Refugees crossing into Jordan after dark during heavy rains this week were fearful, freezing and without proper winter clothing, the U.N. agency said. It said 60 percent of the new arrivals in Jordan were under the age of 18, including 22 newborns arriving Sunday evening. The agency said it is distributing 50,000 thermal blankets in the largest camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan.
However, there was no sign of major international aid groups in the Atmeh camp, which started out a few months ago with refugees sleeping in olive groves after Turkey slowed the influx of newcomers, said Shishakly, the camp manager.
The camp is run by the Maram Foundation, which was set up by Shishakly and other Syrian-Americans in October to raise funds.
The Turkish Red Crescent has sent tents and distributes breakfast, he said, while he and his supporters buy drinking water and provide a daily warm meal. Another aid group, Medical Relief for Syria, runs the small clinic.
The tents are pitched on a slope that overlooks rolling olive tree-covered hills on one side and a forbidding Turkish military base on the other.
People in the camp say they have been prevented from entering Turkey. While Turkey officially maintains an "open door" policy for Syrian refugees, it has acknowledged delays in accepting newcomers because of strains on its resources and more thorough efforts to vet and register new arrivals.
Some Syrians try to sneak across border, but that requires money.
Mohannad Fahad, a 33-year-old physician from Kafr Awaid, said he is being asked to pay $50 each for his mother, wife and three young sons to be smuggled into Turkey. His family arrived at the camp Monday morning, fleeing air attacks and leaving behind a largely destroyed and deserted town, but he said there is no way he could stay in the camp.
Mohammed Yousef, 45, who fled Kafr Awaid back in September, said most of those trying to sneak in are turned back, and that the only hope is for Turkey to ease restrictions.
In the meantime, Shishakly is trying to make conditions more bearable, by building a storage room, a kitchen and toilets from crude cinderblocks. Some camp residents spread gravel to help keep rainwater away from the tents.
Weather-proofing looks like an impossible challenge, said Shishakly. "We are fighting with time."
Associated Press writers John Heilprin in Geneva and Christopher Torchia in Istanbul contributed to this report.