Take a minute to read this powerful account (as told to Paula Cocozza at The Guardian) of how Um Fouad, a mother of four, is living as a Syrian refugee in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. This story hits close to home to us at AHI because much of our work on informal housing is involved with resettlement or rebuilding after disasters (natural, as in Haiti, or man-made, as in Syria), and we believe that today’s resettlement camp is either tomorrow’s city or tomorrow’s slum – depending on the choices we and others make.
Um Fouad has grasped a truth that many wish to deny: Zaatari is becoming more and more permanent, and it already is her children’s home. Indeed, the resettlements that occur post-disaster or post-conflict are often more of an urban form than they are a temporary camp. We’ve seen this happen all over the world and throughout history, and we believe that we can and should learn from that reality. Ultimately, if relief-oriented agencies and people see themselves as urban-planners-on-fast-forward, we can constructively reshape the agenda of relief delivery to one of unexpected urban renewal, where the new city that arises from the rubble is better than the old one the disaster destroyed.
We’ll write more on our projects and work related to resettlements in the upcoming months, and hope you’ll come back to join us. In the meantime, I hope you’ll take the time over the holidays to read about Um Fouad. We feel strongly about these issues and think you will, too.