In Jerash refugee camp, 2-minute doctor’s appointments and rage at American visitors

Pharmacy at the Jerash Refugee camp. (photo by S. Komarovsky)
Continuing series of reports from Dr. Alice Rothchild in Amman, Jordan after attending the Lancet Palestinian Health Alliance Annual conference in March/April 2019.

By Alice Rothchild | Mondoweiss | May 25, 2019

I struggle with the concept of ‘ex-Gazans’ who arrived in 1967 during the war and are not recognized as refugees by the Jordanian government, are granted temporary two-year Jordanian passports, but do not hold a national ID number.

Even “Ex-Gazans” Have More Trouble

We Uber over to the UN Headquarters again (Uber just bought Careem in the never ending cycle of capitalism). We are heading north to Jerash Camp (aka Gaza Camp), with Julia McCahey and several Japanese and German/Iraqi interns and analysts. In the van we learn that in Jordan, where 42% of Palestinian refugees live, there are ten official and three unofficial camps which accommodate less than 18% of the total refugee population. The aspirational UNRWA microfinancing program was largely cut in the latest financial crisis. There is a Department of Palestinian Affairs in Jordan; the UNRWA camps are owned by UNRWA or rented for about 1 Jordanian Dinar per year, either from the state or leased by the state from local landowners. The EU and the Saudis are providing funding to upgrade buildings which are often dilapidated and desperately in need of renovation and repair.

It seems that financial allotments to each clinic depend on need, plus local field officers approach donors and funds get earmarked for special projects like education. The 2018 and 2019 budgets for UNRWA were $1.2 billion per year. With the budget cuts, UNRWA launched the #Dignityispriceless campaign in 2018 to raise money for health and education. The reasons for the extreme disparities of resources and structures in the different camps still feel murky to me. I suspect it’s complicated. Jerash may give us a clue.

The weather is cold, rainy, and grey as we pass City Mall and Mecca Mall which feature swimming pools, cinemas, bowling alleys, and a wealth of international brands. In front of us is a truck with tens of bunches of bananas tied to its back, like a giant Big Bird. We travel through green rocky hills and the sun starts shining as we edge north towards Irbid. There are piles of pottery for sale, rows of olive trees, irregular terraces, solar panels on large structures, nurseries with stacks of plants, eucalyptus trees, and an increasing amount of garbage on the streets, junkyards, and goats wandering along the road. Our ears start popping from the hills.

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