It was hastily built in less than two weeks by UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, to accommodate a monumental exodus of refugees fleeing the civil war in neighboring Syria.
Within months, it had grown into the world’s second largest refugee camp — after Dadaab, in Kenya. Since it opened, over 3,000 babies have been born to mothers from the camp, making the number of children half of the camp’s population of more than 120,000.
Syrian refugees arrived in Zaatari, in northeastern Jordan, hoping for a short stay. But as the raging conflict next door entered its fourth year, many of them have traded their tents for trailer homes, and their hopes for a quick return for the realization that they are here for the foreseeable future.
“I think we’ll stay in the camp for a long time. We have maybe five or ten years before we can go back to Syria now,” Manal, who has lived in Zaatari for 16 months, told VICE News. “Even if Assad leaves Syria, I think they will fight each other, the Nusra [Front] and the army. They will fight each other for who will be the next president of Syria.”
Manal left her village near Deraa with her husband and four small children after the army raided their home. She told VICE News that she wants to go back — but that she is getting used to the idea that that won’t happen anytime soon.