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Analysis: The forgotten refugees of Gaza
Published Tuesday 30/10/2012 (updated) 01/11/2012 23:49
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Sewage flows down a street in the Gaza camp for Palestinian refugees
in Jordan. (MaanImages/Siraj Davis)
By Siraj Davis and Yasmin Omar Lulu

The Gaza camp in Jordan, near the northwestern historical ruins of Jerrash where the Greco Roman Empire once flourished, was set up by the UN as an emergency measure in 1968.

During the 1967 Arab-Israeli War war, about 12,000 refugees fled from Gaza to this area. It now has a population of about 30,000 Gazans.

Hidden in the outskirts of Jerrash, connected to the rest of civilization by a single neglected dirt road, most tourists have no idea about the camp. Locals are known to respond to visitors' inquiries with a suspicious: "Why do you want to go there?!"

Some tourists wonder if Jerrash municipality wants to keep foreigners out, to hide the dilapidated squalor that is so close to a bustling tourist attraction and well kept city.

Living conditions at the Gaza camp have been described as the worst in Jordan.

Surrounded by an empty desert, its streets are filled with children playing near sewage and trash. The pathways are cluttered with discarded food, old recyclables and other materials, which are burned frequently because garbage collection is unreliable.

It is a wonder that children playing football across sewage drains do not seem to notice the offensive smell.

The solution is expensive. Residents pay exorbitant fees in comparison to other Jordanian cities to have this sewage intermittently dumped outside of the city.

Water for bathing and drinking is also sporadically available every two weeks, and sometimes mixes sewage and drinking water as a result of the scarcity of functioning modern pipes.

Further, the living quarters are squalid, antiquated with cracks in the concrete walls, and teeming with residents. Sometimes 10 people can be found in a room of a windowless metal-roofed apartment. There are known cases of 25 residents living in one house.

Others live in roofless apartments or outside in tents where they are exposed to the challenges of the extremely cold seasonal weather. The infrastructure also lacks recreational areas like parks for children and a functioning road system.

Most camp residents possess neither an ID nor passport. Like visible ghosts, after five decades of living and giving birth in Jordan, their families are not recognized. They cannot work, receive government benefits, have full access to education, own a car, nor travel freely. Unemployment tops at 50 percent, school dropout rates are high and life expectancy is much lower than regional averages.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, has tried to remedy these conditions. It provides education at four schools up to the 10th grade, as well as a food distribution center. Some of these displaced Gazans receive financial assistance from the United Nations.

The health conditions of the residents is horrifying. Volunteers report the presence of many diseases that are easily preventable with access to Western medicine. There are instances of diabetes, nervous disorders, cancers, high blood pressure and others, which go untreated.

Some residents criticize UNRWA for micromanaging the camp, restricting local entrepreneurship. Others say charitable organizations meant to help the Gaza refugees have pocketed the money instead.

But amid such complaints, there are some young volunteers making admirable achievements.

A network of volunteers, Youth Before Age, provides food assistance, English lessons, helps repair homes, and other kinds of support, including documenting camp conditions.

One member, dentist Dr Essam Amiss, says anyone can volunteer support, including blood donation which takes just minutes.

Another volunteer, Dua Abdel Rahman Qandeel, said: "When you see people who don't have food, clothes, poor education, poor health, and no foundation, you have to take care of them ... I hope to carry their voice to the people so others will visit them and see how terribly they are living."

Amid the huge flow of curious guests looking for enlightenment at Jerash's ancient ruins, the Gazan refugees living next door feel forgotten.

Siraj Davis is Japanese-American writer and human rights activist and currently teaches English and history in Jordan. Yasmin Omar Lulu is a refugee from Gaza living in Jordan, currently studying English Literature and Business Administration at the Arab Open University in Amman.
1 ) N.H / ---------
30/10/2012 17:39
http://visualizingpalestine.org/infograhic/a-policy-of-displacement Here you can see what the Zionist terrorists have done to the Palestinians, and still do. I think it's even an understatement

2 ) Michael Rabb / USA
30/10/2012 19:50
Thank you for your article. I just visited Gaza Camp, Jaresh with Welcome to Palestine 3 in August. The world needs to know what Israel has done to these human beings. The Russel Tribunal on Palestine in New York earlier this month received testimony regarding the Palestinian refugee status: https://sites.google.com/site/cudivest/project-updates/palestinianrefugees

3 ) PA / --------
31/10/2012 19:11
To the other two commenters: This camp is in Joran, which is majority Palestinian, and has been there since 1968. It is Jordan that is doing this to these people, not Israel, you one trick racists. Israel integrated its Palestinian Arabs in 1948 and today they live better than ALL of Jordan save the King They have more rights and better lives than anyone else in the Middel East. If you cared about palestinians then, you would praise Israel. And curse Jordan. You are the problem.

4 ) D.R. / USA
31/10/2012 23:52
These people are clearly badly mistreated. Why are Arabs mistreating Arabs this way? There were more than 800,000 Jewish refugees expelled from Arab countries when Israel declared its independence. Israel integrated them into its population and accepted them as citizens. Why don't Jordanians integrate these Arab refugees into its population and accept them as citizens? I don't understand why Arabs would be so cruel to other Arabs.

5 ) Susanne / UK
01/11/2012 05:14
Why does Jordan treat its Arab brothers with such callous contempt? Why does Jordan refuse citizenship to these people when it has granted it to other Palestinians? Why do other Arab nations say nothing? Why are the people of Jaresh not allowed to return to Gaza via Egypt? This is a disgrace, you should be ashamed!

6 ) Nizar / Tanzania
01/11/2012 09:29
NH (1), thanks for this shocking graphics. Reveals the true nature of Zionism, unlike PA (3) who is shamelessly trying to obfuscate the truth about Israeli Apartheid - [email protected]

7 ) Arnold / Canada
01/11/2012 16:54
Bad Israel. Bad Israel. Bad Israel. Now that we know that Israel is bad please explain why Jordon , Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq are not making lives for the Palestinians better. The terrible conditions in this camp are the same as the story in September about such camps in Lebanon. The right thing to have been done was for the host country to allow the refugees to take citizenship. They do not want to because they do not want Palestinians in their midst.

8 ) @ Rabb-2 / USA too
01/11/2012 19:56
1- "Israel has done NOTHING to these human beings," except the genocidal attempts of their brother Arabs, where now their living conditions are entirely the responsibility of UNRWA and Jordan, and
2- The "refugees of Gaza" and the West Bank should be forgotten by the World, and only remembered by the family members, when visiting cemetaries, and the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation "refugees" should NOT be called refugees," since they never lived from where they claim to be refugees.

9 ) Judith Bell / Canada
01/11/2012 21:32
Everyday people are displaced all over the world and always have been. They become refugees and gain rights where they live. I think the people who blame "Zionism" actually support what is happening to the Palestinians in places like Jordan. Somehow, they get something out of this situation. It makes them feel good - like they are helping people somehow without actually doing anything active or dangerous. If the Palestinians actually succeeded, it would be a disaster for these "anti-Zionis

10 ) Corinne / Paris, France
02/11/2012 15:49
Arabs pretend to care about the "Palestinian plight", but in truth is they are largely responsible for it. Arab governments expel and slaughter Palestinians by the thousands, confine them to squalid camps, deny them citizenship, refuse them healthcare and education, prohibit them from various professions, blockade their imports and exports and steal billions in aid. But "pro-Palestinian" voices are silent about all this, exposing them for the cynical hypocrites they are.

11 ) southparkbear / usa
03/11/2012 23:26
short memory is the foundation of fake history and even more shaky future

12 ) Mohammad Hossain / U.S.A.
14/02/2013 21:42
To the blind (in heart not in the eyes) supporters of Israel - I have just one question. If Israel is so good in obeying human rights then why are the Israeli Occupying forces and settlers destroying olive trees and houses and properties within the self-proclaimed borders of Israel. The olive trees and houses they are cleaning up for new settlers have been there for generations. This is what defines the apartheid regime of Israel, and no less. People of conscience cannot suport Israeli policy...

13 ) dave davis / usa
13/03/2013 08:31
Love you brother

14 ) Solihin Hin / Indonesia
16/08/2013 04:14
I stop watching TV, what ever the program is and I stop reading the newspaper, locl, national and international. The media are controled by the zionist. This is the great news. Amricans, please see the truth! And STOP watching the GREAT LIAR TV!.
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