The Future is Equal

Za’atari: a city of refugees

Za’atari is the largest Syrian refugee camp in the world. Photo: Tom White/PA

In 2013, Za’atari was Jordan’s fourth largest city, split into 12 districts. At the time it was home to about 156,000 people. Sounds like a normal city, right?

It’s not.

Za’atari is a refugee camp, established in July 2012, and home to a huge number of displaced Syrians. The camp grew so large it was recognised as one of the largest cities in Jordan.

Another camp was established in 2014 to ease the pressure on Za’atari, its people and its infrastructure, so the population there today has lessened. But it’s still home to 80,000 Syrians. Za’atari is now the largest refugee camp in the world and the 11th largest city in Jordan.

The camp is so big you can see it from space.

Photo taken from NASA’s Terra satellite in 2013.

From a cluster of tents to a city, these images show Za’atari’s growth between 2012-2015. Photo:

In 2011, a brutal civil war broke out in Syria which has displaced 11 million Syrians to date, both within Syria and internationally. The war is still ongoing and is showing no signs of slowing down. Displaced Syrians cannot yet return, so those 80,000 are still calling Za’atari home.

Za’atari in numbers:

  • In total, 461,701 refugees have passed through the camp
  • 57% are under 24 years old
  • There’s an average of 80 babies born per week in the camp
  • The camp covers an area of 5.3km squared
  • There are 11 schools where 20,771 children are enrolled
  • There are 27 community centres
  • There are 2 hospitals with 120 community health volunteers
  • There are approximately 3,000 informal shops and businesses including fruit and vegetable shops, a wedding dress shop and restaurants


Oxfam is currently working in 3 of Za’atari’s 12 districts, providing:

  • Clean water and sanitation services – vital for staying hydrated, clean and healthy
  • Waste management
  • Community centres
  • Cleaning and maintenance of toilets, basins and showers
  • Hygiene promotion activities – crucial in preventing disease which could spread so widely and easily in a camp of this size

Children participate in a lesson about hygiene in an Oxfam community centre inside Za’atari refugee camp. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam.

We are also working with UNICEF and others to install a water network to ensure people have access to safe water. Upon completion it will be the largest ever water network to be constructed in a refugee camp.

Oxfam engineers work to install the first water network inside Za’atari. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam

Mohammad, 30, fled his home in Syria and now lives in Za’atari refugee camp where he is working with Oxfam helping to install the first water network in the camp. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam

Oxfam also put on a children’s activity/recycling programme in Za’atari, where 36 Syrian boys and girls got creative by designing and building toys from recycled materials. Not only was this a fun day for many children, it raised awareness of environmental issues and diverted 21% of waste produced in the camp away from landfill over a 42 week period.

To continue these activities and the provision of vital services and aid, we desperately need your help. The crisis is unrelenting, but with your support we can continue to help people in Za’atari and in other affected areas. Please show your support and donate today.

Donate to our Syria Crisis appeal