Supermarkets and Water Conservation Take Priority At a Syrian Startup Refugee Camp


So far, UNHCR has built 2,500 shelters, and the villages offers community centers, clinics, parks, playgrounds, police offices, private cooking and cleaning areas. There are two hospitals, two schools, 2,000 sanitation facilities, mosques, community centers and supermarkets where Syrians can buy food with WFP rechargeable aid cards. It’s the first time in a camp that a supermarket has been open since day one of the refugee camp.

At the hospital, there are 130 beds available for secondary level care. It’s unusual to have a secondary level care hospital. Often refugee camps have primary level camp hospitals, but this hospital handles maternal deliveries and elective surgeries and offers services like ophthalmology and dentistry.

There are two schools in the camps. The first school is available to the children who have arrived already but are only getting informal education for their basic needs. Their formal education will start at the beginning of the school year in September, when there is a larger critical mass of children in the camps.

Boscoe: What I've heard is that they have a flat-pack IKEA type of housing that's secured into the ground, whereas in Zaatari they were all in tents at the beginning, and now many are in caravans [trailers] donated mostly by the Gulf states. People can move their caravans around. You'll find the wealthier refugees now have three or four caravans. At Afraq, the plan is to resolve that with this new [housing], with something more grounded. But I'm sure they'll figure out how to move them eventually.

Afraq will have markets. Here at Zaatari there are two fairly big camp markets and supermarkets. In Azraq, because it's more isolated, there'll be fewer work opportunities and less money circulating in the camp, so it might mean that there's less [industry] in Azraq.

Syria Deeply: How are you minimizing the camp’s environmental impact on Jordan?

Needham: Jordan is the world’s fourth most water-scarce country, so water is a major issue for us. In Zaatari, water was being delivered through a tank system, and tanks were often leaking or left running. In Azraq, water is delivered through taps, which has helped minimized water wastage.

In Zaatari, the electricity was connected to the local street light electricity system, which wasn’t planned for. At present, there is no electricity available because of Azraq’s distance from other communities. In the next few weeks we are installing solar lighting systems in all the villages, near public areas and toilets, so we can avoid draining the Jordanian electrical grid.

Syria Deeply: How could having Afraq as an option impact Jordan's urban refugees?

Needham: About 80 percent of Syrians in Jordan live in urban areas. Syrians aren't allowed to work in Jordan, but many Syrians are choosing to live in urban areas where they are closer to employment opportunities. But in urban settings, they have to pay rent and it is hard to make ends meet, so we expect people will have to come back to camp settings.

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