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Nov. 29, 2012
By Kristen Phelps, emergency advisor CARE Jordan
As I’m writing this, it is Thanksgiving in the United States, where I am from. A holiday which we celebrate by having a large meal with family, a tradition that has plenty of parallels here in Jordan, although here I am pretty sure they just call it lunch on Fridays. However in addition to the over eating, Thanksgiving is a time that we are called to reflect on the things we are thankful for.
As I crawled out of bed this morning I began my reflection process and I immediately thought about our response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis at CARE. I thought about how Syrian families in Amman are according to our recent assessment, CARE Jordan Baseline Assessment of Community Identified Vulnerabilities among Syrian Refugees Living in Jordan (I am thankful I don’t have to say that out loud too often!), are utterly unprepared for winter and I am thankful for the delay in winter’s coming here in Jordan.
The temperatures, which do not seem low when looking at the weather reports in offices in Canada for example, fail to reflect the bitterness of the Jordanian winter. Temperatures regularly fluctuate as much as 20 degrees during the day and the homes, which are entirely devoid of insulation, are often colder inside than the weather outside. There is no respite. I am normally someone who, when living in the States, would leave my fan on year round and routinely kicks off all the covers while I sleep. However in Amman I have sometimes slept in socks, pants, long sleeve shirt, t shirt, dress, scarf, hat, gloves, and a jacket and that is under three blankets!
Syrian refugees often came with very little clothing and many, having come in the summer, have no warm clothing at all. Our assessment found that 28% of Syrian households in our sample did not have suitable clothing and a further 30% had poor or very poor clothing for winter. The quality of blankets distributed by local community groups varies widely; 45% of our sample had either poor or very poor quality blankets and 18% of Syrian households in our survey had no blankets at all. 82% of families in our assessment had no heating at all and an additional 10% who had heating, had poor access to heating. I, like our survey team, am extremely concerned about the ability of these households to heat their poorly insulated apartments in winter.
I am thankful that we haven’t had too many nights yet where these families will be facing the bitter elements I have described. I am thankful the weather has given organizations like CARE more time to reach a greater number of vulnerable Syrian refugees and help them prepare for the weather that, while delayed, is coming. I am also thankful that CARE will be able to distribute 2200 heaters to families so that when winter does come, vulnerable Syrian refugee families will at least begin to be able to warm themselves.