Residents of Baqa’a, largest displaced-persons camp in the Middle East, are praying it won’t be a white Christmas. This upland valley camp twenty kilometers from Amman, Jordan, houses 32,000 people in tents. When winter rain and snow comes, the summer dust will turn to mud and Baqa’a will be a nightmare.
There are conical tents from Pakistan, pieced tents, pup tents, Ted Williams tents from Sears, tents that proclaim “Gift of the People of the United States of America.” In them live representatives of 270,000 persons who fled during and after the June, 1967, Arab-Israeli war, which was smoldering still in commando raids and air strikes earlier this month.
The United Nations refugee agency counted 1,317,000 refugees before the 1967 war. Jordan had 96,400 refugees living in camps created by the 1948 conflict, and now 82,000 in 1967 camps. Thousands more squat around the old camps, live with relatives in Jordan, or sleep in caves, doorways, or wherever they can find shelter. East Jordan’s population is now 40 per cent refugee.
But statistics do not convey the tragedy of underfed people separated from land, property, and relatives and largely from hope for the future.
Actually, the refugee is the middle-aged man in a 1948 camp who has seen his sons grow to manhood without a desire to work because they have never been able to learn how. Most refugees were small farmers who have moved to an area already glutted with men of their abilities.
The refugee is the desperate mother who finally brings her baby girl—a victim of gastroenteritis and camp life during Jordan’s summer heat—to the rehydration center run by Norwegians at Baqa’a. The baby’s skin hangs in folds on arms and legs; her features are pinched and ugly.
The refugee is the young ...1
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