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October in Amman: balmy sunny days, sudden cool nights. As sudden as if someone turned off the sun’s generator with a flip of the switch. It makes you wake up in the middle of the night and grab an extra blanket. You wonder how cold it actually gets in winter. Wikipedia tells you that due to its high altitude above sea level, winter in Amman is one of the coldest in the Eastern Mediterranean region. It is also long. It starts in late November, early December, and continues until late April.
29-year-old Rawda wonders about winter too. It will be her first winter in Amman, and she doesn’t have an extra blanket. Rawda is a Syrian refugee, a widow, and a mum of five young children.
“What will I do with my children? They are already cold now. I have no heaters, no warm clothes. Just this one small carpet in the room where we all sleep. My son Ezaldeen can’t walk and has to crawl on the floor. I don’t want him having to crawl on cold, bare concrete floors when winter comes.”
Seven-year-old Ezaldeen is disabled due to shrapnel wounds; he has movement in his toes, but is unable to walk and scoots around the floor. He was wounded in a bomb blast back home in Syria, months before his father died from injuries caused by another bomb attack.
“He died innocent,” says Rawda of her husband. “He was just doing his job – selling fruits in the street – when he got hit; he was just providing for his family. He died during the Eid celebrations last year. Nearly a year ago.”
Rawda was going to see him when she heard the blast, but did not expect him to be amongst those injured or fallen. He died four hours later, in her home, in front of her and the children.
As things went from bad to worse, Rawda decided to take her children and flee. From Syria to Jordan, via Damascus and Za’atri camp. Five months ago, she reached Amman. She has been living in an impoverished neighbourhood, in a semi-bare flat.
“It’s been difficult here. If we have money, I can buy food. If not, we can’t eat. I have no money to pay for my son’s medication. Sometimes I ask people in the neighbourhood if they can spare something for us. I have never done this before in my life.”
Rawda cries often, and she cries as she says:
“Fending for my children is very difficult but I don’t want to lose myself. I want to keep myself together. For my children. My hopes lie with them. They are my only goal. I would sacrifice anything for them. I want them to study, and have good lives when they grow up despite what has happened,” she concludes wiping away her tears.
Rawda strikes you as a strong woman, a good mother. But her resilience – that of a young widow shouldering heavy burdens – is understandably stretched to the limit. Her new worry - about the fast approaching cold months - is a worry shared by refugee families across Jordan.
Rawda is one of more than a half a million Syrian refugees in Jordan - three quarters of whom women and children - who need help to cover basic expenses so that they can carry on living; who need healing so that in some corner of their hearts they can carry on hoping.
by Adel Sarkozi/CARE International
Note: Rawda received cash assistance from CARE Jordan to cover rental, health and food costs, and has been referred by CARE to other partner organisations to receive additional support. CARE is also scaling up its programmes for the long winter months, planning to support up to 5,000 Syrian refugee families such as Rawda’s with cash assistance and essential items such as heaters, blankets, warm clothes, mattresses, and fuel refills.