As we commemorate World Refugee Day this week a group of IKEA Belgium IWitnesses will travel to Jordan with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to meet with Syrian families and see for themselves the devastating impact the war has had on their lives. The group will get to see how funding from our Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign is helping their children get light in their homes and communities.
Aoife McDonnell from UNHCR Jordan is here today to tell us more about what our IWitnesses—and you!—will see on this journey.
The Syrian conflict started in March 2011 as pro-democracy protests quickly spiraled into civil war. It has now been five years since the war started and UNHCR has registered a staggering 710,618 people as refugees in total in Jordan. Since March – April 2016 alone there has been a 200% increase of Syrians admitted to Jordanian territory, putting a huge amount of pressure on a country which is already struggling to support its own population. UNHCR’s role is to co-ordinate the response in partnership with the Jordanian government and provide protection and assistance to those who have fled. During this three-day mission, we want you to see as much as possible of our operation.
Your mission is to follow us to one of the largest refugee-hosting countries in the world. Jordanians have opened their arms and homes to those fleeing conflict in the region since the country’s creation as a state. This hospitality and generosity is renowned in the region, but it has also come at a price.
With 80% of Syrian refugees in living urban areas rather than in refugee camps, we will start the trip by visiting the homes of Syrian families with members of the UNHCR field team in Amman to understand the challenges they face day-to-day.
The following two days will be spent visiting refugee camps, beginning with Za’atari, one of the largest camps in the world and currently hosting around 79,000 people. The population is mainly from southern Syria, with the border just 15km away. The bustle of the market street is a welcome respite from the arid desert landscape in which the camp is built. We will meet families and hear their stories.
On the final day, we will go to Azraq Camp, hosting over 33,000 refugees. With temperatures quickly rising, you will see some of the challenges for the team working here but, even more so, for the people who are living here. Staying late into the evening, we will witness the solar streetlights slowly turning on, bringing light and life to this remote camp after darkness falls.
Our focus will be to spend as much time with Syrian families as possible, to hear in their words the difficulties they are facing, but also to see the triumph of the human spirit in times of difficulty. The Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign has made a huge impact on the lives of those whom we help here in Jordan, giving light to families in some of the most difficult environments.