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Preparing For Winter In Jordan's Za'atari Refugee Camp

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Manar Mohammad Aziz is 34 years old and has eight children. Ahmed, 16, Aya, 15, Doa'a, 13, Mahmoud, 10, Khalid, nine, Sidra, seven, Adnan, four, and Lina, one. Married to Basil, a security supervisor at the local school, the family lives in Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan.

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Originally from Dara'a in Syria, the family have been in Za'atari since its beginning and are coming up to the five-year mark of living in the camp. Lina, the youngest, was born in the camp, and Adnan was only one month old when he arrived and says that he doesn't remember Syria.

Back in Syria, Manar worked in a nursery as a teaching assistant, and Basil was a soldier before defecting -- the reason why the family had to flee to Jordan.

When I ask Manar to tell me a bit about life in Za'atari, she shows me her hands. Dry, peeling with calluses and scars, they are certainly reflective of the hardship the family has had to face over the last four and half years.

We have a heater and lots of blankets, and still we are cold.

Today, however, is a good day. Manar is going shopping with a couple of her children to buy clothes for winter. Three days ago on Sunday, her husband, Basil, queued up at the distribution centre to get the winterization cash grant provided by UNICEF. For each child up to six children, Manar gets 20JD, just over £20, meaning that Manar has 120JD to spend.

This is the first year that UNICEF has provided cash to families to do this, as opposed to actual blankets and clothes. Manar is really pleased about this. She talked to me about what this cash means for her family:

"Last year I had to go to the mall here in Zaatari to buy the clothes, but it was too crowded and too expensive; the clothes we bought were not nice. If you didn't go at the beginning all the good things were gone. And the prices were too expensive; I could only buy one thing per child. The jumper that Lina is wearing, I bought it in the market this year for 3JD, last year in the mall it would have cost 10JD.

"Last year as well, they didn't give us cash. The money came on a card, but the problem was that we could only use this card in the mall shops. We also had to spend the money in a set period of time, if you didn't spend the money, you lose it.

"But this year, on Sunday, I took the money from NRC and UNICEF, and I went to the market. I bought clothes for my elder son and all the rest of my children, from 16 years old and under. It was so much cheaper. The pyjamas that cost 10JD in the mall, I found them for 5JD. I have spent 70JD on Sunday and today I hope to spend the rest.

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"The shops here today they are full of people buying clothes for winter because this as an idea is really good. It's not tied to something; you're not limited to the mall and you also don't lose the money if you don't spend it. You have the money in your pocket at any hour or time. You are not tied to go to a specific place; you can buy socks, boots, trousers, clothes, anything, everything; you have a choice.

"I have spent all the money on warm clothes for winter, because this money came for the winter clothes, so I bought winter clothes for my children. It is important that my children are warm in winter.

"In the morning when the girls go to school at 7:30, it is cold, it is really, really cold. Yesterday for example, it was really, really windy at night, the tents and the caravans were shaking. The caravan is not airtight; the cold air comes in through the cracks and around the windows. We have a heater and lots of blankets and still we are cold. Especially when the sun goes down, it's really cold. At night it often also rains. Sometimes the rain comes into our caravan. My husband has tried to patch up the cracks but more keep appearing."

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After spending about an hour in the market, we return to the family's caravan, after Manar has bought two pairs of pyjamas for Doa'a and Aya, a jacket for Mahmoud, a pair of jeans for Ahmed and some leggings for Sidra. Manar tells me that she still needs to buy a jumper for Doa'a, one like Aya has, and she will have spent all the money.

"They will use these clothes for everything, for when they go to school and also at home."

Lilly Carlisle, UNICEF Jordan

To help UNICEF provide essential winter clothing and supplies to families like Manar's, click here.

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