Nihad (right), his wife Hiyam (middle) and Hiyam's sister Muna (left) have received gas heaters from NRC to warm up their caravan during the cold winter in Azraq refugee camp. Photo: Lian Saifi/NRC

Cold hands, warm hearts

Lian Saifi|Published 11. Jan 2017
“We had forgotten what it feels like to be in a warm house,” says Hiyam (37) from Syria.

She lives in Azraq refugee camp situated in the cold Jordanian desert. Together with her husband, Nihad (48), and four of their six children, she fled her home in Homs in 2016. 

She has not seen her two eldest children in three years.

“I am dying to hold Hiba in my arms,” says Hiyam, talking about her eldest daughter, who got married before the war and travelled to Mecca. Their eldest son fled to Turkey.

The war destroyed everything

Hiyam and Nihad are now living with their four youngest children and Hiyam’s sister in Azraq refugee camp. In Azraq, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is providing basic services such as shelter and education to refugees living the camp.

Back in Homs, the husband and wife used to own a house, farming lands and a car. The war destroyed everything.

“We were doing financially very well. I used to work part time in construction and part time cleaning chickens, and my wife was a pre-school teacher. Yes, we were rich, but now all these things are gone with the wind. I just do not understand… The images of my belongings will remain in my memory forever,” says Nihad.

Four months in no man’s land

When the family first fled from Syria, they stayed in Rukban in the northeast of Jordan, near the joint borders with Syria and Iraq, also known as “the berm”. They stayed there for four months until they were able to enter into Jordan.

Their faces and bodies reveal traces of what they have endured. Hiyam’s sad eyes make her look older than she is, although she tries to keep a smile on her face. She tells us there is a possibility that she might be suffering from cancer.

“I have a back and breast tumor. The cold isn’t helping, it makes me ache more. I hope they are not cancerous. I will find out next week,” says Hiyam.

Living in the cold desert

In Rukban, the family lived in a tent. For the past seven months, they have been living in a caravan in Azraq.

“We had forgotten how it feels like to be in a warm house,” says Hiyam.

It is very cold in the desert, especially at night when temperatures drop down to zero. The Azraq market has a very limited selection, and families struggle to find the right clothes to keep them warm.

Received gas heaters

Hiyam, Nihad and their family are among many families in Azraq to receive gas heaters and blankets from NRC.

“It can get very cold in the camp, but after receiving the gas heaters from NRC, we feel really warm in the caravan,” says Nihad.

It was surprising for the family that one gas cylinder could heat up the whole caravan.

In addition, NRC has distributed coupon cards for gas cylinder refills.


According to NRC’s staff in Azraq, the look on the families’ faces changed once they received their gas heaters.

“They looked excited as if they could not wait for that moment to turn the heater on and feel its heat against their skin and cold hands,” says Sanad Ashab, community services officer in NRC.

Hiyam says that refilling gas is much easier now:

“NRC has vehicles going around each neighborhood exchanging gas cylinders, so once our gas cylinder is empty we just exchange it with a full one and hand in a card.”

These winter distributions would not have been made possible without the generous contribution of ECHO, UNHCR and the dedication of NRC staff in Azraq camp. These distributions will help keep the refugees warm during this winter.

Read more about our work in Jordan here