HIV/AIDS in JordanForearms of Change Center to Enable Community (FOCCEC) is an NGO based in Amman, Jordan, working to help people with HIV/AIDS in Jordan. Through collaborative efforts with several Jordanian health service providers and partners, FOCCEC provides HIV-positive people with access to treatment and care resources. Through a variety of services, FOCCEC aims to support an often underserved and stigmatized community.

HIV/AIDS in Jordan and the MENA Region

With an HIV prevalence rate of 0.1%, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has the fewest HIV cases per capita in the world. In Jordan specifically, this rate is less than 0.1% and the new case count is fairly low. Between the beginning of 2020 and February 2021, Jordan reported 21 new HIV cases. HIV cases do not occur evenly among populations in the MENA region. Sex workers and people who use injectable drugs are at an elevated risk of contracting HIV. However, the total case numbers are low compared to other regions.

While HIV impacts few people living in Jordan, those who are HIV-positive often experience stigma and lack access to proper medical treatment. A survey of Jordanian women found that more than 70% would not want to purchase vegetables from someone with HIV. Instead of receiving medical care, solitary confinement is common among incarcerated individuals with HIV/AIDS in Jordan who are not Jordanian nationals.

Non-citizens may be less likely to seek treatment because of legal concerns. Jordanian healthcare providers are required to report the HIV status of patients to the Jordanian government. The Jordanian government typically deports non-nationals who test positive for HIV. Jordan’s deportation policies impact asylum seekers needing HIV treatment. In early 2020, an HIV-positive Iraqi refugee did not seek treatment because he feared deportation.

FOCCEC Supports HIV-Positive People

FOCCEC works to help people with HIV access testing services and assists in navigating the treatment process. The organization travels outside of Amman to regions of Jordan such as Irbid, Mafraq and Zarqa to increase people’s access to HIV testing services.

Following individuals’ diagnoses, FOCCEC provides treatment and counseling services. It also helps patients with other sexually transmitted diseases. FOCCEC strives to ensure that refugees and non-Jordanians can access HIV treatment services. It also offers monetary support for patients with financial barriers to treatment as a way of making healthcare accessible and affordable.

Preventing HIV Transmission in Jordan

Historically, most cases of HIV/AIDS transmission occurred in other countries. However, local transmission is increasing, particularly among people 20-24 years old. New HIV/AIDS cases are also common in people aged between 30-39, representing 25% of new HIV/AIDS cases in Jordan.

FOCCEC implements programs to improve HIV awareness in Jordan, an initiative that could help reduce local transmission rates. A survey of young adults in Jordan concluded that only 25% of respondents knew that condoms help prevent HIV transmission, suggesting that young Jordanians could benefit from better education on HIV transmission and protection.

FOCCEC is a change-driven organization working to create a world where vulnerable communities in Jordan can access the resources needed to meet their medical and social needs. Through its efforts, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Jordan can reduce even further.

Caroline Kuntzman
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid in JordanThe U.S. provides foreign and humanitarian aid to countries around the world. In the country of Jordan where more than one million of its people live in poverty, humanitarian aid goes a long way. Providing aid from the United States means stronger U.S.-Jordan relations. Of the top 10 countries that received the most aid from the United States in 2019, Jordan was ranked at number three. Without a doubt, the U.S. provides for the overall well-being of this crucial ally through humanitarian aid in Jordan.

The Importance of Humanitarian Aid

The U.S. provided $1.5 billion worth of humanitarian aid to Jordan in 2020. The U.S. has additionally provided $1.7 billion to specifically help Syrian refugees in Jordan from the time the Syrian crisis began. This aid has been extremely crucial considering that many Syrian refugees have fled to Jordan in search of safety. Some of the aid contributes to updating medical facilities and enhancing critical infrastructure, which helps support the refugee crisis.

The U.S. and Jordan are also part of a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding that both countries signed in 2018. Under this Memorandum, the U.S. will provide $6.375 billion worth of assistance to Jordan over a span of five years. Much of this assistance helps improve infrastructure and contributes to the construction of schools across Jordan. The United States has also trained Jordanian citizens in various skills in the U.S. itself. By doing this, the U.S. is giving Jordanians a chance to take the skills back to their own country to start businesses or to apply for higher-skilled jobs in Jordan, which will all stimulate the economy of Jordan.

An Increasing Population

The humanitarian aid and other forms of assistance that the U.S. provides to Jordan are important for a variety of reasons. Jordan has also become home to refugees that have fled from conflict in Iraq. In just the last 20 years, there has been a population increase of 10 million within the country. Such a large increase in population in just a short time has raised the cost of living within Jordan. The healthcare system of the country has been stressed along with the education system and the available water supply due to this intense population growth. Humanitarian aid in Jordan is all the more important because it helps alleviate the strain.

How Providing Aid Benefits the US

Humanitarian aid in Jordan helps the U.S. in several ways. Both countries have similar values and goals with regard to peacekeeping, such as a positive Israel-Palestine relationship. Additionally, both countries want “an end to violent extremism that threatens the security of Jordan, the region and the entire globe.” Jordan’s commitment to bring lasting peace between Israel and Palestine and eradicate terrorism in the region assists broader U.S. interests. The reason Jordan is so invested in the Israel-Palestine relationship is that Jordan is home to many Palestinians, most of which are the descendants of Palestinian refugees. Therefore, Jordan feels a deep sense of responsibility to the Palestinian people.

U.S. humanitarian aid in Jordan has far-reaching benefits. Aid is vital to the well-being of the Jordanian people, its Syrian refugees and the broader relationship between the U.S. and Jordan.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

refugee work in Jordan
In a message to his donors, Helping Hand for Relief and Development (HHRD) CEO Javaid Siddiqui stated, “We are committed to extending a helping hand to our brothers and sisters in need around the world and hope you will continue to be our partner in this journey of service to humanity.” Though the organization has worked in more than 85 countries, Helping Hand has consistently engaged in refugee work in Jordan. Its work in the country is not only admirable but also a reflection of its impactful, long-term service to all of humanity.

In 2013, HHRD established an office in Amman, Jordan as the headquarters for HHRD-MENA. HHRD-MENA is a branch of Helping Hand that focuses on providing relief to the Middle East and North Africa. Since then, Helping Hand has provided clean water, proper food, education, development programs and stable homes for different Syrian and Palestinian refugees throughout Jordan.

Refugees in Jordan

Surrounded by countries suffering from conflict and disaster, Jordan hosts the second-highest number of refugees when comparing population sizes. Since the Syrian war in 2011, it has almost 1.4 million Syrian refugees. As of 2019, around 650,000 of them still have refugee status. Though most of the 2 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan have received citizenship, 370,000 are currently living in refugee camps in different parts of Jordan. The remaining 84,000 refugees currently living in Jordan are from Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan.

Most of the Syrian refugees live in urban areas and 85% of them are living below the poverty line. Many of the Syrian and Palestinian refugees in the city are not only suffering from poverty but also psychological trauma and lack of educational opportunities. Around 10,000 Syrian refugees are between the border of Syria and Jordan. They live in informal settlements, where access to basic needs and services is minimal and relies on humanitarian aid.

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Abdullah Sheikh, a participant in Helping Hand’s annual Youth for Jordan trip, described the different refugee situations he witnessed during his 2018 visit. “There are various camps, like the organized ones run by the government, which are usually huge. The camps we went to were people who would cross the border and then prop up a makeshift tent. And when I say tent I mean like a towel or a big blanket and a pair of sticks or something.”

Building Temporary Homes

According to Abdullah Sheikh, part of Helping Hand’s refugee work in Jordan involves providing decent shelter to refugees living outside the organized, official camps. During his visit, he assisted in the establishment of what Helping Hand calls a “micro-home.” These caravans replace the handmade shelter of the refugees, providing them with a temporary home until they are safe to return to their homeland. Within the micro-homes are two rooms, a small kitchen, running water and a toilet. Each home costs $5,000.

To install the homes, the team uses a crane to lift the micro-home out of the back of a truck. Then, all the members work together to place the home on rocks to keep it stable. Since the start of the project in 2016, Helping Hand has established 1,000 micro-homes. These homes have benefitted more than 5,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan as well as Lebanon.

Supplying Food and Water

When describing the food situation for the refugees, Abdullah Sheikh noted that it was “different depending on the camp.” He explained, “The [unofficial camps] in the desert, they really just rely on whatever people give them. [The refugees] just have a big tank of water in the middle of the camp and Helping Hand comes and refills it. And the food, Helping Hand would just bring them bread, oil and other things they can use to make food.”

Helping Hand’s food refugee work in Jordan also includes a Ramadan Iftar Tent. There, it provides Iftar meals for families every year. In 2020, it provided 160 families with proper meals. Besides the Iftar Tent, Helping Hand also distributes food packages and donated meat to refugees throughout Jordan all year round. In just May 2020, the team distributed a total of 3,000 food packages. Helping Hand also provides drinking water within the food packages.

Developing Programs and Schools

A big part of Helping Hand’s refugee work in Jordan involves educating children. Another major component is providing resources for adults to develop life skills. Just in 2019, Helping Hand provided 800 men and women in Jordan with life skill training through its development program.

Many of the women participated in the development programs near the HHRD-MENA office in Amman. The purpose of this specific program is to teach women different careers to earn a living. These careers include sewing, other crafts and computer training. With knowledge of finance and different skills, the women from this program can secure an income by opening up their own businesses and/or obtaining a job. Abdullah Sheikh says that his team had the opportunity to buy some of the products of the current trainees.

Through the Education Support Program, Helping Hand also provided 1,590 Syrian refugee children with basic education scholarships and tutoring in 2020. The organization gave seven students four-year scholarships to the University of Jordan.

Spending Time with Children

“My favorite part was when we played soccer in the camps in Mafraq near the Syrian border, with some of the kids there. It was just fun,” said Abdullah Sheikh. Throughout his visit with Helping Hand, he spent a lot of time playing with the refugee children his team came in contact with. “Some of the camps we went to twice. So, we bought [the kids] a soccer ball and then played with them again, because the ball they had was super messed up.”

During their visit to the refugee orphanages located in Amman, Jordan, the 2018 Youth for Jordan team went to a strip mall with some of the orphans. There, they played games and enjoyed rides. Another one of the days, the team spent the day with young Palestinian boys in a skills development program. Later during the week, they drove out to the Dead Sea where they hung out at the beach.

From building homes to providing support to helping children, all of Helping Hand’s refugee work in Jordan is a reflection of the organization’s hard work and dedication. In Jordan and around the world, humanitarian organizations have the ability to make a significant impact on the lives of refugees.

Maryam Tori
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Jordan
On Wednesday, March 3, 2021, Jordan’s Lower House of Parliament approved a draft law to make amendments to the nation’s Anti-Human-Trafficking Law. The newly adjusted law aims to reduce human trafficking in Jordan by increasing the penalties for human traffickers, while also providing further support to victims and persons these crimes affect. Additionally, the Lower House established a special fund that compensates trafficking victims for the harm they received. According to Jordan’s Minister of State, Mahmoud Kharabsheh, “the draft law protects young beggars who are exploited and protects people from bonded labor.”

The Situation

This initiative aptly responds to the 2020 U.S. Trafficking in Person’s Report on Jordan, which declared that the country did not meet the requirements for the elimination of trafficking. The report designated Jordan as a Tier 2 country, meaning that although the country has not met the standards for reducing human trafficking, it is making significant efforts to do so.

In 2020, the Jordanian government made several efforts to prevent human trafficking, including distributing relevant cautionary information to all foreign migrant workers. However, the in Person’s report also mentioned that the government did not make any efforts to decrease commercial sex acts and the prostitution of minors. For this reason among others, it is evident from the 2020 report that Jordan’s government still has a long way to go in implementing anti-human-trafficking legislation. The country’s new Anti-Human-Trafficking Law passed on Wednesday, March 3, 2021, is a timely step in the right direction.

Trafficking Victims in Jordan

The victims of human trafficking in Jordan are primarily migrant workers from South and Southeast Asia, East Africa, Egypt and Syria. Foreign migrant workers are the most vulnerable to human trafficking due to a variety of reasons. Oftentimes these people have left their home country to escape dangerous conditions or abuse, or in the hope of earning more money. Syrian refugees in Jordan are a prominent example of a vulnerable population not only in search of safe living conditions but requiring jobs as well. Because many of Jordan’s foreign workers are undocumented, their illegal status makes them unlikely to complain about their employers or leave in fear of experiencing deportation. The many disadvantages that foreign migrant workers in Jordan face make them especially vulnerable to human trafficking.

Although it is difficult to quantify human trafficking in Jordan, some relevant statistics exist that help to illustrate the scope of the issue. A study that the Jordanian Women’s Union in 2020 published found that “the number of human trafficking cases in Jordan that the police had dealt with between 2009 and 2019 was 224.” Of these cases, “forced domestic labor topped the figures with 55.8 percent… while sexual exploitation cases represented 6.3 percent, followed by exploitation of prostitution cases with 5.8 percent.” Considering that 800,000 undocumented foreign workers had employment in Jordan in 2016 alone, the number of human trafficking cases that the police dealt with is disproportionately small.

In conjunction with the study’s findings, Muhannad Dweikat, one of the experts who prepared the JWU’s study, emphasized the need for more anti-trafficking legislation in Jordan. He remarked, “Based on the figures… it is important to create a national mechanism for human trafficking cases, which would be considered as a reliable reference when dealing with such cases.”

Looking Ahead

Human trafficking in Jordan is a big problem that requires more national attention in order for the country to move out of the Tier 2 Watch list. The majority of human trafficking victims in Jordan are foreign migrant workers, however, an upwards trend has taken place seeing that, “in 2019, the government identified nine trafficking victims, which represented a significant decrease from the 40 identified victims in 2018.” This data, along with the solidification of new anti-human trafficking legislation in Jordan, illustrates that the humanitarian crisis has gained more prominence within the country. Jordan is taking strides to end human trafficking, and its recent successes prove it.

– Eliza Kirk
Photo: Flickr

Tackling Postpartum Depression in JordanIn recent years, there has been a multitude of technological innovations implemented in low-to-middle income countries (LMICS) to alleviate poverty and enhance health outcomes. However, mental health, and specifically maternal mental health, has been largely unaddressed. Postpartum depression (PPD) is one of the most common complications of childbearing and disproportionately affects women in LMICs. In Jordan, postpartum depression affects approximately 22% of women. Furthermore, the rate of mothers experiencing mild PPD is even higher, affecting 1 in 2 women. With its flourishing influence, social media has the ability to facilitate psychological support and health education. Popular online platforms present a key opportunity to support Jordanian mothers’ experiences with PPD.

Social Media As A Promising Tool for Public Health

Agencies and relief programs have struggled to identify and develop effective intervention programs for risk factors associated with mental illness. Social media is increasingly used in Jordan, and its influence continues to rise. According to a Pew Research Center study on social media use in developing countries, 8 out of 10 Jordanian adults report using social networking sites- meaning that of the 8 people who use the internet, 94% are active on social media. These rates are higher than among even adults in the US, where only 69% use social networks.

One of the most predominant risk factors for PPD among Jordanian mothers is the lack of social support due to stigma. Social media is uniquely poised to provide social support and reduce feelings of isolation in post-partum mothers. This presents a key opportunity to alleviate the prevalence of postpartum depression in Jordan.

With the large presence of social media in Jordan, pursuing social media for mental health surveillance, research and prevention can be very efficacious. Recent innovative research has revealed social networking sites as a promising tool for public health. Using networking platforms and monitoring posts, postpartum changes and behaviors of mothers have been identified. Other noted uses include dimensions of emotion, social engagement, social network and linguistics patterns.

Observing and engaging mothers’ presence on social media presents an opportunity to use social media to identify women at risk of postpartum depression, which is significantly underreported among many populations. A survey study has shown that the adoption of social media sites can help postpartum women in developing countries to feel more secure and confident while seeking advice and information related to mental health struggles. Additionally, a California State University study revealed the positive impact on individuals that experience postpartum depression, finding that most participants reported social media offered emotional, informative and validating support.

Supporting Through Social Media

On the ground, organizations are making strides to relieve the prevalence of PPD in Jordan through social media. Via online platforms, Jordanian mothers can open up about their experiences. Mariella Suleiman is part of Postpartum Support International (PSI) – Jordan, an organization that provides resources, education and advocacy for research and legislation to support perinatal mental health. Recently, she spoke with the Borgen Project. She said, “Sometimes they [women] just don’t know what’s going on. Understanding what is happening [expiriencing PPD symptoms] and that that can be normal, is already a big relief.”d

PSI Jordan’s social media accounts are an easily accessible and effective way to distribute information. These accounts provide reliable services. Additionally, they offer a sense of support for mothers who may be fearful of opening up to close family or friends. Along with a team of volunteers and a local psychologist, Mariella leads support groups. There, they provide new mothers with a safe, non-judgemental space for them to open up about their mental health struggles. As PSI-Coordinator of Jordan, she started a Facebook and Instagram page and posts awareness videos. Moreover, she collaborates with local “mom bloggers” and celebrities to raise awareness of PPD and connect with mothers.

Mariella discussed the stigma surrounding maternal mental illness and postpartum depression in Jordan and the challenges of finding support with little existing access to therapy. This highlights the importance of support groups and facilitating dialogue for women to open up without fear of discrimination.

During COVID-19, feelings of loneliness and isolation are at their peak for mothers struggling with PPD and anxiety. However, PSI Jordan continues to shine a light on this issue and support these mothers via online video platforms. Mothers can attend every Saturday, and they discuss topics related to mental health and parenting while supporting each other. They continue to receive very positive feedback from the women involved. Mariella and PSI Jordan gave women the ability to organize themselves into a network that educates women about leaning on, supporting and empowering themselves and each other.

Looking Forward

When describing the positive impact of support groups, Mariella stated, “Just knowing that there are other moms there and then just listening to each other- it makes a big difference.” Social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram can complement the work of organizations. By using online community support groups to connect, mothers experiencing PPD can provide each other with support systems. Providing access to support groups through social media is a key approach that can help struggling mothers around the world.

Samantha Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Jordan's Vaccine Rollout
As countries around the world continue their COVID-19 vaccine rollout, refugees have experienced exclusion from nearly half of them. One country that is vaccinating refugees is Jordan. With one of the largest refugee populations in the world, Jordan has set an important example for global vaccine accessibility. Here is some information about Jordan’s vaccine rollout.

Jordan’s Vaccine Rollout for Refugees

Jordan has begun its vaccine distribution plan, promising to provide vaccinations to anyone living in the country, including refugees, free of charge, as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported on January 14, 2020. Due to the country’s large refugee population, it needs vaccinations in order to achieve countrywide immunity to the virus. Jordan has received one million doses of the vaccine and two million through the COVAX Facility. The COVAX Facility is an initiative the World Health Organization (WHO) supports. The COVAX Facility implements mass vaccine production in low-income countries. Jordan has already begun vaccinating in clinics across the country.

So far, Jordan has vaccinated a reported 187 refugees. However, a spokesperson for the UNHCR expects that number to be higher. While the UNHCR is not supplying vaccines to countries, it is advocating for refugees to gain access to them.

“We have been advocating for the inclusion of refugees within the vaccination campaign since the pandemic was declared, so we are incredibly grateful they are now included,” said UNHCR spokesperson Kathryn Mahoney. “The main way we are supporting is through raising awareness of the vaccine among refugee populations and transporting refugees who live in camps to their nearest vaccination health clinics when they have appointments.”

COVID-19 Containment in Jordan

Jordan succeeded in preventing a massive spread of the virus in 2020 after imposing a strict lockdown when reports emerged of just a few cases in March 2020. Residents could only leave their homes between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. and could only leave for necessary, socially distant activities like grocery shopping.

The strict lockdown worked as the number of COVID-19 cases in Jordan remained low. The country reported under 100 cases a day from March to September 2020. September marked a month-long surge of cases, peaking in November with almost 8,000 cases in one day. There were multiple lockdowns in October and November in order to slow the rapid spread, and cases started declining in January 2021.

Jordan’s vaccine rollout will continue the decline of COVID-19. This requires vaccinations to be available for everyone residing in the country.

Refugees in Jordan

Jordan has one of the largest refugee populations in the world, primarily from neighboring countries. As of May 2019, 755,050 refugees lived throughout the country. Nearly 665,000 of these refugees are from Syria, having fled the country’s civil war. While 84% of Jordanian refugees live in urban areas, 16% live in refugee camps. The two largest refugee camps are Za’atari and Azraq, hosting 80,000 and 40,000 people, respectively.

For the first six months of the pandemic, the camps reported no major outbreaks. The camps had required a 14-day quarantine in an isolation tent specifically for refugees returning from areas of Jordan with COVID-19 cases.

Once reports of cases in the Azraq camp started in September 2020, isolation tents began housing infected people in order to prevent further spread to the rest of the camp population. Cases have remained low with 573 reported cases. However, the close proximity of refugee housing still poses a risk of infection.

Refugee Vaccinations Worldwide

Almost 26 million refugees live around the world, half of whom are children. Out of the 90 countries currently committed to vaccine rollouts, only 51-57% have said they would include refugees. This leaves millions of people at risk.

Without mass vaccinations in vulnerable populations, there will be little defense against the virus, and worldwide protection against it will experience a delay. Jordan’s vaccine rollout sets an important example of refugees receiving access to vaccinations against COVID-19 and increases the vaccine’s availability in clinics across the country.

– June Noyes
Photo: Flickr

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