Photo Essay: Everyday Jordanians send mattresses, bread, water to Daraa displaced as border remains shut

In Syria’s southwestern Daraa province, tens of thousands of displaced people are stranded just minutes from the Jordanian border after fleeing the frontlines of a massive pro-government air and ground campaign on rebel-held territory that began last month.

Before the war, the drive south into Jordan from Daraa took no more than five minutes. Cross-border food and cigarette runs were commonplace. But late last month, despite the punishing campaign on southwestern Syria, Jordanian officials said the tens of thousands of displaced Syrians fleeing the violence would not be allowed in.

In response, residents of Jordan’s northern cities of Ramtha and Mafraq—many of whom share tribal ties with displaced Syrian families across the border—began donating thousands of mattresses, water bottles and other supplies in recent days in an unprecedented, civilian-driven aid campaign.

[Read Syria Direct’s full report on the cross-border aid deliveries here.]

At gathering points in the two cities, bombs in nearby Daraa shake the ground as dozens of local men, women and children load trucks bound for Syria. Among the packages of water and bread are staples of Jordanian and Syrian hospitality: watermelons, fruit juice, a crate of glass tea cups.

More than 123 trucks laden with supplies have crossed the border since July 1, one organizer says.

Syria Direct visited the Ramtha and Mafraq loading points on Tuesday to speak with some of the volunteers loading the trucks.

“We [Jordanians] are the ones who called for this,” said one man in Ramtha as he helped pack the cross-border donations. “Our common humanity is what unites us.”

All photos by Waleed Khaled a-Noufal.

 


A Jordanian truck arrives in Ramtha filled with donations to be unloaded and sent north across the border into Daraa. The loading zone in Ramtha is one of the last stops for humanitarian aid—comprised almost entirely of private donations from Jordanian citizens—before it crosses into Syrian territory.

 


“Donations Gathering Center for Our Brothers in Daraa,” reads a poster on one Jordanian truck at the Ramtha loading point. At least 123 trucks loaded with food, water and humanitarian aid have crossed from Jordan into Syria since the campaign began on July 1, says Shahd al-Anani, a spokeswoman for the state-run Jordanian Hashemite Charity Organization (JHCO), which is overseeing the aid deliveries.

 


Thousands of water bottles, blankets and other goods await Syrian trucks that will transport them to displaced families across the border. “This is an initiative from the Jordanian people,” Kamil a-Zoubi, a Ramtha resident and volunteer at the loading zone there, tells Syria Direct. 

 


A box of tea cups donated by Jordanians sit in Ramtha before making the journey to Daraa.

 


Jordanian children joining aid efforts in Ramtha pose for a picture as volunteers load trucks with food and other essentials for displaced Syrians.

 


A Syrian truck with a Daraa license plate arrives in Ramtha to transport Jordanians’ donations.

 


The vast central warehouse in Mafraq is stacked with thousands of boxes waiting at their last stop before crossing the border.

 


Hundreds of bags of stale, days-old bread sit in a Mafraq warehouse ahead of transport to southern Syria after organizers received an overload of donations. “We don’t have the means to store and refrigerate goods, so we’re trying to get things across the border as soon as possible and avoid perishable goods,” says one JHCO coordinator. 

 


A pair of men’s shoes sits in the Mafraq warehouse ahead of the trip to Daraa.

 


Young Syrians living in Jordan gather at the Mafraq loading point to help send thousands of parcels of supplies to displaced people camped out just across the border.

 


A Jordanian truck loaded with blankets, cushions and other donated supplies in Mafraq.

 


“We [Jordanians] are the ones who called for this,” Ramtha resident a-Zoubi says at the loading point on Tuesday. “Our common humanity is what unites us.”

Waleed Khaled a-Noufal

Waleed a-Noufal was born in Ankhel in northern Daraa province. He attended high school in Ankhel but could not continue his study because of security reasons. Waleed worked as an activist in his local city council and the Umayya Media Center. In 2013, he moved to Jordan and finished his high school degree. Waleed wants to bring about a solution to the current crisis through his reporting.

Madeline Edwards

Madeline Edwards graduated from the College of Charleston in 2016 and previously reported for The Daily Star in Beirut.

Justin Clark

Justin studied Arabic at Western Michigan University. He continued his studies at Bethlehem University in the West Bank and the Qasid Institute in Jordan. Justin's work and studies have taken him to Jordan, the West Bank, Egypt and Greece.

Barrett Limoges

Barrett Limoges is an investigative journalist who has reported from across the MENA region, his work appearing previously in Al Jazeera, Middle East Eye, PBS Newshour, Al-Monitor, Huffington Post and other publications. He studied journalism at the University of King's College and is currently pursuing a MA in Political Science at the American University of Beirut.