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As Amman has grown, its historic city center has fallen into disrepair. The city’s wealthy and powerful residents have moved west, into new districts packed with luxury hotels, restaurants and shopping malls. The old downtown area, nestled in a valley that once boasted the city’s main water source, has fallen into decline. The city’s first buildings are now home to bargain-basement souks (marketplaces) and coffee shops, surrounded by low-income neighborhoods of raw concrete and exposed reinforcement bars.

The Italian Hospital sits in the heart of downtown Amman, its blue logo looming over an empty lot where men sell used furniture and the winding alleys known locally as “the thieves’ market.” It is the oldest hospital in Amman, a private Catholic institution that has served the city since 1926. Now it has become a go-to destination for many of Amman’s most vulnerable denizens.

A large number of the hospital’s clients are refugees — thanks in part to another CNEWA project that provides supplementary funding for both refugees and poor Jordanians.

“Today, I saw more than 100 Syrians in the hospital,” says the hospital’s project manager, Mazen Smeirat. “Today!”

Syrian patients occupy 10 of the hospital’s 80 beds, he says, and their number continues to grow. Most of them come from low-income neighborhoods on the nearby hills, from Ashrafiyeh and Hashimi, Hay Nazzal and Jofeh.

Barely one-fifth of Jordan’s half a million Syrian refugees live in Zaatari. Most Syrians live in Jordan’s cities, living in groups in run-down rented apartments, working illegally for pittance wages and seeking charitable assistance wherever they can get it. And there are also tens of thousands of Iraqis, who fled their own civil war five or even ten years ago and do not dare go home. They come to the Italian Hospital because they simply cannot get treatment in the public system, where waiting lists can be months long.

Their health needs are legion, explains Dr. Khalid Shammas, the Italian Hospital’s medical director. There are everyday injuries and war wounds, acute illnesses and chronic conditions. Concerns include influenza, infections, hypertension, diabetes and, of course, deliveries — the hospital’s entire second floor has become one large maternity ward.

The hospital treats as many as it can.

“We do not make any discrimination in this hospital,” the doctor says. “All the patients — private patients, insured patients, charity patients — see the same rooms, the same doctors.”

But the needs are immense, and the patients just keep coming.

No single source of support can cover the need. To stay afloat, Dr. Shammas says they draw from the hospital’s own funds, “from Caritas, from CNEWA, from the International Refugee Trust [in London].” For those they still cannot treat, they find some other hospital. “Everything together, we help the people.”

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