Za’atari & Northern Jordan (UNOSDP and We are Asia) – On January 13 FIFA Vice President and Jordan Football President, His Royal Highness Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, and Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace, Wilfried Lemke, visited the Za’atari refugee camp and three sport clubs in Northern Jordan in an effort to raise awareness in the international community on the severity of the Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan and the role of sport in rehabilitation and building resilience amongst refugee communities.
Prince Ali and UN Special Adviser Lemke met with UNHCR camp manager Marin Kajdomcaj and other officials as well as the refugee camp’s sports committee, which includes Syrian refugees as well as UNHCR officers and staff representing Jordanian NGOs operating in the camp, namely the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization (JHCO).
“The international community must come together to assist the Syrian refugees. They continue to face problems especially in such harsh weather conditions and despite the tireless efforts of UNHCR staff and their Jordanian partners,” said Prince Ali.
“It is also clear from what we have seen at Za’atari that there are no available safe spaces for children to play football or other sports. The Syrian members of the sport committee have shared with us the challenges they face in the camp, noting that sport plays a crucial role in bringing their community together and in creating a healthy outlet for their children,” added Prince Ali.
“The situation in the refugee camp is very critical and urgent assistance is necessary with regard to clothing, equipment and food as well as education and recreational measures. Under the circumstances, UNHCR is doing a tremendous job. However, I call on the international community to increase their support to the UN system, the Jordan Government and relief organizations to provide reasonable living conditions in the camp.” UN Special Adviser Lemke stated.
More than 230,000 Syrian refugees are currently residing in different parts of the Kingdom. Estimates by UNHCR and Jordanian authorities indicate that approximately 65% of the Syrian refugee population represent children and youth (under the age of 20).
Prince Ali and Special Adviser Lemke also toured three clubs in Jordanian villages with close proximity to the Syrian border and which host large numbers of Syrian refugees. The three clubs; Al Sareeh, Al Turra and Al Shajara expressed concern over the lack of sports facilities in their communities for children and youth to play football.
The three gatherings at the clubs also included members of the Syrian refugee community in their respective villages, who, in turn, shared their experiences and expressed their gratitude to their Jordanian hosts for their hospitality and assistance.
Prince Ali also briefed the UN Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace Lemke on ongoing efforts to organize sporting activities for Syrian refugee children including the Asian Football Development Project (AFDP) and Spirit of Soccer (SoS) project to promote Mine Risk Education (MRE) through football activities to at-risk Syrian refugee children at Za’atari.
The project, to be launched end of this month, will also include Jordanian children in villages close to the Jordanian-Syrian border, which were included in this trip.
“We look forward to launching the AFDP-Spirit of Soccer project very soon in partnership with the Jordan Football Association as well. We are also grateful to UEFA for their generous donation of footballs, which will be used for this project through the summer,” noted Prince Ali.
“The project of AFDP and SoS is an innovative approach on how to use sport to promote secure living conditions and a safe environment. I encourage all concerned stakeholders, both public and private, in partnership to further engage in organizing sporting activities to this and other refugee camps around the world. In this context, I would like to underline the importance of equal participation of girls and boys in such activities as well as including persons with disabilities.” Mr. Lemke said after discussing with the sports committee.
“In this kind of very difficult and often hopeless environments, sport can greatly contribute to hope and relief and can also provide the platform for developing role models for the community, which is, in particular important for the children and youth growing up in these environments,” Mr. Lemke added.
Photos: © We Are Asia