day 3: access to healthcare for syrian refugees living in jordan / by Maranie Staab

As I write this post, the end of my third day working with the medical teams of Global Outreach Doctors and the Syrian American Medical Society is coming to a close. Like any travel experience that tosses you out of your element and across several time zones it takes a day or two to readjust and find your stride; for me, it was today while in the blazing sun of Zaatari that I had a moment where I just paused and closed my eyes to appreciate where I was and the opportunity afforded me. It was today in the that  knew I was supposed to be on this trip.The starkly human moments had as well as moments witnessed, of intimate, personal interactions that I will never forget, the expertise and grace with which the doctors I am with work and the sheer number of good human beings that I have met has me sitting down to write with a sense of peace.

To share a bit about how the days here are structured: each morning, the 50+ doctors and medical practitioners are divided up into teams and spread out between the Zaatari camp and between five and seven other locations spread about Amman and within an hour or two bus ride of the city.

Zaatari, and some of the other camps have received a fair bit of media attention, but what seems to rarely be mentioned is the enormous population NOT in the camps.

Incredibly, of the over 600,000 displaced Syrians currently living in Jordan “only” about 86,000 call Zaatari home -- that leaves over 85% living outside of camp walls --  spread out in the cities and outlying areas. Here and in other rural areas (and even within the cities that some refugees have been able to settle in) these individuals — men, women and children of all ages — are largely away from the many NGOs and aid organizations that have stepped up to help provide resources, services and support to the camps.

When I asked a doctor about the difference in need between those staying in the camps and those living outside of the camps it was explained to me that while all displaced persons have great need those staying in the camps have better, easier access to care and what care they do receive is absolutely free. The majority of those who end up outside of the camps -- many of who choose an unrestricted but difficult existence over the regimented, mundane life in the camps -- do not have easy access to care nor can they pay for it. It is illegal for Syrian refugees to work in Jordan and while most do find ways to make small amoutn of money doing odd jobs and selling goods all income must go to covering basic need -- of which health care is often not included among.

On Sunday myself and members of GoDocs and SAMS spent the day in a placed called Irbid. Irbid is Jordan's second largest city, and also has one of the largest concentrations of Syrian refugees in the kingdom, which hosts over 1.4 million who have fled Syria's near five-year civil war. When we arrived at the makeshift clinic the line was out the door and people remained to be seen when we had to leave nearly ten hours later -- the day was an eye opening both in the medical conditions most common in this displaced population as well as a clear testament to sheer amount of need that exists. 


Included are some select images from the day.

Tomorrow I head back to Zaatari and will likely remain working in the camp each day for the duration of my stay.