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Covid vaccine ‘a gift from God’ for Syrian refugees in Jordan

AFP/Mafraq
Filed on January 18, 2021

(AP file)

'Jordan treats us with generosity and without differentiating us from its citizens'

Rolling up her sleeve in a minibus parked outside a clinic in the Jordanian city of Mafraq on Monday, Syrian refugee Fatima Ali welled up with tears of joy as she received a Covid-19 vaccine jab.

“It’s a gift from God,” the 70-year-old said.

Originally from Daraa in Syria, Ali fled the ongoing war in her country seven years ago with her husband and six children, finding shelter in the Zaatari refugee camp east of Mafraq.

Home to some 80,000 refugees, the camp has recorded 1,992 novel coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic, according to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.

“Today, I am very happy because I was just immunised against this sickness that terrifies us,” said Ali, who stayed in the minibus to receive the jab because she no longer walks easily.

Ali’s husband, Hussein Mohammad, who accompanied her but was not set to receive his jab the same day, praised their host country.

“Jordan treats us with generosity and without differentiating us from its citizens,” he said.

UNHCR spokesman in Jordan, Mohammad Hawari, told AFP the kingdom is the first country to vaccinate, free of charge, not only its citizens but also refugees registered with the UN.

The 24 refugees vaccinated at the Mafraq clinic Monday were elderly, as Jordan has prioritised for vaccination those over 60 as well as medical personnel and people with chronic health conditions.

The kingdom has reported 315,544 cases of Covid-19 and 4,153 deaths from the disease.

Jordan hosts 750,000 refugees, of whom 663,000 are from neighbouring Syria.

Around 100 refugees have been vaccinated since the roll-out started Wednesday, with the campaign to continue in the Zaatari and Azraq camps, Hawari said.

Transported to the clinic on four minibuses, those receiving their jabs Monday were required to change their masks upon arrival and wait to be called to enter one by one.

On their way out, they were given a slip of paper with the number of a doctor to call should they experience any adverse effects.

Manhal Hilal, who came to Jordan in 2012 with his wife and daughter, said his sons back in Syria were stunned when he told them he was to be vaccinated.

“They didn’t believe me, they thought I was joking,” the 71-year-old said with a smile. “I swore to them it was true and they told me I really was lucky.”

Vaccinations have not started in Syria, even as the country has been hit hard by the virus.

Sheikha Al Hariri, a 70-year-old mother-of-four, who has lived in Zaatari for seven years, was filled with relief to be getting the jab so she could escape the virus-imposed isolation.

“This is going to change my life,” she said.





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