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“Definitely, the economy here is really difficult because of the increase in fuel and gas prices,” she says. Complicating matters further is a shortage of water. “Even for us, the water we get from the municipality isn’t enough; we have to buy our own, and it’s very expensive.” And more and more of the charitable donations that used to help the clinic are being diverted to the Syrian crisis, she adds.

Even in the face of immense public health challenges, the Mother of Mercy Clinic forges ahead with its mission, which is as much spiritual as charitable.

“We cannot talk about spirituality in our work,” says Sister Najma. “What we do and how we do it shows our spirituality.

“We are sisters. We’ve devoted our whole lives to helping people. This is our work, this is our message.”

And the message has gotten through. Though the clinic serves people of all faiths, the vast majority of its patients are Muslims. In the past, Mr. Bahou says, there were tensions between Christians and Muslims in Zerqa, but the clinic spread a message of good work that crosses religious boundaries. Now, he says, people come up to the sisters in the street and hug them.

“Sometimes, when we are in the supermarket, or about town, a woman wearing the hijab, or the niqab, she will say, ‘Oh, hi, sister,’” says Sister Nahla, who assists in the clinic. “Even if we can’t see her face, she knows us, and she hugs us. They are kind people.

“Our mission here is for everyone,” adds Sister Nahla. “If you go to a hospital, sometimes they will include ‘religion’ in your file. We don’t have that kind of stuff here. Just the name and the age is what we need to know.”

Aisha comes from the tiny town of Busra al Harir, in southern Syria’s Dera’a province. For seven months, she has been living with her husband and three children in a prefabricated trailer in the sweltering Zaatari refugee camp — located near Jordan’s border with Syria — that is now home to more than 120,000 Syrians. It is a hard life. The World Food Program distributes dry rations every 15 days, but they include no vegetables, meat or milk. Anything extra costs money, but the prices in the camp’s sprawling market are high, and there are few jobs available. Water delivered via tanker is drinkable, but tastes foul and there are constant shortages. Hygiene is a problem, and the camp is littered with trenches of stagnant water and open sewers where camp residents have tried to construct their own toilets.

The camp has several hospitals and numerous clinics run by aid agencies and foreign governments, but they are crowded to capacity. When Aisha’s son, Nuh (a form of “Noah”), fell sick with vomiting and severe diarrhea, she says the camp hospitals could not help him. Her neighbor’s newborn daughter, Majd, was similarly sick. Unable to get help in the camp, Aisha obtained a temporary pass that allowed her two days to visit a hospital outside the camp. She could not afford a taxi, so she and her neighbor walked for three hours through the desert to the nearby town of Mafraq. From there, a Jordanian woman took pity on them and brought them to the Italian Hospital in Jordan’s capital, Amman.

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