perform maintenance and repairs on caravans
  4. Provide supplemental nutrition to make sure children are getting enough to stay healthy

Please donate today! Any amount helps – it could help buy a water tank or provide another week’s worth of water, or it could provide the supplies to repair a caravan with a crumbling roof or wall, or it could provide food for families that have to severely cut back.

Click here to donate any amount you can.

A combination of the ubiquitous UN tents and the portable boxes that are the caravans fill the

Please read these UNHCR articles about the situation as the camp turns 10 years old:

Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp: 10 facts at 10 years

Durable solutions required for Syrian refugees in Jordan as Za’atari camp turns 10

JordanRefugeesUNHCRWomen & Children

Sewing Centers in Jordan

As just a reminder that what you donate to us here at our office in Seattle really does make it’s way to Jordan and to help the refugees there, we found this photo of the big sewing machine as it was being loaded into the container to be shipped to Jordan. That is the same table that you see being unloaded from the truck in a post we put up just before New Year’s Eve. We also found some more photos of the sewing machines people had purchased on Amazon and had delivered to our office. These are also being put to use in the first sewing center we sponsored at Zaatari.

Thank you for all your support! We will have another container going to Jordan soon!


GreeceHumanitarian AidUNHCR

Expanding Greece Operations for #Syrian Refugees

Changes are taking place at SCM again as we are constantly striving to be where we are needed and help as many refugees as we can. For the last year, we have been in the northern part of Greece near Thessaloniki at the camps of Frakapour and Karamalis. When we started there, the camps had about 1100 – 1200 people between the two. Now they are down to about 100 people in each camp.

The Greek government has moved the refugees out of the camps to hotels and apartments that the UNHCR is renting for them to get them out of the cold. Each day the government comes to the camps and picks a number of families to move. One of our team members has gone to look at the facilities and they say they are clean and warm, very different from what they had at the camps. When we talked to the hotel and the apartment managers, they told us that the leases were for two months. We have no idea what will happen when the leases expire.

SCM has decided, with the dwindling numbers of people in the camps in northern Greece and increasing numbers on Lesbos again, that we are moving our operation back to the island of Lesbos and the camp at Morea. Currently that camp is housing 5,000 refugees with more arriving on the beaches from Turkey every day. Because of our good relationship with the government on Lesbos, the mayor there has asked us to set up a medical clinic for the growing population of refugees at the camp. We have reached an agreement with the mayor that, in exchange for the use of a warehouse building for the clinic and storage of our supplies, we will provide medical services to the refugees and anyone on the island that needs our help.

We expect that by mid-February most of the refugees will have moved from Frakapour and Karamanlis. We will be moving all of our supplies to Lesbos and have the clinic set up shortly thereafter. Jamal Sawalha, who was the SCM team lead before will be returning from Jordan to lead this operation. We will be in need of medical and humanitarian volunteers to staff the clinic and provide other services at Morea and in the area there. Medical volunteers who can bring equipment and supplies will be in particular need (more details on needs will be coming soon), as well as Arabic, Urdu, Pashtu and Kurdish speakers. Very few organizations are able to bring in as many volunteers with the needed language skills as SCM is, and we are extremely grateful to all of our supporters who can do this. Stay tuned for more details on our upcoming missions.

Right now, we need your help to raise money to pay for the clinic set up, establishing schools in the camp, and housing for those who are vulnerable on the island of Lesbos. This would include pregnant women and their families so they have a clean and warm place to give birth and tend to the new baby, those with acute medical conditions who don’t need to be in the hospital but cannot withstand living in a tent in the wet and cold, elderly and the very young who are most susceptible to the adverse conditions, and so on. We need to get them out of the tents and into decent living conditions as quickly as possible.

The reality is that they are not going to be moving from Greece any time soon, with all the available pathways to Europe now closed, and with the suspension of the refugee resettlement program in the US, we must help them prepare to stay in Greece indefinitely. To add to Greece’s burden, Germany may be sending as many as 60,000 refugees back to Greece. The UNHCR is stretched thin and is lacking in resources, and with the US appearing to withdraw support from the refugee program, individuals and other NGOs like SCM must help more than ever.

The people of Lesbos have been very hospitable and stepped up to help at the very beginning of the refugee crisis, but their island can only take on so much. Their economy is based on tourism and agriculture, and it has been devastated by the refugee crisis. We hope to help alleviate some of their burden in helping to provide these services. The UNHCR will still be doing interviews and processing people to be resettled in other countries, but this is a long, slow process that will still take up to two years to complete.

We are asking you to dig deep and help us raise a total of $250,000 – that is our ultimate goal to provide the long-term services we have outlined for the refugees on Lesbos. You can help by donating and doing a fundraiser through Crowdrise for SCM. Just click this link, and set up your own fundraising page, share it with all your friends and family.

Please help us fully fund our operations on Lesbos so we can hit the ground running. We need to be up and providing services within a month, so the need is immediate.

Please join our fundraiser now!

Thank you!

Humanitarian AidJordanUNHCRWomen & Children

Update on Distributions

Last summer we put out a call for girls underwear for the children in Zaatari. The donations came in and we began sending suitcases full of the packages to Jordan. A total of 1663 pairs were donated, far exceeding our goal of 1000.

In September the UNHCR distributed them to the girls as follows:

(1) 984 pieces in Damascene Maysoon School:
* First grade: 175 *2=350 pieces
* Second grade: 192 *2=384 pieces
* Kindergartens: 125 *2 = 250 pieces

(2) 500 pieces in Hind Bint Amro School:
* First grade: 98 *2=196 Piece’s.
* Second grade: 152 *2= 304 Piece’s.

(3) 988 pieces in Joumana Bint Abi Taleb School:
* First grade: 154 *2= 308 pieces
* Second grade: 190 *2= 380 pieces
* Kindergartens: 150 *2 = 300

(4) 854 pieces in Hashemi School:
* First grade: 151 *2= 302 pieces
* Second grade: 142 *2= 284 pieces
* Kindergartens: 134*2 = 268

Thank you to everyone that donated! The campaign was a great success and the recipients are grateful.


Humanitarian AidJordanRefugeesUNHCRWomen & Children

SCM Donations to UNHCR – Zaatari


UNHCR truck loaded with supplies from our warehouse in Madaba

img_20160918_140921Over the last few years, our warehouse in Jordan has been sending items we have shipped from the US to Jordan to the UNHCR at Zaatari Refugee Camp. Attached here is the most recent report back from the UNHCR representative that shows the distribution from the September donation.

Thank you to everyone who has sent clothing, baby supplies for the baby boxes, blankets, donated cash, and helped load containers this year. Without you, we could not have done this. The need is still there, so please lets keep it going!


[pdf-embedder url=”https://www.scmmedicalmissions.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/SCM-Donation-002.pdf”]


Humanitarian AidJordanRefugeesSyriaUNHCRWomen & Children

#BabyBoxes Delivered to #Zaatari Families


Zaatari Camp from Syria Tel – so named because it is the highest point in the camp and sometimes the people there can get Syria Tel cell phone service on their mobiles.

Today we went to Zaatari Refugee Camp to distribute some of the Baby Boxes to new mothers and also visit some of their other programs. It was a really good day, and we saw a lot of progress at Zaatari since my last visit in late 2014.

There are now about 79,000 people living there, and they are doing their best to get on with life. Schools are in session, shops have sprung up everywhere, and we even heard talk of traffic lights being set up somewhere in the near future! Zaatari is becoming more and more a city with all kinds of services available to the people who call it home.


Baby Boxes given out to new mothers at Zaatari

Our first stop was to show the staff who will be in charge of distributing the rest of the baby boxes how to assemble them, and the contents that go with them. Then there were 10 families with new born babies- anywhere from just a few days to a few weeks old. They were very appreciative of the boxes and happy to get the supplies and beds for their babies.

I had also brought with me information and a pattern on for washable reusable feminine hygiene pads, and explained them to the coordinator, who was very excited to get the information. She said they just started the process right now of trying to get their sewing groups to make these and developing a pattern that they can use. Talk about timing! I left a finished kit with them with all the instructions and the the pattern kit so they can see how they are made and the materials used. I hope it works out for them!


This is a handwoven rug, made with recycled fabric, and the pictures above it are women holding signs with empowering statements on them.

After this, we were given a tour of the camp and visited the women’s empowerment and training center. Here they are making handcrafts such as rugs and other woven items using recycled materials, jewelry, and mosaics. The center also works to educate and lift women and girls up and give them a sense of self reliance. They also work on training to inform men to treat women equally and with respect, and for women to demand equal treatment and respect. It was very moving to see all they are doing there.

20160919_092145The women are able to make money to help support their families. I purchased a few pairs of earrings that will be available for sale through the SCM store to support the women’s efforts. These particular pieces are made with date seeds and are very unique.

We also saw the sewing class, where they were working on patterns and how to make them. The sewing machines that were donated to SCM will go to these classes, but at the time we were there they were still in the UN warehouse where they will be given to the classes in a few days. They have been very busy lately so I am glad we got to distribute what we did! They are gearing up for the winterization of the camp and the people, so the warehouse is prioritizing that right now.

And lastly, thank you to our Regional Director Mr. Basel Sawalha, and Mr. Ala Almadani, Field Safety Advisor UNHCR Jordan, for arranging the distribution and visit for us!


L-R Brenda Pierce, Basel Sawalha, Ala Almadani, Viola Sawalha. Not pictured is SCM volunteer Manal Shawish who took the photo and accompanied us on the visit and helped with the distribution.