Sunset in Azraq: watching the camp light up

Our agenda on Thursday started at lunch time and so we had a possibility to finalise our blogs and sort all our pictures. We were excited to see more of crucial help that UNHCR provides in Jordan. After a short lunch at the local falafel bistro, the next visit could go on.

Azraq, the second biggest refugee camp, is located in between Syria and Saudi Arabia. Our trip there from Amman took approximately two hours. The camp is divided in districts or villages. There are 35,000 refugees (57% of whom are kids) currently living in the camp but its capacity can extend up to 120,000 people, depending on the situation around the borders with Syria.
Today, refugees receive the equivalent of €25 per person per month in the form of an electronic voucher, which can be used to buy a food from the camp supermarket. Payment is done by eye (iris) scan to avoid any misuse and help to act more effectively.

Azraq camp – by Philipp Knöbl

A new water supply system (600m deep!) allows for more water pick-up points and brings water closer to all the camp’s inhabitants.

The highlight of the camp is a solar power plant, funded by the IKEA Foundation. All the shelters in Villages 3 and 6 have been connected to the grid, providing sustainable electricity to over 15.000 refugees. Each shelter has an allowance of 1kWh per day—enough power for all everyday operations. The plan is to connect all villages by 2018. From the beginning of the solar project, a big team of refugees was deeply involved; a team of Syrian specialists (refugees) are also today a crucial part of total project implementation and more than proud about their solar electricity. “We want to thank you—all co-workers at IKEA and the IKEA Foundation—for this great support,” was the honest message we were asked to bring home with us and share with all people in our home countries.

IWitnesses from IKEA Austria by the solar power plant, funded by the IKEA Foundation – by Philipp Knöbl
IWitnesses walking around the solar plant – by Philipp Knöbl

We visited the hospital where they provide all common services in very small space, 24 hours a day. For difficult treatments, people are transported into the city. The most impressive part was the maternity ward, where about 34 kids are born in a week.

Visit to the hospital – by Philipp Knöbl

Azraq market is very different to the Zaatari market. In Azraq, the market area is more structured and smaller, but still they provide all needed goods and services. For example, we visited a pastry shop where we were invited to taste typical Arabic sweets, which were delicious.
We were told by different shop owners that the average income here in the market area is about 200 Jordanian Dinar. Due to the fact that the market area is kind of a meeting place, too, we saw many children enjoying ice cream, which was not possible when they had no electricity.

Taste Arabic sweets – by Philipp Knöbl

Our next stop was the high point, just before sunset. We watched the lights go on. Children were playing outside all the time—they feel safe. Before they had streetlights it was impossible to let them play outside after sunset.

Watching the sunset – by Philipp Knöbl
Together with the children – by Philipp Knöbl

After we witnessed the camp light up, we said goodbye to the kids and drove to our first home visit of the day. The first family we visited has their home located in district number 6 of the camp, which means that they have access to electricity.

Electricity in the camp – by Philipp Knöbl

The family—father, mother and their four children, of whom three are going to school—fled from the suburbs of Damascus in 2011 and arrived in the camp in 2014, after a few stopovers in different shelters. The father works in a workshop in the camp, where he helps with expanding the homes of the refugees with porches and kitchens. After listening to their whole story, and drinking some homemade berry juice, we left and drove to the second family.

Home visit to family – by Philipp Knöbl

This family—father mother and three children—are living in a district with no electricity. It was already dark, so we sat together in a hazy light. It was around 9pm and the children were tired already. We talked about the life of the family when they were in Syria. The father worked as a shoemaker back in Syria.

Visit to home with no electricity – by Philipp Knöbl

The family fled to Jordan because they didn’t feel safe anymore, but miss their homeland so much. Now they feel safe (during the day). The father told us that he wishes having light too, so the children can play outside in the evening. At least they have solar lamps from UNHCR. We really hope that soon all parts of Azraq camp will have access to electricity.

Light coming from the solar lamp – by Philipp Knöbl