Turning sand into sanctuary for 130,000 Syrian refugees

Help children and families fleeing violence in Syria


World Vision will move enough dirt to fill the Sydney Opera House concert hall three times as it helps build a new refugee camp in Jordan's desert.

As the world watches and debates the escalating violence in Syria, World Vision is helping turn a desert into shelter for some of the more than 1.6 million Syrian refugees who have fled their country. 

World Vision water and sanitation expert Rajesh Pasupuleti said building the camp was like installing nearly 3000 bathrooms at the end of the world. 

“We are digging 2600 holes, each deep enough to bury a family car. The desert soil we remove would fill London's Royal Albert Hall, or 33 Olympic sized swimming pools.” 

Mr Pasupuleti said World Vision is also installing 12km of pipes to supply the camp’s initial group of 31,000 refugees with water. 

“Every week the 31,000 refugees will use enough water to fill two Olympic size swimming pools, and the waste would fill another one. Even so, that is only 30 litres per person per day, which is barely enough in the searing desert,” Mr Pasupuleti said. 

Our first stage response by the numbers


septic tanks

each burried deep enough in the desert sand to bury a family car


shower and toilet slabs

essential for hygiene and safe waste disposal

10 x

95,000 litre water tanks

The water tanks will provide enough water to fill two Olympic size swimming pools weekly, essential in the searing desert


of water pipes

to supply the camp’s initial population with water


community water taps

The 140 access points will allow the camp's population water supplies close to their shelters



We will meet the immediate needs of 31,000 people fleeing the conflict in Syria

The construction of the Azraq refugee camp in Jordan will be the second built to cope with the estimated 2,000 refugees a day arriving from Syria.

The nearby Za’atari camp is full and its services are overwhelmed. Azraq camp - 95km from the Syrian border - will become home to an estimated 130,000 refugees by the end of the year, making it the fifth largest population centre in Jordan. 

World Vision head of Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs Anthea Spinks said refugees often have to leave everything behind, and the numbers of people pouring out of Syria were no different. 

“People are fleeing from violence, leaving behind homes, family, jobs, friends and schools. Half of those fleeing Syria are children, and all the refugees need protection, water, shelter, food and health services.” 

“All nations, including Australia, have obligations to care for people running from persecution and violence. World Vision's work in Jordan is helping to fulfil part of that promise.” 

Enable us to pre-stock warehouses with materials to set up more camps like the the refugee camp in Azraq, before conflict happens Support disaster ready program

Yasser, 20, found refuge for his extended family in this tent in a school courtyard in Dahuk Province, after fleeing violence in Sinjar. "We are worried about the winter," he says, after recent rains ruined some of their mattresses, and made sleeping on the muddy ground, almost impossible. "We could only stand in the tent." Twenty people usually sleep inside this makeshift tent, a basic tarp supported by poles and the courtyard wall. To mitigate against further rains and what is expected to be a harsh winter, Yasser has piled a ridge of dirt along the outer edge of the tent. He knows this is not enough to protect them from below freezing temperatures. Photo: Mary Kate MacIsaac