Inside the second-largest refugee camp in the world

By September 3, 2013 Blog, NewsBites

One year old, 130,000 inhabitants, and counting. The Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian desert is now home to a large portion of the 2 million Syrian refugees fleeing from what is considered the worst humanitarian crisis since the Rwandan genocide.

The design and development of refugee camps in humanitarian crises is one of our program’s main topics. For those of our former students or followers who have a special interest in this area, the BBC has compiled a set of interactive maps and stats on the what has evolved into the second largest refugee camp in the world, after Dadaab in Eastern Kenya, and become the fourth largest city in Jordan.

Here are some facts and figures:

Time it took to build: 9 days

Surface area: 3 square miles/7.7 square kilometers

Perimeter: 5 miles/8 kilometers

Number of shelters: 27,101

Daily new residents: 2,000

Daily cost to run: roughly $500,000

The rapid development of refugee camps under urgent conditions often leads to makeshift conditions and insecure environments, exacerbated by a lack of strategies that recognize the cultural, social and economic underpinnings of a particular society. The problematics derived from these situations have long been a subject of interest for architects and urban planners. Though progress has been made and solutions tested, these temporary cities–which often turn permanent–still require major improvement in their design and development.

In the case of Zaatari, some lessons have already been learned and are being applied to the second overflow camp–Azraq–currently under construction. The new site has already been divided into five “villages” containing 1,000 family compounds, which authorities hope will help build communities. The running of sanitation facilities will be handed over to residents quickly in order to encourage a sense of ownership.

For a better look at the Zaatari camp, its residents and how it has developed over the last year, see the interactive satellite maps at BBC.

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