Life for Syrian Refugees, at $500K a Day

The Zaatari camp isn't bad, but Jordan grumbles about the cost

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 18, 2013 7:04 PM CST

(Newser) – Nicknamed the Champs-Elysées, this line of shops offers everything from vegetables to slabs of meat to footwear and clothing. Only, the shops are all tents in a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, where 100,000 people—half of them under 18—live in exile and face pressure to go back home, the Guardian reports. With 300 tankers shipping in water every day, and residents tapped into the electricity grid, the Zaatari refugee camp costs about $500,000 a day to run—and Jordanians are starting to grumble. "There is a lack of water, more rubbish, there are pressures on the electricity supply and the health system, our classrooms are overcrowded," said a politician about the strain on the area.

What's more, the half million Syrian refugees spreading across the country and the region are accused of taking people's jobs and causing low-end rents to rise. But NGOs see a different problem: a "lost generation" of scarred children who could plague the region for years if funding falls off. "If we focus on their problems now, we may avoid decades of impairment," said a British official. And while the Zaatari camp appears well-run, the Syrians insist they don't want to stay. "Of course I want to go back," said a 23-year-old rebel fighter who lost a leg to a bomb. "I want to go back to my family and to the Free Syrian Army."

This Thursday, July 18, 2013 aerial view photo, shows the Zaatari refugee camp near the Jordanian city of Mafraq, some 5 miles from the Jordanian-Syrian border.
This Thursday, July 18, 2013 aerial view photo, shows the Zaatari refugee camp near the Jordanian city of Mafraq, some 5 miles from the Jordanian-Syrian border.   (AP Photo/Mandel Ngan, Pool, File)
In this Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 photo, Abu Abdullah Hourani, 27, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, at the Zaatari refugee camp near the Syrian border.
In this Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 photo, Abu Abdullah Hourani, 27, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, at the Zaatari refugee camp near the Syrian border.   (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)
In this Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013 file photo, a Syrian refugee stands on top of a water tank at the Zaatari refugee camp, near the Syrian border in Mafraq, Jordan.
In this Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013 file photo, a Syrian refugee stands on top of a water tank at the Zaatari refugee camp, near the Syrian border in Mafraq, Jordan.   (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon, File)
In this Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013 photo, Syrian refugees work in the gravel yard, which is used to support their shelters to prevent the ingress of rainwater, at Zaatari Refugee Camp, in Mafraq, Jordan.
In this Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013 photo, Syrian refugees work in the gravel yard, which is used to support their shelters to prevent the ingress of rainwater, at Zaatari Refugee Camp, in Mafraq, Jordan.   (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)
In this Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013, photo, a Syrian refugee heats himself close to a fire at the new arrivals point at the Zaatari refugee camp near the Syrian border in Jordan.
In this Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013, photo, a Syrian refugee heats himself close to a fire at the new arrivals point at the Zaatari refugee camp near the Syrian border in Jordan.   (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)
In this Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, photo, dozens of Syrian refugees watch a tent and a trailer on fire at the Zaatari Refugee camp near the Syrian border in Jordan.
In this Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, photo, dozens of Syrian refugees watch a tent and a trailer on fire at the Zaatari Refugee camp near the Syrian border in Jordan.   (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)
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