Visiting Abu Bilal


All We Can’s emergency response partner Medair began responding to the Syrian Crisis in Jordan in 2012. Due to the Syrian Civil War, continuing instability, and political volatility in the region, nearly four million refugees have fled violent conflict in Syria. Neighbouring countries like Jordan are overstretched trying to deal with hundreds of thousands of Syrians who have fled into their countries. The country remains relatively stable amidst a wave of violence and political volatility in neighbouring countries, yet refugees continue to seek safety in the country. It is estimated that well over 600,000 Syrian refugees are currently housed in temporary accommodation or refugee camps in Jordan. This number is likely to continue to rise.

Medair is working with vulnerable families to provide shelter kits and cash assistance so families can meet their basic needs. Medair is also responding to growing health concerns among the refugee population by employing community mobilisers to train mothers about the importance of breastfeeding, and screening for malnutrition among women and children. Medair provides therapeutic food for malnourished women and children at local clinics. Community mobilisers also inform refugees about available health services and the importance of vaccinations, and promote basic hygiene messages. Find out more about our Syria Appeal here.

Due to the pressure on refugee camps in Jordan the two largest facilities are only able to house around 15% of the refugees that have arrived into the country. The remaining population of Syrians who live outside the camps are left vulnerable and thousands struggle with access to basic services and assistance. Here We’am Daibas, a Medair staff member, recounts a visit to one such family.

Abu Bilal, 50, has a big family. He has 18 children and has been in Jordan since 2013. Currently, he is living in Mafraq, Northern Jordan. However, I realised there were deep wounds not healed yet when Abu Bilal said “welcome to my humble house, and thank you for visiting us. Medair staff are the only ones who visited us in more than two years,” and burst into tears.

Abu Bilal, his wife and their children sat around me listening to each word I said. The girls were checking the nail polish I had and the boys were asking about my smart phone. Abu Bilal offered me coffee and started talking about their current life conditions. When I asked him about the reason of leaving Syria, I saw eyes full of sadness and lips trembling when Abu Bilal started recounting his story. A story I have heard time and again but never loses its impact; how in a single moment a rocket in Syria killed his son and mother and destroyed his home.  A story of a big family, living peacefully with dignity but now displaced.

“With the kind of freedom we had, we used to stay out till 3 and 4 am with no fear. Syrians were living like one family; if I sent my son to the market at night the owner of it would come home with him to make sure he arrived safely. We used to have everything we needed and did anything we wanted.

Families are now displaced, a whole country is destroyed and millions of Syrians are refugees are around the world. Now all of Syria is remnants. “Sorry Syria!” Abu Bilal sighed. “It is very difficult to have more than everything you need and suddenly without any warning you see yourself sitting in the street homeless. We don’t know how we arrived to Jordan. We walked barefoot without making any noise for 15 days. We were hiding in the day and walking at night.  If you lost your child you were not allowed to go back and look for him,” Abu Bilal added.

The war and the consequences of losing family members and land have worn on Abu Bilal and his family. Their struggle continues while they are living in Jordan because of the lack of many basic necessities. But for all that, Abu Bilal has never lost his dignity. “It is very difficult living in Jordan. However, all that we have to do is be patient and wait for God’s relief.”

Abu Bilal’s journey in Jordan has been difficult, but he finds it comforting that “at least we are safe.” They stayed in Za’tari refugee camp for 3 days but they couldn’t live there longer. Then they moved to a farm after the owner of the farm offered Abu Bilal the keys and told him he could live in it with his family for free in exchange for working on the farm. After two days the owner of the farm wanted his wife and the girls to serve and dance for him and his friends. Abu Bilal quickly moved his family to a basement in Northern Jordan. Since then, he hasn’t worked on any farm.

Without work, Abu Bilal found it difficult to provide for all the needs of his family, especially in their inadequate shelter.  After receiving cash assistance from Medair, they were able to move out of the basement and into a better house.

“In Jordan we stopped receiving medical support and food vouchers, but God is still there standing next to us. We used to live in a basement where rats and flies were filling the place but we survived in it because we couldn’t afford to live in a better house. The cash assistance from Medair enabled us to move to a house with better conditions. May God bless you!”

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