Refugees Face Winter Chill in Jordan


UMCOR and partner IOCC provide winterization items for Jordanians and Syrian refugee families.
Syrian refugee children sit in a rented apartment in East Amman. The carpet and blankets were provided by UMCOR partner International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC).

By David Tereshchuk, contributor

November 19, 2015—The war in Syria has caused an unprecedented outflow of refugees since it began in 2011. The immediately adjoining country of Jordan has taken in well over half a million refugees, equivalent to a tenth of Jordan’s own pre-existing population.

As winter approaches, threatening night-time temperatures that can plummet to well below freezing, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is providing winterization kits—food parcels, blankets, and rugs—to refugees in Jordan.

The kits are being distributed through UMCOR’s partnership with International Orthodox Christian Charities, which has long and deep humanitarian experience in the region.

Rev. Jack Amick, assistant general secretary for UMCOR International Disaster Response, says: “While those of us who live in the United States are getting out our warmer clothing for the winter, we should remember that Syria’s refugees are now also seeking warmth. With our partners, UMCOR is working to provide items that will give refugee families a better chance at staying warmer and healthier.”

Three Syrian refugee students who have gone through IOCC’s after-school English language course, receive UMCOR school kits and hygiene kits.
Three Syrian refugee students who have gone through IOCC’s after-school English language course, receive UMCOR school kits and hygiene kits. Photo: IOCC

Hosts also in need

About 83 percent of Syrian refugees in Jordan are living not in formal camps but among the Jordanian population. Very often, they live in the poorer areas of their host country, since their financial resources are scarce or non-existent, points out Yovanna Troansky, executive secretary for UMCOR Disaster Risk Reduction. Jordan’s legal system does not currently allow refugees to work and earn their own living.

“We want to avoid the tensions that can sometimes develop,” Troansky explains, “where poor host communities can feel resentful of new arrivals who are being given assistance. So we are determined also to help Jordanians who are in need.”

So UMCOR’s packages of food, warm blankets, and rugs are also going to vulnerable members of the host communities, particularly the elderly, children, and people with chronic illnesses, who can suffer disproportionately during the moths of cold, rain, and sometimes even snow.

Mission to help all affected

Troansky sees this help directed at both refugees and their vulnerable hosts as a reflection of UMCOR’s purpose. “In this way,” she says, “we are alleviating the suffering of communities in crisis—those forced to flee armed conflict, and those who also feel the impact of that upheaval.”

Amick recalls the classic hymn “In the Bleak Midwinter”, in which: “A stable place sufficed / The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.”

He emphasizes: “It could be easy to overlook the fact that nights can get very cold in the Middle East at this time of year. The refugees UMCOR has been helping during the warmer seasons now need essential additional seasonal items, and so do those communities that fill the vital role of hosts in the bleak midwinter.” 

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