MRAJEEB AL FHOOD, Jordan // A UAE-funded refugee camp opened yesterday in Jordan, as the country struggles to cope with the influx of Syrian refugees.
Jordan has sheltered nearly half a million refugees who have fled from the conflict.
But officials fear that the number of Syrians could double in the next six months as the fighting escalates when the weather becomes warmer. Since the beginning of the year, 1,500 to 2,000 Syrians have been pouring into Jordan each day on average.
Initially, the kingdom was reluctant to set up refugee camps, possibly to avoid angering the Syrian president, Bashar Al Assad, and his regime with scenes on his doorstep of civilians fleeing his military onslaught against them.
But last summer, Jordan opened the Zaatari refugee camp close to the Syrian border.
Yesterday, a second desert camp - this one funded by the UAE and run by its Red Crescent Society - opened in Mrajeeb Al Fhood, about 37kilometres from the border, and welcomed its first batch of 110 Syrians.
Children quickly became more cheerful after Emirati Red Crescent workers distributed food, colourful building blocks and other plastic toys.
Majed Sultan bin Sulieman, the society's relief director at the camp, said Mrajeeb Al Fhood will initially host 5,000 refugees but can be expanded to about 25,000 residents - all living in trailers.
Anmar Hmoud, a Jordanian government spokesman for Syrian refugee affairs, called it a "soft opening," adding that more Syrians would soon fill up the site.
Mr Sulieman said the Emirati government would cover all the expenses of hosting the refugees at the camp, including food, clothing, basic goods and medical aid.
Dr Mohamed Al Deree, the chief of an Emirati clinic set up at the camp, said his team of more than two dozen doctors, nurses and lab technicians would handle paediatric, dental, pharmaceutical and internal medical care for the residents.
The team also included Jordanian and Syrian health workers, added Dr Al Deree.