Syrian refugee grandmother in Jordan cooks for her family of 19

How the World Food Programme (WFP) helps a Syrian grandmother do what she loves most: cook for her family!

Mohammad Batah
Mar 25, 2018 · 3 min read

70-year-old Um Walid is the matriarch of the Zu’bi family. She lives in Zaatari refugee camp with her husband, three children, their spouses, and 11 grandchildren. As she says, “including me, we’re 19 people, and that means I have 19 mouths to feed!”

Um Walid holding a plate of Mleihi, a traditional Syrian dish. She bought the ingredients using WFP’s monthly assistance. Photo: WFP/ Mohammad Batah

The Zu’bi family fled Dara’a in southern Syria six years ago, leaving behind their careers, property and promising futures. They ran a small farm there and lived off its livestock and fresh produce until the conflict encroached on their town.

Having made Zaatari camp their home since 2012, Um Walid’s family has found new ways to make ends meet. They sell pickles in the winter and ice in the summer. These are seemingly small ventures, but they have kept them afloat since they moved to Zaatari.

“We take matters day by day now. So far, we haven’t needed anyone’s help because WFP helps us buy food and we earn extra money selling pickles and ice cream,” says Um Walid.

Back in Syria, Um Walid had a garden from which she would pick out fresh ingredients to make delicious meals. But the camp in Jordan is too dry, making it difficult even for residents with a green thumb to grow any food.

Um Walid takes pride in cooking for her family. She makes do with the ingredients she has access to and still makes family favorites like Mleihi and Kubbeh to feed her entire household of 19 people!

Through WFP’s iris scan system, Um Walid can buy fresh ingredients for her meals from WFP’s camp supermarkets with the blink of an eye. For the first time in the history of WFP operations — and possibly in the history of shopping — Syrians in Zaatari and Azraq camps are able to buy food using iris scan technology.

A delicious platter of Mleihi, a special Syrian meal for the Zu’bi family. Photo: WFP/Mohammad Batah

Um Walid says she the iris scan payment system is the most convenient.

“Whenever I am near the supermarket, I can just pop in and buy whatever ingredients I need. That means I waste less because I shop more frequently and don’t store any food until it goes bad.”

Thanks to generous contributions from the Australian Government, WFP is able to continue its support to Um Walid and to thousands of Syrian refugees living in Jordan.

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store