Um Ali, 43, knows about hardship. The seven members of her family, Palestine refugees from Gaza, share a one-room shelter in Jordan’s Jerash camp. Most homes in Jerash were built in 1968, and few families can afford to make repairs or enlarge their homes to accommodate growing families. Large families often crowd into one or two rooms, with limited daylight and ventilation. In 2007, a survey found that 65 per cent of Jerash shelters had zinc or asbestos roofs, and that winter was particularly hard: 80 per cent of amilies faced leaking roofs, water seepage and flooding.
Through advertisements, Um Ali says, she learned about the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) shelter rehabilitation project, which is funded by the European Union. “I immediately registered my shelter to be added to the list for shelters in need of rehabilitation”, she says.
It’s been a difficult time lately for Um Ali. Eight years ago, her husband, Hasan Naser, sustained a permanent disability in his right foot. “My husband could not work anymore, and I had to work on a farm, spending my days outside my home”, she says. As the sole breadwinner, she had to make some tough decisions. First, she helped her 17-year-old daughter get married, despite her youth. When the family’s living conditions continued to worsen, “I had no choice but to take my second daughter out of school to help out at home, so that I could work longer hours.” But then, as she was picking olives during the last harvest season, she fell down, suffered an injury and could no longer work.
In such a harsh situation, every ray of hope is important. So it was a pleasant surprise when, a few days after Um Ali registered her home on the list, UNRWA engineers and social workers came by to make a social and physical assessment. They found that her home was badly in need of rehabilitation. It’s not a magic wand and a lot of problems and challenges will remain, but facing all these challenges, Um Ali is eager for every bit of support. Improving the home that she provides for her family will be a major step and a big relief for this Palestine refugee mother.