Two young women in the Middle East2020 has taught the world a series of valuable lessons. Still, one that strikes most potent is the importance of women’s presence in critical fields, such as conflict resolution. For years this issue has received a poor reputation for ineffectiveness and persistent recidivism, specifically due to continued violence. However, the recent inclusion of women has changed this and transformed the field as we know it. Since 2016, women’s inclusion in conflict resolution has shown a 64% prevention rate for failed peace negotiations and a 35% increase in likeability for long-term peace.

While women are beginning to shine on the world stage, there are still conflict-ridden regions where they are kept away from the negotiating table. One of these regions is the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Conflict in MENA

In addition to the US’ recent departure under the Trump Administration, the MENA has been riddled with conflict. There are longstanding ideological tensions between Saudi-Arabia and Iran. A bloody civil war in Yemen and the recent Assad-Putin take over of Syria. Libya is becoming a failed state and more terrorist organizations are rising to power.

This is an integral time for women to be included in conflict resolution, as said previous conflicts will require new models of engagement and unique perspectives. If women are to achieve an equal socioeconomic standing to men in the MENA, now is the time for action.

Overview of Progress

Since the early 2000s, women have begun playing an active role in conflict resolution. A prominent example is the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace Movement. In both the first and second Liberian Civil Wars, the movement’s women hosted communal activities, such as prayer gatherings, to unite the warring Christian and Muslim populations. Eventually, they gained so much momentum that they advanced their organization to more direct advocacy and activism. This was during a time of rampant sexual violence and the murders of child soldiers. In 2005, the women helped ensure one of the nation’s first free and fair elections, which resulted in the first female African president.

Another way in which women have fought for change in the MENA is through women-led nonprofits. Take, for instance, the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assitance (CEWLA). Under current dictator Abdel Al-Sissi, Egypt has faced a series of religious violence, economic corruption, and denial of fundamental human rights. Nevertheless, since 2013, CEWLA has worked with local grassroots organizations in Egypt to promote female rights. It has fought several legal battles to improve ongoing “legal, social, economic and cultural rights.”

In addition to inter-regional violence, mass immigration and displacement in MENA has resulted in severe economic losses. In response to such conflict, female entrepreneurs in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and Palestine banded together to form Ruwwad. Ruwwad is a community engagement organization that focuses on providing women with education, income generation methods, and social justice.

Nonetheless, even when it comes to complex matters such as Intra-State Conflict, women have shown up to unite deeply divided communities, often struggling with severe poverty. The Wajir Association for Women’s Peace embodies the said fight for justice. The Association is a group of local women in Wajir, Kenya. They lead conflict resolution initiatives between the clans’ Elders and the at-risk youth. Wajir’s women’s power has even reached the desks of local parliamentary offices. Nationwide reforms have begun to take aim at resolving much of the turmoil occurring in this region as a result of these efforts.

A Plan for the Future

While women’s leadership in the MENA is far from perfect, there have been massive improvements over the years. This provides an ample opportunity to transform the region. Analysts have found that Women need political and economic backing from international organizations in order to help promote their localized mediation initiatives and garner stronger support for future peacebuilding. Bills such as the Girls Lead Act, currently being negotiated in Congress, is a step in the right direction and will help develop future female leaders in at-risk developing countries. The MENA region has seen conflict and ethnic violence for decades, but when we empower women, we empower change.

Juliette Reyes
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Jordan

While known for political stability in a region associated with civil wars and political violence, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan does have its fair share of struggles when it comes to the economy. Poverty in Jordan is the outcome of many factors shaping the country’s economic struggles. The kingdom has a scarce amount of natural oil stock in its eastern desert, and the country is heavily reliant on foreign importing to meet its energy needs, constituting up to 30% of its total imports.

The country also happens to experience a wide range of issues like meeting only half of the population’s water demand, only 2.6% of its land being arable, an average labor participation rate of 38.1%, an unemployment rate of 23.9%, millions of refugees from Iraq, Palestine and Syria and a debt crisis consisting of 95% of the kingdom’s gross domestic product. All of these issues tend to result in very problematic numbers for poverty in Jordan.

Effects of Poverty on Jordan’s Youth

While poverty in Jordan affects people of all ages, a look at Jordan’s children tends to give a grim view. The population of children in Jordan is around 3 million. Of this number, 0.6% of them are considered to be multidimensionally poor, which is defined as deprivation regarding health, education, living standards as well as experiencing poor quality of work, hazardous environments, disempowerment, and living under the threat of violence.

Poverty in Jordan tends to particularly affect the refugee populations. The number of Syrians in Jordan living below the country’s poverty line is 78%. For Syrian children, 94% of those of age up to 5 years old experience multidimensional poverty. When it comes to malnutrition, 17% of the children are malnourished due to poverty in Jordan. The infant mortality rate is 31 per 1,000 children.

Green Innovation

One of the issues that relate to poverty in Jordan, as previously mentioned, is the issue of resource shortage. Addressing this is one way to combat one of the effects of poverty in Jordan. To overcome those challenges, the Hashemite Kingdom is spending more than $5 billion in renewable energy as a way to become more self-sufficient. Solar energy is already saving money for the local population with one religious clerk saying the bills necessary to generate electricity for his mosque used to be up to $18,350 per year. Now, that cost has gone down to near zero.

In 2012, 11 renewable energy projects were launched in the Maan province alone. Since then, the growth of the kingdom’s reliance on green power has resulted in 11% of the nation’s total power relying on renewables in 2019. It is estimated 15% of today’s households have solar-based water heating systems. This investment in renewable energy will make Jordan less dependable on foreign oil markets. It will also drive economic growth through job creation. An estimated 40 million new jobs could exist by 2050. Meeting energy demands, self-sufficiency, reducing the costs of power and economic growth will help in alleviating the poverty in Jordan. This will have a direct effect on children, the most powerless and vulnerable to the effects of poverty in Jordan.

– Mustafa Ali
Photo: Flickr

The Prevalence of Refugee Poverty in JordanViolent conflicts and lack of opportunity have displaced millions of individuals across the Middle East over the past decades, and many of them have found refuge in Jordan. The bulk of refugees in Jordan are Palestinians and Syrians. Jordan hosts over two million Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA and nearly 700,000 Syrian refugees registered with UNHCR, Although some estimate that there are closer to 1.4 million Syrians in Jordan. As of 2019, there were 10 Palestinian and five Syrian refugee camps in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. This article delves into the prevalence of refugee poverty in Jordan, as well as organizations working to fight this issue.

Palestinian Refugees

Just under 20% of Palestinians live in refugee camps. Mass immigration of Palestinian refugees first began during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, with another large spike after the 1967 War. While most refugees from 1948 have full citizenship rights in Jordan, many who came after the 1967 War do not, and a large percentage of refugees in general lack access to reliable education and healthcare and live below the national poverty line. Legal restrictions worsen refugee poverty in Jordan, as the situation in the Jerash camp shows.

In the Jerash Camp, 30,000 refugees are from the 1967 War. As many as 97% do not have a social security number, which severely limits where they can find employment, and many do not qualify for healthcare. Just under 50% of the people in camps live under the poverty line, and for those in the Jerash camp, unemployment is at almost 40%. These same Palestinian refugees see college expenses double that of Jordanians, and with few scholarship opportunities, no reliable job market and no student loans, many must forego a college education. The living conditions in these camps can reflect the lack of support for refugee poverty in Jordan. In 2018, the workforce responsible for cleaning the streets declined by over 75% due to pay cuts, leaving the camp caked with rotting trash, rats and flies.

Syrian Refugees

Approximately 83% of Syrian refugees live in poverty in Jordanian cities. According to UNICEF, 85% of Syrian refugee children live below the poverty line, with 94% of these children under the age of five dealing with “multidimensional poverty,” meaning that they are unable to gain access to basic needs like education or health services. Moreover, 40% of Syrian refugee families are food insecure, 45% of children up to age five do not have proper health services and 38% of Syrian children are not in school.

Similar to many Palestinian refugees, relatively few Syrian refugees have full legal rights, and even though they have access to public services, the actual availability of those services is severely hampered due to unsustainable demand. As mentioned above, only about 17% of Syrian refugees in Jordan live in camps, and it is only in these camps where they see some of their essential needs met thanks to funding by the international community.

Supporting Anera

Since 2004, Anera, a small humanitarian organization based in the Hashemite Kingdom, has been devoted to fighting Palestinian and Syrian refugee poverty in Jordan by providing education, health, community and emergency aid. In the Jerash Palestinian and Za’atari Syrian refugee camps, Anera delivers medicines, antibiotics and treatments for asthma and parasites to refugees.

Other efforts include providing materials for school and hygiene and funding for early childhood development and women’s economic empowerment programs.

UNRWA

UNRWA, or United Nations Relief and Works Agency, works to provide services in the 10 Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan. It supports 171 schools and by extension over 120,000 students, 25 healthcare centers, 10 rehabilitation centers and 14 women centers. It also provides social safety nets to almost 60,000 refugees and has awarded over $125 million in loans. UNRWA also protects vulnerable women and children by improving access to assistance and case management, as well as monitoring and advocating for the rights of Palestinian refugees in Jordan.

The Youth Base

In 2013, 27-year-old Obay Barakat started The Youth Base, a recycling initiative in the Baqa’a Palestinian refugee camp. Barakat, who lives in the camp, spoke with The Borgen Project about his motivations, saying, “The Baqa’a camp has more than 100,000 people in it, and they live in just two kilometers of space with no services. The situation is so bad that I started to work with schools to teach the new generation to save the environment in Baqa’a camp. The camp is not a good place when talking about population density or infrastructure, but the people here are family, and everyone helps each other.”

According to Barakat, until recently, few cared about this issue. He explains, “The hardest thing was people didn’t accept the idea, so I spent one year working only on awareness, teaching people about how recycling can solve environmental problems.” The Youth Base, which consists of Barakat and nine volunteers, works in the camp to recycle around a half-ton of metal, 10 tons of paper and eight tons of plastic every month. Barakat has used 30% of the money from recycling these materials to start a development project called Camp Theater, where they work with 120 children from the camp, making short films about societal problems like bullying, higher education, violence and harassment.

Jordan has become a center of hope for refugees forced to leave their homes in Palestine and Syria, but refugees often find themselves struggling as the scope of refugee immigration has overwhelmed the country and its resources. Refugee poverty in Jordan has become a serious humanitarian concern in the Middle East over the past decades. The international community, led by bodies like UNRWA, has stepped in to provide what aid they can, but it is smaller organizations like Anera, and even individuals like Obay Barakat, who find themselves picking up the slack. These organizations and people provide much-needed hope for those who have lost everything due to conflict and continue to struggle to find opportunities in their new homes.

– Connor Bradbury
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in Jordan
In Jordan, women make up approximately half of the overall population, yet they only contribute to about 15% of the labor force. Their unemployment rates are nearly 10% higher than the male unemployment rates. This is four times as high as the female unemployment rates worldwide. The number of labor force participation rates contradicts the number of educated women. In 2014, more women went to college in comparison to men. So, why do women in Jordan not work? The answers to this question have to do with women’s rights in Jordan.

Women’s Economic Contribution: What is Going On?

Regarding women’s rights in Jordan, there are many contributing factors that made the country rank 144 out of 149 countries in economic participation and opportunity. Ranging from lack of transportation to social norms, here are some reasons why women do not work as much as their male counterparts:

  • Childcare: If women are at work, they must be able to find someone to look after their children. Finding childcare along with affordable childcare is a key issue. Jordan women only make around $270 USD a month. As a result, many women feel that it is easier and more affordable to stay home with their kids instead of creating an extra expense.
  • Pay Gap: There is a large pay gap in Jordan. The Gender Pay Gap in the public sector is over 13%. In addition, there is a larger gap of over 15% in the private sector. With a gap like this, many women receive discouragement from working.
  • Social expectations: Social norms remain a large issue when it comes to women working. When there is a shortage of jobs in the country, over 80% of people believe that men should have more rights to jobs than women. According to a World Bank study, the majority of people believe that it is not okay for women to work if they return after 5 p.m. or if they are working in mixed workplaces.
  • Transportation: There is a lack of transportation, while also a lack of safe transportation for women in Jordan. This is a reason why many women reject job offers. Not only is it unsafe, but it is also just another expense added to women’s already low incomes. Combined with the daycare prices many women pay when they decide to enter the workforce, the cost of going to work is not worth it to many.

Solutions

Fortunately, there is a current action plan in place that aims to solve these issues regarding women’s rights in Jordan and the country’s workforce inequality. For example, the Jordan government implemented the Women’s Economic Empowerment Action Plan and the Mashreq Gender Facility supports this plan. The overall goal of this plan is to increase women’s participation in the workforce by 24% in a span of five years. After five years, the government hopes the action plan will have increased women’s opportunity to become business owners. The plan also aims to provide safe and inclusive work environments. As a result, more women will be able to successfully join the workforce.

There is a lot that needs to occur for the action plan to be successful. As of now, the action plan is focusing on things such as legislation. It also focuses on constraints that are keeping women out of the workforce, creating a welcoming and comfortable work environment, breaking the social stigmas connected to women working and increasing the female employment rates in the private sector. Certain tasks that the action plan will accomplish in order to get to this point are:

  • Improving the knowledge of gender gaps and teaching gender equality in education settings.
  • Creating affordable childcare services so that women do not have to be concerned about the costs of going to work.
  • Creating a code of ethics for workers in public transportation so that women are able to get to and from work without experiencing harassment.

The Women’s Economic Empowerment Action Plan has explained other actions it will take to achieve its goal as well. One can access these actions through the World Bank website to learn more. Hopefully, after the five years are up, women’s rights in Jordan will have made a significant improvement and women will be able to contribute to the economy.

Sophie Dan
Photo: Flickr

Refugees in JordanAs of 2019, 83% of the refugee population in Jordan lives in cities, not camps. Many of the refugees in Jordan survive on low-paid work in the informal sector, picking up odd-jobs when they can. Considering the substantial number of refugees living in Jordan, nearly 750,000 registered refugees and almost two million Palestinians, the Jordanian government has protective stipulations in place to preserve jobs for Jordanian citizens.

However, during the COVID-19 lockdown, the informal working sector shut down. Most refugees did not have savings to fall back on while roughly 80% of Syrian refugees in Jordan live below the poverty line. When Jordan began to reopen in late April, the government mandated that businesses first give employment preferences to Jordanians.

The International Labor Organization recently published a survey confirming that of all the vulnerable working populations, refugees have been hit the hardest amid the pandemic. Nearly all refugees are ineligible for governmental aid. Moreover, only about 30,000 refugee families receive cash assistance from UNHCR. The NGOs in Jordan were non-essential, and many shut down in the spring. However, with easing restrictions, NGOs are reopening and providing necessary assistance again.

Collateral Repair Project

Collateral Repair Project (CRP) is a nonprofit in Amman that provides many services. These services include a community center with programs for refugee children, women and men. Additionally, CRP runs a Basic-Needs Assistance program. It is essentially a food voucher program for refugees to trade in coupons for fresh produce. CRP know how essential this program is for refugees. As a result, it found a way to operate during the shutdown. By partnering with local markets, CRP managed to keep over 700 refugee families fed throughout the lockdown.

Reclaim Childhood

Reclaim Childhood provides sport and leadership training to refugee girls ages six to 18 in Amman and Zarqa. While it had to stop programming during the lockdown, its return is significant. Reclaim Childhood employs nine female coaches, some refugees, some Jordanians and has nearly 300 girls play each season. Refugee children are suffering from the effects of the pandemic. Girls in particular are hurt with schools shutting down. Children from families facing increased poverty are more likely to be forced into child labor or early marriage. Reclaim Childhood, beyond providing these girls with a meal each day, reminds them that they are strong, capable and surrounded by girls and women who support them. Even amid poverty and pandemics, children should always have the right to play, learn and grow.

Action Against Hunger

Action Against Hunger (AAH) is an organization that operates in Jordan. It provides water, sanitation, hygiene, food security and livelihoods and mental health services to both host communities and refugee populations. In 2019 alone, it reached 86,522 people with water, sanitation and hygiene programs. Additionally, the organization offers cash-assistance programs for refugees. During the height of the Jordanian lockdown, it became clear to AAH that the majority of people receiving its services also desired a way to access more information about the pandemic and preventative measures. In response to this need, AAH launched a free telephone hotline that offers updated information about the risks associated with the pandemic. They currently have 38 operators managing phone lines, communicating essential information.

Overall, the work of these organizations is essential to the livelihood and safety of many refugees in Jordan, especially during this global pandemic.

– Grace Harlan
Photo: Pixabay

IMF in JordanJordan, bordered by Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria and Israel, is an Arab country in the Middle East. The country is on the East Bank of the Jordan River yet relatively landlocked. It has accordingly received a massive influx of Palestinian and Syrian refugees. Recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Jordan provided two different forms of economic relief to people in light of the ratio of debt to its gross domestic product (GDP) and the current pandemic. Read more about the IMF in Jordan below.

The Effects of the Pandemic on Jordan

Jordan’s economy will experience contraction in 2020 due to the effects of COVID-19. The pandemic-induced lockdown significantly impacted 250,000 daily-wage workers and businesses facing a liquidity crisis. It also delayed foreign investment, trade and tourism. The latter industry generates $5 billion annually for Jordan.

Only 11.3% of respondents in a UNDP survey claimed that their income was unaffected by the pandemic, which has significantly impacted young adults. In the survey, 38.3% of respondents experienced challenges getting clean drinking water, and 69.3% struggled with accessing basic healthcare.

Countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, including Jordan, will experience a 4.7% drop in its constant-price GDP, adjusted for the effects of inflation, in 2020. Additionally, the average size of economic relief programs in the Middle East was smaller than in other regions in the world. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) oil-importing countries’ ratio of debt to income will reach 95% in 2020. Thankfully, the IMF provided $17 billion in aid to the area since the beginning of 2020. It also helped catalyze $5 billion from creditors.

The IMF in Jordan

Jordan’s four-year Extended Fund Facility (EFF) is a partnership between the Jordanian government and IMF staff, which focuses its $1.3 billion on growth, jobs and social safety nets. The loan program, approved on March 25, 2020, will create more jobs for women and young people. EFF funds finance the general budget, including health, education and social support, while also providing support to Jordan’s Syrian refugees.

Although the IMF in Jordan created the EFF funds before the pandemic, it changed the program to support spending on emergency outlays and medical equipment. The IMF in Jordan also helped secure congressional grants to ease annual debt, as public debt increased in the past decade to an amount equivalent to 97% of its GDP.

In addition, the IMF in Jordan approved $400 million in emergency assistance under the Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in May 2020. Due to the fall of domestic consumption during the outbreak, these funds answer companies’ and consumers’ borrowing needs. The government will spend the RFI funds through the national treasury account, where specific budget lines track and report crisis-related expenditures.

The emergency economic assistance allows for higher healthcare budgets, containment and support to vulnerable households and businesses. Moreover, it will ease external financing constraints and avoid loss in official reserves. The $1.5 billion balance of payment gaps, however, will emerge with increased public debt and a widened fiscal deficit.

Moving Forward

Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, Jordan’s tech start-ups, global supply chains and exporting masks have helped its economy. Tech literacy, in particular, has been especially vital for Jordanian youth to find remote jobs. Moreover, the EFF program can ensure support for the people in Jordan by easing access to basic needs. The program will also help reduce the impacts of poverty by increasing social protection coverage on poor families.

Monetary and fiscal authorities in Jordan have reduced interest rates and delayed bank loan installments and tax payments due to the outbreak, injecting over $700 million in liquidity. Additionally, the country implemented a cash-flow relief program for companies. It also activated the National Aid Fund cash transfer program for daily wage workers.

Jordan has prioritized human safety for its citizens and refugees in the fight against COVID-19. So far, it has only had low to moderate numbers of per capita COVID-19 cases. Thanks to the help of the IMF in Jordan, the country seems to be on track to recover from pandemic.

Isabella Thorpe
Photo: Flickr

Teachers' Protests in Jordan
Similar to the United States, Jordan’s school year starts in the fall. Jordan is a small nation in the Middle East between Saudi Arabia, Israel and Syria. However, this school year marks the second year in a row where many Jordanian schools closed down to widespread teacher strikes. During September 2019, 140,000 teachers who were a part of Teachers Syndicate, a Jordanian teachers’ union, led a strike against the government demanding increased wages for their work. The result was a compromise in which the government explained that teachers nationwide would see a minimum wage increase based on their tenure and position as educators. This halted teachers’ protests in Jordan for the rest of the 2019 academic year, but tensions have risen yet again as the 2020 school year approaches.

Rising Tensions

As the effects of COVID-19 began to harm the nation economically, the Jordanian government made the decision to freeze all public sector pay increases in April 2020, which included the pay increases that it promised to teachers and educators as a result of the prior September’s teachers’ protests in Jordan. The government rationalized this situation due to the unanticipated and detrimental effects the pandemic had on the country’s economy. What resulted was a resurgence of the teacher’s demands from the previous year, and Teacher’s Syndicate began preparing to take action against the government’s decision.

Unfortunately, the demands of the teachers’ union did not make it too far. After months of political action, the government issued a ban on the operation of the union for two years and arrested all 13 council members of the union on July 25, 2020. In response, teachers of the now-disbanded union rallied in protests across the nation to refute the unlawful action the government took to arrest these advocates of fair pay for educators. At these protests, police detained nearly 1,000 teachers on the grounds of new coronavirus legislation that prevented the gathering of large groups of people. Now, as schools are to reopen while navigating the difficulties of education in times of social distancing, many schools do not have teachers.

Jordan’s Education System

The education system of Jordan is in a unique state. Even though 98% of people over the age of 15-years-old are literate, the country has seen a 15.4% decrease in the number of students attending primary school during the past 15 years. This is mostly due to the lack of funding that Jordan’s government has granted to the education system, as education only receives 11.6% of total government funding. The poor salaries of teachers reflect this, which has made the occupation of being an educator a selfless act, as it is not a position that offers a high wage or financial security.

Many teachers live frugal lifestyles, and the lack of teachers in the education system has had a negative effect on the percentage of the population that completes both primary and secondary education. Often, education and poverty link together, and as the number of Jordanian students in school has decreased, the country has experienced a 1.3% increase in those living below the poverty line.

Looking Ahead

The current situation in Jordan, however, is not as meek as it sounds. The members of the teachers’ union are of diverse backgrounds that other unions across the country do not necessarily reflect. This diverse group has united members of different communities within Jordan to fight for the justice that teachers deserve. The peaceful protests and advocacy of 2019’s protests helped Teachers Syndicate garner national attention and motivate the government to decide to increase the wages of hardworking educators.

Even though the current protests are still fighting the same battle, Jordanians possess resiliency and determination, as their efforts paid off in the past. In a country that could be slowly moving towards poverty as national education decreases, these protests shed light on a valid concern within the government of Jordan. Jordan must prioritize education, and educators are making it known that the first step towards better national education is fair compensation for those who begin the education in the classroom.

The teachers’ protests in Jordan have also garnered global attention. Education International, a global teachers’ union, has also been urging the Jordanian government to free the board members it arrested. Teachers Syndicate also continues to grow as an influential union in Jordan, with a total of 140,000 members since its founding in 2011.

– Evan Coleman
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in JordanHomelessness is a major issue that almost all countries face around the world. There are many explanations for high rates of homelessness, such as mental health, addiction, unemployment, previous imprisonment and more. However, Jordan presents some of the lowest rates of homelessness across the entire world. In fact, homelessness in Jordan ceases to exist.

In 2017, the Ministry of Social Development in Jordan only reported sixteen cases of homelessness from 2000-2017. The vast majority of these cases (15/16) were accredited to mental health problems, and the sixteenth case consisted of a man who was unemployed and had recently lost his family.

Additionally, all sixteen of these individuals were taken care of and are no longer homeless. The Ministry of Social Development worked to place these citizens in mental health facilities or reconnect them with family members who can help them.

Reasons Why Jordan Has Low Rate of Homelessness

One of the main explanations for a low rate of homelessness in Jordan is its collectivist, tribal culture. A study conducted by Joshua Ahearn reveals that the Jordanian government is not responsible for solving issues of homelessness and instead, homelessness is remedied by family and community members.

Ahearn discusses how Jordanian tribal culture prioritizes taking care of family and members of a neighborhood regardless of an individual’s situation. For example, community members place shame on families who struggle with addiction. As a result, families take it upon themselves to help their own who may be struggling and bring them out of homelessness. Communities, or “tribal members” as Ahearn calls them are rather large so there are always people with resources that are willing to help.

How Jordanians View Homeless Individuals

Additionally, Ahearn created a survey in order to observe how citizens treat homeless people in their neighborhood, another part of Jordan, or even a non-Jordanian homeless citizen. This study showed that the vast majority of people take action rather than just passing by a struggling individual.

For instance, the findings explained that when approaching a homeless person in their neighborhood, citizens are “extremely likely to give money or engage in other actions such as informing the public or inviting them into their home.” Furthermore, for citizens outside of their community or non-Jordanian citizens, people are more likely to call a social service organization to get help or assistance. The Ministry of Social Development is the main organization that directly helps these individuals escape homelessness rather quickly, largely by contacting family members or a mental health facility.

Impact of Collectivist Culture on Homelessness Rates

Overall, homelessness in Jordan does not exist consistently. The main reason for the lack of homelessness can be traced to the strong tribal and community ties that are present throughout Jordan. Citizens work together to eradicate all causes of homelessness and as a result, the government does not need to combat homelessness with structural programs; in fact, government interference and other organizations have “no impact” on homelessness rates.

This approach would be rather difficult to implement in other countries since Jordan’s lack of homelessness is rooted in cultural values and community which could clash with existing values and priorities of other countries. In particular, a study conducted in the United States and South Korea compared the impact of a collectivist (South Korea) and individualist (United States) culture on homelessness. This study revealed that South Korea’s collectivist culture instilled a reliance on peers and family members for overcoming homelessness and strategies for helping themselves. Contrarily, United States citizens utilized social services and other organizations more than friends and family.

As a result, collectivist cultures, such as Africa and Asia, can learn from Jordan and South Korea when working to reduce their homeless populations. While all collectivist cultures may not be identical to Jordan in their lack of homelessness, investing in and encouraging neighborhoods and communities to help their own can yield positive results and less homelessness.

How Adopting a Jordanian Approach to Homelessness Can Help

Furthermore, many governments still have a Ministry of Social Development or an organization like it that can provide more services to those who require additional resources. Therefore, if governments and NGOs want and need to become involved in reducing homelessness, increasing support to these organizations can be beneficial. Then, governments can encourage reaching out to service groups like the Ministry of Social Development when they see a neighbor or friend in need if they do not have the ability to care for the homeless on their own.

This strategy can also be utilized by more individual, “Western cultures” like the United States. It is unlikely that the approach to homelessness in Jordan would carry over into these cultures. Instead, individualist countries can pump money and resources into their version of the Ministry and Social Development and teach citizens to request aid when they come across a homeless citizen. However, this approach would require breaking the stigma associated with homelessness and the “laziness” that many individualist cultures attribute to this way of life. But the Jordanian method can be altered to fit the needs of each culture in order to see a decrease in homelessness.

Sophia McWilliams
Photo: Pixabay

Syrian Refugees in Jordan
Recently, the Syrian War has caused a large influx of refugees to make their way to Jordan. Since the start of the conflict, Jordan has seen an increase of about 1.3 million Syrian refugees. Of these Syrian refugees in Jordan, about 17% live in dangerous conditions within displacement camps. The other 83% may also face extreme levels of poverty and often cannot establish a livelihood to feed their families.

Hunger Reduction for Syrian Refugees in Jordan

Hunger is particularly an issue for Syrian refugees who live in Jordanian camps. In comparison, hunger for average Jordanians is relatively minimal. The World Food Programme (WFP)’s Integrated Context Analysis (ICA) demonstrates the differences in hunger throughout the area. The WFP’s ICA is a map that includes analysis of which populations are most vulnerable and food insecure. The population of Syrian refugees in Jordan is currently the most desperate in terms of need and food insecurity.

This ICA can help through the identification of broad national programmatic strategies, which can consist of resilience strengthening, disaster risk mitigation and implementing social protections. ICAs can also identify sectors wherein food security monitoring and assessment are necessary. The ICA categorizes the country’s districts into categories that it labels one through five, representing which areas face the most critical food insecurity needs. On the map, the Syrian refugee camps on the border of Jordan showed the most severe essential food security issues.

Syrian Refugee Displacement Camps

Displacement camps for Syrian refugees exist at the edge of Jordan and Syria. Salah Daraghmeh, the Médecins Sans Frontières representative for Syrian refugees, commented on their high risk. He stated that Syrian refugees who have escaped death from conflict and war, become more at risk of dying from preventable conditions, like dehydration and illness, during the process of resettling in Jordan. Refugees at the border of Jordan often sleep in the desert, where they have limited access to food, water and medical supplies. Additionally, refugees use holes in the ground as toilets and have to live in makeshift tents. Refugees frequently die from dehydration, scorpion stings and drinking contaminated water.

Organizations Helping Syrian Refugees

Action Against Hunger is one organization that has taken a stand to end hunger for Syrian refugees in Jordan.  The most urgent need for these refugees is providing access to livelihoods in Jordan, which should enable them to feed their families. Action Against Hunger was able to open a base in December 2019 in Madaba, Jordan. This base provides water, hygiene, food, sanitation and potential livelihoods for Syrian refugees. It also offers waste management programs and “Cash for Work” to enhance the lives of Syrian refugees.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) also does valuable work in Jordan. The IRC focuses primarily on health care, mobile outreach and empowerment/employment programs. On a practical level, it offers skill training, counseling, recreational activities, cash assistance and employment opportunities. The IRC’s goals for 2020 include improving refugee’s health, safety, education and economic well-being. Its action plan for 2020 includes focusing on these goals by providing direct aid. The IRC’s mission is to grant assistance to those whose livelihoods disaster and conflict have ruined so that they may survive, recover and become independent again. Its efforts are particularly significant in repairing the lives of Syrian refugees, who have suffered immensely.

After fleeing life in Syria, refugees face additional struggles while living in Jordan. From food scarcity, dangerous conditions and difficulties adapting to Jordanian life, Syrian refugees have to combat many issues even after leaving their war-torn country. To help overcome these problems, the Jordanian government has partnered with Action Against Hunger and the International Rescue Committee. These organizations seek to provide a resilience-based approach to help Syrian refugees in Jordan.

Hannah Bratton
Photo: Flickr

The country of Jordan is the fifth most water-scarce country in the world, following Iran, and is labeled at an “extremely high” risk level. With water scarcity comes multiple risk factors, including water-borne illnesses caused by unsafe drinking water, diseases from a lack of sanitation and death by dehydration. In addition, water scarcity contributes to an increase in sexual exploitation and rape, as children, especially young girls, need to physically travel miles every day through deserts and dangerous terrain to retrieve water for their families. This then contributes to a decrease in education among girls and perpetuates the cycle of poverty in areas in Jordan and globally. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Jordan.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Jordan

  1. Climate change affects sanitation in Jordan. In most areas of the country, populations are not located near major water sources and water must be transported from distances up to 325 kilometers away. With the rise of climate change causing flash floods, unpredictable and extreme weather patterns and increased temperatures, Jordan faces difficulties accessing necessary sanitation services.
  2. Jordan faces severe water scarcity. According to UNICEF, “Jordan’s annual renewable water resources are less than 100m3 [meters cubed] per person.” This is 400 meters cubed below the threshold of 500 meters cubed, which defines water scarcity.

  3. As a result of an increase in population and industrial and agricultural capacity, Jordan is dealing with severe aquifer depletion. All 12 of Jordan’s main aquifers are declining at rates exceeding 20 meters per year, well beyond their rechargeable volumes. This is especially alarming as 60% of Jordan’s water comes from the ground.

  4. Those in vulnerable and rural areas lack sanitation resources. Proper hygiene norms, such as handwashing and showering, are taught and practiced in households. However, those in more vulnerable and rural areas often lack soap and body wash to stay clean and healthy.

  5. A large percentage of the population in Jordan don’t have access to water. Only 58% of households have direct access to a sewer connection. In comparison to the nearly half of the population in Jordan, only 0.46% of the United States population does not have access to proper plumbing services. This is an especially prevalent issue in rural areas in Jordan, where only 6% of households have a sewer connection.

  6. The Syrian refugee crisis has greatly increased the population in Jordan. As Jordan borders Syria, it has become a safe haven for more than 670,000 refugees of the Syrian civil war. Having accepted the second-highest amount of refugees in the world compared to its population in 2018, this sudden increase in population means added pressure on resources and infrastructure, as well as an increase in air pollution and waste production.

  7. The water network in Jordan has inadequate infrastructure, needing major rehabilitation. Pumps and sewer lines are old and aging. Unfortunately, Jordan’s already scarce water supply is paying the price, with up to 70% of water transported from aquifers through old pumps being lost in the northern areas of Jordan due to water leakage.
  8. The increase in population, agriculture and industry in Jordan has led to an increase in pollution and toxicity in Jordan’s water supply. Upstream abstractions of groundwater have led to an increase in salinity. Unregulated pesticides and fertilizers used for farming have exposed the water supply to dangerous nitrates and phosphorus through runoff. In addition, it is reported that about 70% of Jordan’s spring water is biologically contaminated.

  9. Foreign aid plays a positive role in improving sanitation in Jordan. To mitigate the aforementioned effects threatening Jordan’s water supply and working towards achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 6, USAID works in conjunction with the government of Jordan to build sustainable water and wastewater infrastructure, train hundreds of water experts in Jordan, promote water conservation and strengthen water governance.

  10. Profound progress is seen in the increase in access to water, hygiene services and sanitation in Jordan. From 2000 to 2015, 2,595,670 people gained access to safely managed water services and 2,212,419 people gained access to safely managed sanitation services. In addition, homelessness in Jordan is very rare, meaning open defecation and the illnesses associated with homelessness are less prevalent.

Despite Jordan’s desert climate, clean water and efficient sanitation are achievable and make up the groundwork of global prosperity. Sanitation in Jordan is of the utmost priority in ensuring that Jordan can become a durable consumer and competitor of leading nations.

 Sharon Shenderovskiy
Photo: Flickr