The spread of makeshift aluminum shelters erected by Syrians now outpaces new rows of U.N. canvas tents here in chilly northern Jordan, home to one of the world’s fastest-growing refugee camps. A vast black-market bazaar has sprouted from the desert sand, where enterprising refugees hawk bottled water and other basic necessities that most fellow camp residents can’t afford.
As a mass Syrian emigration spills into neighboring countries, relief organizations acknowledge that they can hardly keep up. The exodus is accelerating so quickly that the tally of need will almost certainly hit a grim milestone this week, when the number of Syrian refugees who have registered with the United Nations — or are on months-long waiting lists to do so — is expected to hit 1 million.
One-third of those desperate migrants have fled since January, the United Nations says, most into Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Here in northern Jordan, the Zaatari camp has exploded from a modest cluster of 500 tents in August to a refugee metropolis with a population of more than 146,000 — larger than the nearby city of Mafraq and well more than double the camp’s 60,000-person capacity.
Yet aid officials say Syrians fleeing alleged massacres and Damascus’s fresh bombing campaigns are stepping into a growing humanitarian catastrophe, either in overcrowded camps with little to offer or, even more frequently, in urban areas that struggle to support them and where the welcome has worn thin.