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The Jordanian Caritas for Syrian Refugees


by Carlo Giorgi, correspondent |  April 3, 2014

The entrance to one of the centres of the Jordanian Caritas giving aid to Syrian refugees in Amman. [photogallery 1/2]

Hania Bsharat.

Only ten percent of the Syrians who live in Jordan (130,000 out of 1,300,000) are in refugee camps. Most of the others are spread throughout the country and live in terrible sanitary – and often inhuman - conditions. In the capital, Amman, the Jordanian Caritas, to come to their aid, has opened two health centres exclusively for Syrian refugees...


(Amman) – According to the operators, only ten percent of the Syrians who live in Jordan (130,000 out of 1,300,000) are in refugee camps. Most of the others, who fled from their homes and without economic resources, are spread throughout the country and live in terrible sanitary – and often inhuman - conditions.

In the capital, Amman, the Jordanian Caritas, to come to their aid, has opened two health centres exclusively for Syrian refugees. One of them is in the centre of Amman, in some rooms offered by what is known as the “Italian Hospital”, the first hospital ever built in the country: a historical building dating from 1926 constructed by the Italian association of aid for Italian missionaries (Ansmi) which still has on its façade the words «Ospedale dell’associazione italiana pei missionari» and the royal coat-of-arms of the House of Savoy.

“We opened the centre in September 2013” says Hania Bsharat, of the Jordanian Caritas, “and we offer Syrian refugees basic medical care. If the patients need further treatment, we send them to the nearby Italian Hospital or to the other hospitals in Amman.”

A small enclosed courtyard looks on to the offices of the Caritas and acts as a waiting room: the courtyard is crowded with dozens of people, women, men and children, awaiting their turn. The most impatient are packed together at the entrance, kept firmly in order by a girl wearing the blue tunic of the organization.

“Every day we receive between 150 and 200 Syrians,” says Hania. “The centre receives by appointment and we try to fix between 70 and 90 a day, but there are always urgent cases that we cannot expect, people that need medication immediately. There are also cases that arrive during the night, Every day, for example, we have an average of 15 emergency births we send to the hospitals. The request for help is so great that recently we have increased our working hours by two hours.”

The staff of the hospital is made up of ten operators at the reception, four for organizational and secretarial duties and two people in charge. The operators interview the patients and create a personal file, to get to know their story, their lives as refugees and understand their needs. According to the result of the interviews, the patients are sent to the three doctors of general medicine, the dentist or the psychology surgery with one psychologist and three consultants.

“Many of the health problems are caused by the lack of hygiene in which the refugees live. Without economic resources, the accommodation they find is often in very bad condition,” says Hania: “families of ten people in only two rooms, in houses where only a curtain separates the bathroom and the kitchen. Scabies is common amongst our patients. The Syrians are also poor because they cannot work legally,” continues Hania. “Employers know that the Syrians need to work and exploit them, paying them less. I have heard of many cases of Syrian families where the mother has come to Jordan alone with her children because the father is dead or has disappeared. These women, not knowing how to manage, ask their children at a certain point to leave school and go to work. For the aid we give priority to the cases of mothers on their own and the elderly, who are the people in greatest difficulty.”

Every week the psychology surgery of the centre sees dozens of patients suffering from psychological pathologies caused by the war. Not only women and children. There are also adults of 40 and 50. From depression to states of anxiety and schizophrenia. Suhad, a Muslim woman from Homs, goes to the Caritas centre to receive free of charge the drugs for her son’s schizophrenia: "Since I’ve had this medication, I’ve been serene,” she says. “They are too expensive and I cannot afford them. My son becomes violent and beats me if he does not take the medication. He became like that during his military service: he saw too many people killed and he went out of his mind. When he was discharged, we came here.”

“Here in Jordan there are Syrian mothers who fear for their children’s safety if they play in the street with other children,” says Hania. “It’s the memory of the bombs and the bombings in Syria… they start to scream thinking that a plan can arrive and start dropping bombs.”

Amongst the many patients of the centre, four or five come every day to have infections, due to shrapnel from grenades, embedded in their flesh, medicated.

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