Introductory blog – Jordan 2017

A team of IKEA Austria IWitnesses is travelling to Jordan to meet Syrian families and see first-hand the devastating impact that the war has had on their lives. Joined by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the group will spend three days on an eye-opening journey to witness how funding from the Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign has brought light to homes and communities.

The Syrian conflict started in March 2011, as the pro-democracy protests in the wake of the Arab Spring spiralled into civil war. Seven years into the crisis, hope is fading fast. More than 6 million Syrians have been displaced inside the country and over 5 million have fled Syria, seeking safety in neighbouring countries and beyond.

Your mission is to follow us to one of the largest refugee-hosting countries in the world. Jordan hosts the second-largest number of refugees relative to the size of its population, with one refugee for every 11 inhabitants. Out of a total refugee population of 736,756 people, almost 90% are Syrian.

Jordanians are renowned for opening their arms and homes to those fleeing conflict in the region, but this hospitality and generosity has also come at a price. The influx of refugees puts a huge amount of pressure on a country that is already struggling to support its own population.

The role of UNHCR is to co-ordinate the response, in partnership with the Jordanian government, and provide protection and assistance to those who have fled. The UNHCR team will accompany the IWitnesses during their three-day mission, and ensure they see as much as possible of the work being accomplished.

With 80% of Syrian refugees in Jordan living in urban areas, we will start the trip with a visit to the homes of Syrian families in Amman to understand the challenges that they face day-to-day.

The following two days will be spent visiting refugee camps to understand how they are run and how the teams working in them tackle major challenges—such as access to energy—and find solutions to help the camps’ residents. We will meet families in their shelters and speak to them about their reasons for fleeing, how they are coping with life and how they see their families’ futures.

We will begin with Za’atari, the largest camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan and one of the largest in the world. It currently hosts around 79,900 people, 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.

On the final day, we will head to the Azraq Camp, home to over 35,000 refugees. We will visit the new solar plant, constructed thanks to the support of the IKEA Foundation and the Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign, and which made Azraq the world’s first refugee camp powered by renewable energy. Staying late into the evening, we will witness the solar streetlights slowly lighting up and bringing life to this remote camp after darkness falls.

Our goal is to spend as much time with Syrian families as possible. We will hear, in their words, the struggles they are facing but also see the triumph of the human spirit in times of hardship. The Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign has greatly and positively impacted on the lives of those whom UNHCR helps here in Jordan. It has brought light to families in one of the world’s most difficult environments, allowing them to lead more dignified lives and giving them a sense of home in exile.

    Olga Sarrado