Insecurity and Hope: a Refugee’s Conundrum Toni Qattan and Jarrah Alhawamdeh visited Wehdat refugee camp

June 20, 2018- Amman, Jordan – Amman New Camp (Wihdat)

Residents of Wehdat Camp in Jordan commemorated World Refugee Day with a special visit from Jordanian-Palestinian singer Toni Qattan and Jordanian-Palestinian refugee mountaineer Jarah Alhawamdeh.

Seventy years after the displacement of 750,000 Palestine refugees following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, more than 5 million Palestine refugees are registered with UNRWA in its five fields of operations, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight in accordance with international law and relevant general assembly resolutions. Palestine refugees are amongst UNHCR’s estimation of 68.5 million people who are currently forcibly displaced from their homes.

“I left Palestine when I was five years old,” recalled Abu Nasser Himmo at his home in Wihdat Camp, the second largest Palestine refugee camp in Jordan which houses an estimated 57,000 Palestine refugees, 34 per cent of whom live below the national poverty level.

“When we first came to the camp it was all dirt and mud,” he told Qattan and Alhawamdeh during their visit. “Life was very difficult and everyone struggled financially. UNRWA gave us everything – flour, canned food and shelter.”

Across the camp, 82-year old Mohammed Khalil Zamzam (Abu Tala’at) remembers his family’s desperate poverty as they moved from camp to camp in the West Bank, finally settling in Jordan’s Mahata Camp in 1954 before coming to Wihdat Camp in 1964.

“We lived to see days where we didn’t even have bread in our home,” he said.

When asked to describe what it means to be a refugee, Abu Tala’at spoke about his overarching sense of insecurity. “I am living in this home as a burden on this country and on society. I would rather not be a burden on anyone, and live at home in dignity.”

Abu Nasser credited Jordan for welcoming several waves of refugees from various countries over the years, including over 2 million Palestine refugees.

“We are a people that stands tall. Wherever you put us, we are steadfast. The most important thing is for a person not to fall into despair, one must always persevere when things seem to be blocked,” Abu Nasser told Qattan and Alhawamdeh.

As he made his way through the winding narrow streets of the camp, Qattan said, “My father worked at UNRWA for 36 years. Every time I come to the camps I am touched by the resilience of these families. Despite everything they face as refugees, they still have hope.”

There are ten recognized Palestine refugee camps in Jordan. Across its five areas of operation, UNRWA provides free primary education to more than half a million Palestine refugee students,, free primary health care to 3.1 million Palestine refugees and cash and food assistance to vulnerable families who live in abject poverty.

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