Today I made a special visit to Camp Gaza in Jerash which is located 30 minutes north of Amman. Camp Gaza is a refugee camp composed of 23,000 displaced Palestinians since 1967. They were displaced from Gaza when Israel occupied the strip in the 1967 war. Most of these are originally refugees since 1948 as a result of the creation of Israel. Camp Gaza is the poorest refugee camp in Jordan since more than 23,000 people live in 1 square Kilometer only, and its inhabitants do not hold an ID number which means they are not Jordanian citizens and have very limited access to work and services in Jordan. The UNRWA (click here for more info)has rented this land for 99 years when the refugees arrived 40 years ago, and just like any other Palestinian camp; they run the schools & hospitals. There is only 1 high school that has 3 class rooms with 70 kids in every class. The other 2 schools are elementary and secondary and each class has around 40 – 50 students. Some classes run twice and three times while the students wait outside for the class to empty to get a turn. There is no hospital, but a few clinics, the camp also lack special clinics for women and special diseases like Autism as I heard stories about putting their kids in chain as they have no idea how to deal with the disease!
The Jordanian government does support the camp but the resources are limited. The infrastructure of the camp is in a miserable situation. The Saudi government donated 30,000$ to put roofs made of zinc on the houses but they contain Asbestos that is a cancerous subject. There are 22 people in every 100 Meters. The refugees are lost between the bureaucracy of the UN, Palestinian Embassy and the Jordanian Government. So you can imagine how difficult the situation is especially in the cold winter when the price of one Gasoline tank is 10$ that will last a few days to heat one room. Many people can’t even handle the price of Kerosene.
But the main problem in the camp is having job opportunities and a steady income. This is not possible because they are not Jordanian citizens; they are stateless people waiting to return to their homeland in Palestine. Since they don’t hold a national ID number, they can’t work in the government or private sector unless they have a security check from the Jordanian Intelligence Department which is very difficult to obtain. Therefore poverty is the norm in the camp where the average family income is almost my Cell phone bill of 100 JDs!
I went there today as part of a group who are working together to create job opportunities and social development for the camp, something that I will write about later. I met some of the locals whom we are working with. We are not alone in the camp; there are a few companies and organizations that are giving donations, but we believe that is not enough. They need new skills, empowerment and jobs.
Perhaps the best thing I saw today was the smile on the faces of the kids at school, they have an amazing energy especially when you hear then talking about the future and how much they want to become doctors and engineers! The strong will of the people makes me want to work more and more to improve their lives.
A short visit which is not my first to a Palestinian Refugee Camp, makes me value and appreciate every little thing I have in my life.
I will leave you with some pictures.