On July 29th the second largest refugee camp in the world, Zaatari, marks its first anniversary.The camp has come a long way in a year. Initially living in tents, refugees are now increasingly housed in caravans. Winter at Zaatari was especially hard for those in tents, although ironically during the hot summer months many refugees now choose to spend time in these, which are cooler, than the metal caravans where the heat can beintense.The Jordanian government estimates that 554,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in Jordan since March 2011. One hundred and fifty thousand of that number live at Zaatari, making the refugee camp Jordan's fourth largest city.
Zaatari is now a sprawl of destitute urban life. Shops throng its main thoroughfare, selling everything from toothpaste to wedding dresses. Children- although by no means all- attend school in the camp, and there is also a Zaatari mosque. Some refugees even have satellite television!However there is no escaping the fact this is still a refugee camp. Zaatari is filled with NGOs and aid agencies which provide people with food ration cards and other essential items: not everyone can afford to buy food from shops, and when bread is handed out to thousands of people every morning, tensions run high. Lastly, Syrians who have escaped a homeland ripped apart by conflict are traumatized by the violence they have experienced, mourning the people they have lost.It is estimated that 250 refugees a day return to Syria, perhaps a reflection that for some, life back at home, however bad, is better than a life led as a stateless refugee.
A look in pictures at how Zaatari camp has come along since the first wave of fleeing Syrians pitched up their tents.