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The Refugee Project

Orphanages in the Refugee Camps

Stefania Di Paola, Derek Schlennstedt, and Chad Phillips

Photograph by Juliette Strangio

Photograph by Juliette Strangio

Education and well-being are difficult issues for the children of the Irbid refugee camp.

The camp holds 30,000 Palestinian refugees, 35 per cent of which are children aged from birth to 16.

The camp is very poor with no sewage, rubbish maintenance, and clean water. Medical clinics see up to 1,500 patients a day.

Omar Derbas has been a member of the Al-Daleel club, an orphanage in the camp, since the 80s and is the head of the culture department.

The camp was one of the four camps established after the Arab-Israeli war for those fleeing Palestine in 1948.

Derbas was born in the camp which was established in 1951.

As a part of the job he organises cultural festivals and voluntary work such as cleaning the roads.

The orphanage has 150 children in its care and relies upon sponsorship by individuals and organisations.

“We can’t find a sponsorship for everyone, so they are put on a waiting list, and the conditions are very poor”, said Derbas.

Another orphanage in the Irbid camp called Orphan Care Centre has been operating since 1986.

This organisation relies on volunteers and donations from Jordanians and companies, but also has the support of UNICEF.

However, this funding is limited to Syrian refugees and does not include Palestinians and Jordanians.

UNICEF provides a special program for the Syrian child refugees to make up for the lack of education.

These children received minimal education upon fleeing Syria.

Syrian children in camp. Photograph by Juliette Strangio

Syrian children in camp. Photograph by Juliette Strangio

Wissam Yusuf is the head of the culture department that focuses on providing educational and social programs to those children.

“Programs are specialised for girls and boys, and include camping and computer skills.”

Over the past 10 years there has been an increase from 400 to 1,000 orphans and the organisation has to team up with other orphanages to cope with the growing numbers.

They also provide Palestinian and Jordanian students with non-educational programs, focusing on ethics and social education skills.

Both organisations provide basic needs such as clothing and footwear, meals and water.

As the increase in orphans continues to rise, orphanages across Jordan cannot cope.

The Jordan government has not yet contributed funding to these orphanages.

“The orphanage does not receive any funding from the Jordanian government”, said Yusuf.