February 10, 2015
A major snowstorm swept through the region in early January, highlighting the difficult living conditions of Syrian refugees trapped in Lebanon and Jordan.
Aid organizations rushed to respond to the plight of refugees, many of whom had to face the fierce wind and freezing cold in makeshift tents.
The al-Wafaa Campaign, a Jordan-based humanitarian aid organization run by Syrians, launched a program on January 18 that gave $300 cash to nearly 200 refugee families in Arsal, Lebanon and small trailers known as caravans to refugees in Jordan.
The campaign received an influx of donations following the snowstorm, says Abu Huda al-Homsi, the alias of a 21-year aid worker with the al-Wafaa Campaign. He moves between the Qalamoun mountains in west Syria and across the border in Lebanon.
The one-time payment is not enough, al-Homsi tells Syria Direct’s Ghalia al-Mukhlati. “We did the most we could.”
How many people have benefitted from the al-Wafaa Campaign? How much aid have they received?
We have distributed $300 to each family. As many as 197 families benefited in the Mal’ab refugee camp in Arsal.
Cash distribution in an Arsal camp.
What about those who received caravans?
In terms of the caravans in the Zaatari camp [Jordan], the families were chosen on the basis of suffering and need. A field visit was conducted, during which a study of the conditions of the families was undertaken. The study specifically looked at which families had children and which did not. We wanted to extend aid to all of the families, but we were unable to do so given the amount of donations collected. We did the most we could.
How much money has been donated thus far during the most recent campaign?
The amount of money collected until now is approximately $59,000. A total of $34,000 will be distributed to refugees in the al-Baraa refugee camp, also located in Arsal.
Where does the campaign receive its funding?
All of it comes from donations. This campaign was funded specifically by donations from the Gulf.
Why did the campaign start with the arrival of the storm [in January 2015]? Why was aid not given before the beginning of winter, particularly since the same problems with the cold happen every year?
Our campaign began during the beginning of the revolution and has been ongoing; we are dependent on collecting donations in order to aid the refugees.
More recently, the amount of those donations decreased because of the duration of the crisis. However, some events boost interest in donating, such as the [recent] storm that passed through the region causing suffering for the refugees who live in tents that do not protect them from the cold, rain and snow. And this is what happened following the last storm; it simply took time to collect the donations and then distribute them to the refugees.
Why was Arsal and Zaatari chosen specifically for distribution, and not the other Syrian camps?
The decision to pick the Mal’ab camp was because of its location in a very cold, mountainous region during the winter. This severe cold is a reality that the Syrian refugees living there cannot escape.
As for Zaatari in Jordan, where the campaign’s main headquarters is based, it is the largest of the Syrian refugee camps in terms of occupants.
Since the campaign is ongoing, it will incorporate other camps soon, just as I mentioned earlier with the Baraa camp in Arsal.
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