Since November 1998, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been cooperating with the Jordan Ministry of Health (MoH) to provide technical assistance and develop surveillance systems for health risk areas in Jordan. The systems track and analyze infectious diseases, mortality rates and risk factors for chronic non-communicable diseases.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) is a private research center focused on calculating statistical population growth and health data. As a component of the University of Washington research institute, the IHME provides “comparable measurement of the world’s most important health problems and evaluates the strategies used to address them.” Jordan’s population (7.8 million) continues to rise, as well as chronic non-communicable diseases.

In 2015, the IHME reported 20,114 total deaths in Jordan, including all sexes and all ages. According to the center’s 2015 non-communicable disease statistics, the top diseases in Jordan are:

  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Cerebrovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Congenital defects
  • Chronic kidney disease

The top diseases in Jordan are primarily caused by high body-mass index, dietary risks, high fasting plasma glucose, tobacco smoke and elevated systolic blood pressure. Jordan’s top disease, Ischemic heart disease, is the cause of 15.98 percent of total deaths in the country and has remained in the top spot since 2005. The chronic disease occurs when the coronary arteries narrow, restricting blood and oxygen flow into the heart. Certain risk factors initiate the heart disease, damaging the inner layers of the coronary arteries. The primary culprit is smoking.

In 2013, the Tobacco Atlas reported that 43.3 percent of men and 8.5 percent women smoke tobacco in Jordan, both of which are higher than the average percent in middle-income countries. Smoking increases the likelihood of blood clots, reduces exercise tolerance, and increases blood pressure.

The CDC’s Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) has developed a system to successfully survey and analyze non-communicable diseases. Through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), Jordan became the first Middle Eastern country to implement the program, which stemmed three national health surveys (2002, 2004, 2007). The program’s objectives are to progress the CDC’s global public health mission to respond to the high burden of noncommunicable diseases. By implementing the program, Jordan is one step closer to combating these hazardous diseases.

Madison O’Connell

Photo: Flickr

Six years of civil war has resulted in more than five million displaced Syrian refugees, who are now distributed among neighboring countries. Aid agencies continue to urge the global community to provide further assistance as the humanitarian crisis escalates.

Syrian civil unrest emerged in March of 2011 in the city of Deraa, after a group of teenagers “who painted revolutionary slogans on a school wall” (BBC) were arrested and tortured. Pro-democracy protesters marched in the streets and were subject to open gunfire from security forces. Several people were killed, which only fueled the fight against government oppression.

Thousands of protesters were demanding President Bashar al-Assad’s resignation and marching in the streets throughout Syria. Eventually, opposition supporters began to arm themselves. Initially, those in opposition of the government carried weapons in self-defense. As the struggle wore on, rebels began to rid security forces and fight for control of major cities, towns, and rural areas. The country descended into a civil war.

The U.N.-Arab League Envoy for Syria estimates that 400,000 people have died in the Syrian conflict, which has lasted longer than World War II.

Founded in 1950, the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) works to guarantee safe refuge for asylum seekers fleeing persecution, brutality or war in their native countries. The UNHCR’s Inter-agency Information Sharing Portal shows that five million Syrian refugees have been registered in neighboring countries.

The sharing portal reports Turkey as the top host country, providing aid and refuge for 2.9 million displaced individuals. Turkey, which shares a border with both Iraq and Syria, registered nearly half of the five million Syrian refugees. Additional host countries include Lebanon, Jordan, Germany and Saudi Arabia.

Due to IS terrorist attacks, refugees resettled in Europe face growing scrutiny. This prompted the UNHCR to strongly urge Europeans in France and Germany not to “put humanity on a ballot” during this year’s political election. Far-right candidates oppose the influx of refugees seeking asylum in their countries and have vocally objected to being a host country.

Since 2011, Turkey has spent approximately $8.7 billion on providing for the increasing refugee population, which includes education costs. Presently, the top host country has integrated 300,000 Syrian refugees into the education system. “They are our guests,” Turkish deputy education secretary Yusuf Buyuk states, “They have rights to education under both nations and international law.”

The UNHCR urges the international community to provide financial aid, safe asylum and medical assistance for the millions of displaced individuals who have endured six years of persecution and violence.

Madison O’Connell

Photo: Flickr

Awareness and Prevention Through Art, otherwise known as AptART, is an organization that began in Mozambique and is bringing together artists and activists. The non-profit organization is aiming “to share with conflict-affected and marginalized youth an artistic experience alongside the opportunity to express themselves.”

In 2012, AptART took their concept beyond the borders of Mozambique, working on a project in The Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since then, AptART has been teaming with local and international organizations creating workshops for kids in places such as Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, Palestine and countries in Europe. The art created in these workshops varies; some are large-scale street murals while others are smaller individual works. Through their work, the organization seeks to build awareness and promote prevention while creating messages of hope and positivity.

A recent project the organization has been working on is a street art project in Jordan. Jordan has a large community of refugee children, many coming from Syria. In partnership with local Jordan artist Suhaib Attar, they host street art and mural workshops to introduce kids to the community to color and art as a form of expression. Previously, the organization also held workshops for children in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp.

Director Samantha Robison from AptART told Al Jazeera, “Our aim is to amplify the voices of marginalized groups and put their ideas and identities in the public space. Street artists have an opportunity to convey a message to a large audience in a way that other artists might not. The world is their gallery; it’s art for everyone.”

Art created through these workshops are exhibited locally and throughout the world. All sales go towards funding the organization’s future projects. Some other major organizations that support and collaborate with AptART are UNICEF, ECHO and Mercy Corps.

Shannon Elder

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Jordan
Recent implementation of government programs and grants of foreign aid seek to address infrastructure inefficiency and improve conditions for those still living in poverty in Jordan.

Jordan is a chronically arid country, with less than five percent of land available for farming. For citizens in rural areas, prospects of self-sustainability through farming are limited by the little or no rainfall. Not only do poor farmers have fewer products to sell, they also have less to eat.

Approximately 20 percent of Jordanians live in rural areas where poverty is more prevalent than in urban areas. Approximately 19 percent of the rural population is considered “poor.”

These trends are also compounded by gender inequalities in Jordan. Families headed by women tend to have fewer economic assets than households headed by men. For example, 43 percent of male heads of households receive loans for agricultural development and 14 percent for income-generating activities, while 21 and nine percent of female heads of households receive loans.

According to the 2011-2020 National Employment Strategy, Jordan must overcome several barriers to youth and female employment, including transportation, in order to improve economic conditions for all. Inefficient transport creates disparities between economic city centers like Amman and more rural regions.

These issues reflect some of the obstacles the government’s development program, referred to as Jordan 2025, seeks to address. This initiative began in early 2016 with the Executive Development Plan dedicating nearly $2.5 billion to developmental programs, with almost $300 million devoted to road and transportation development. This focus on improving transportation infrastructure ultimately provides rural citizens with more employment options in major cities.

Beyond rural poverty, one-third of Jordan’s population lives in poverty during at least a quarter of the year. While a 2010 World Bank study found that 14.4 percent of the population lived in poverty, the same study indicated that 18.6 percent of the country’s population experienced transient poverty, including some typically lower-middle and middle-income households.

To help mitigate these issues and boost the slowing economy, the Jordanian government has accepted two loans from the World Bank within the past year. The first, introduced in September 2016, comprised a $300 million package to improve economic opportunities for Jordanians and Syrian refugees.

The second, approved in December 2016, consists of a $25 million contribution from the Global Concessional Financing Facility combined with a $225 million loan to improve energy and water spending as well as improve public service delivery.

“Improving the efficiency of the water and energy sectors, and the consequent savings, will provide the government with the fiscal space needed to invest more in economic development projects and improve the living conditions of citizens,” Jordan’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Imad Fakhoury said in an interview with the World Bank.

While these initiatives and international loans have yet to be fully implemented and their impact analyzed, these investments could potentially help diminish poverty in Jordan.

Casie Wilson

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Jordan
There were 655,833 Syrian refugees registered with the United Nations refugee agency in Jordan in November 2016. Of these immigrants, 87 percent live below the national poverty line, which is equivalent to $95 per person each month. The average debt for Syrian households living outside refugee camps rose to $1,000 each by the end of 2016. In addition, 26 percent reported financial dependence on family members holding exploitative, high-risk or illegal jobs in order to meet basic needs. Education for Syrian refugees in Jordan is a failing system that needs adjustment.

The Syrian refugee crisis remains the most prominent humanitarian disaster in recent history. According to UNICEF, the most fundamental act for reconstructing a stable community is providing equal access to education for Syrian refugees.

Approximately 265,000 out of the nearly 660,000 Syrians registered in Jordan are under the age of 18. The U.N. reports that 97 percent of these children are at risk of not attending school due to financial hardship.

Jordan spends more than 12 percent of its GDP on education, yet the school system is still in need of financial support. The system struggled even before the influx of refugees from Syria.

Regarding access to education for Syrian refugees, the Ministry of Education has opened a number of additional school spaces and relaxed barriers to registration. Consequently, there are now approximately 170,000 refugee children enrolled in the current school year.

The Ministry of Education also created an action plan to open 102 additional double-shift public schools. Thus, the plan will accommodate 50,000 new enrollment spaces. The plan initiated a “catch-up program” administered through public schools. In addition, the plan will operate in conjunction with education ministry teachers and will offer informal education to 25,000 children between the ages of eight and 12. One thousand of these children have already enrolled.

The primary issues regarding access to education for Syrian refugees surround legal status and documentation, restrictions on business ownership and school dropout rates among migrant populations. The Ministry of Education seeks to address each of these issues through its reformed action plan.

To provide some support, UNICEF’s 2017–2018 No Lost Generation initiative promises to promote equal access to integrated child protection, education, youth engagement and livelihood programs. The initiative is meant to strengthen the quality of education for Syrian refugees.

Still, almost 91,000 Syrian children registered with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees remain without access to formal education. A 2016 UNICEF survey conducted within Amman, Irbid and Mafraq found that 10 percent of Syrian refugee families removed their children from school to save educational expenses. Six percent had sent their children to work, and three percent had their daughters married in childhood. Childhood marriages are a common occurrence because they help bear the economic burden and safety concerns associated with refugee status.

Without continuous interest and more equitable support from the international community, the educational situation for refugees will not improve. From healthcare and legal status to job opportunities and education for Syrian refugees, millions, including the internally displaced and host communities, face an uncertain future.

Jaime Viens

Photo: Flickr

So Where Are the Main Syrian Refugee Camps Located?
Since its outbreak in 2011, the Syrian civil war has created an estimated 11 million refugees. Many of these refugees have fled to neighboring countries, but the conflict has created a global refugee crisis. Contrary to popular belief, however, only an estimated one in 10 of these refugees live in camps. So where are Syrian Refugee Camps? Most are located in the surrounding countries of Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Greece.

Although Turkey houses more than 2.5 million Syrian refugees, their camps can only house 200,000 people. This has become a cause for concern as photos from these camps show extremely cramped and dangerous conditions. While life in these camps is often less than ideal, the UK has deemed Turkey to be a safe country for refugees.

Jordan hosts more than 650,000 Syrian refugees. The largest Syrian refugee camp in the world is located in Jordan, and the conditions here are much better than camps found in other parts of the world. This camp called Zaatari is home to 3,000 refugee-owned businesses. These businesses provide entrepreneurial opportunities for refugees and contribute to Jordan’s economy, generating an estimated $13 million per month.

Iraq is home to more than 200,000 Syrian refugees, and all of these refugees are in areas controlled by the Kurdish Regional Government. Camps here, such as the al-Hol camp have become home to both Syrian refugees and Iraqi citizens fleeing violence in places like Mosul, resulting in extremely crowded conditions. As the number of Syrian refugees shows no sign of slowing, access to basic necessities in these camps is becoming a serious concern.

Where are Syrian refugee camps in Europe? Many exist in Greece, where conditions are often dismal. Human rights groups have raised concerns about the conditions that Syrian refugees are facing in Greek camps as they wait for asylum or relocation. Many of these camps are overcrowded, and refugees have reported poor hygiene, a lack of medical care and dehydration. The situation for refugees living in Greek camps is especially dangerous with the impending onset of a cold winter.

In 2014, the U.N. refugee agency reported the highest total number of displaced people since World War II. Syria is one of the three countries with the most refugees, and the situation within the country shows no signs of improving. This refugee crisis is a humanitarian disaster and it is imperative that the global community respond by ensuring better living conditions for those seeking asylum and those living in Syrian refugee camps.

Eva Kennedy

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Jordan


Canadian nonprofit organization PeaceGeeks has created a new app called Services Advisor in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The purpose of the app is to help refugees in Jordan locate available services.

As of November 2016, refugees and displaced persons in Jordan included over 700,000 individuals. According to the UNHCR’s November 2016 Factsheet for Jordan, 90 percent are from Syria, eight percent are from Iraq and most of those remaining are from Yemen and Sudan. Jordan hosts the second highest number of refugees per 1,000 people, and it is the sixth highest number of refugees of countries overall.

After overcoming the challenge of fleeing from their country of origin, refugees then face the need to find basic resources such as food, shelter and medical care. The location and availability of these services can change, making it even more difficult for refugees to know where to go.

Humanitarian aid organizations that provide assistance to refugees in Jordan can find it difficult to connect with people who need help, struggling to keep refugees updated on available services. This is where PeaceGeeks’ newest technology is helpful.

Services Advisor is accessible to anyone with a smartphone or computer, and it is available in English and Arabic. Many refugees leave their countries with cellphones and there are organizations in Jordan that hand out sim cards once they arrive. Internet access is available in Jordan’s public spaces.

The new app lists services by category: basic needs, education, food, health, protection, shelter and wash. Users choose a region in Jordan to find the services available in that part of the country. The web app then displays information about nearby organizations, including services and hours of operation. The organizations are responsible for keeping their information up to date.

In a recent interview, PeaceGeeks Executive Director Renee Black explained the idea behind Services Advisor. “It’s a single place that refugees can find whatever’s available to them: whether it be for things like water and sanitation, psycho-social help, or shelter or anything like that.” This new technology will make finding those services significantly easier for the refugees who desperately need them.

Kristin Westad

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Jordan
Jordan, home to Za’atari refugee camp, is facing a resource crisis. In an already resource-poor, food-deficient country, the influx of Syrian refugees, accounting for almost ten percent of Jordan’s population has added great pressure to the economy. Consequently, one of the biggest problems facing Jordan today is finding a way to feed its swelling population.

With a hike of around 20 percent in food prices, 2016 has plunged many Jordanians into a state of food insecurity. The alarming unemployment rate of 13.6 percent amplifies the problem as fewer people are able to buy the increasingly expensive food. Fortunately, NGOs and international organizations have been markedly proactive in their efforts to assist the food insecure.

On the local level, perhaps the most significant strides towards alleviating hunger in Jordan have been made by the Jordanian Food Bank (JFB) established in 2010. The non-profit has launched multiple projects such as the “Awareness for Hotels and Restaurants” campaign which collects unused food from Jordanian hotels, events, restaurants and others and donates it to families in need. It has also signed an agreement with the Jordanian Austrian Company to combat hunger and assist underprivileged families in local communities. Under the agreement, the Jordanian Austrian Company will provide 25 underprivileged families with food packages every month and half a ton of rice in support of various JFB programs.

Another local organization, Family Kitchen, works on a similar model, collecting uneaten food from hotels and bakeries and distributing them among the food insecure in Amman. Even individuals and groups at the grassroots level are playing their part by introducing initiatives such as Kulluna Ahl, a food bank run by Amman’s municipality and Izwati sandwich shop providing free sandwiches to the poor.

The drive of local organizations in helping the victims of food insecurity prosper is both admirable and necessary. However, factoring in the needs of Syrian refugees, local initiatives simply aren’t enough to combat the entirety of hunger, thirst and deprivation in Jordan. As a result, international organizations have stepped in to fortify existing efforts.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is the biggest organization involved in alleviating hunger in Jordan. WFP launched an 18-month assistance program in 2013 to assist 160,000 vulnerable Jordanians affected by the extended economic crisis through cash and food transfers. It is also helping the Jordanian government with implementing a national school meals program to reach up to 320,000 school children in the most vulnerable and food insecure areas. In addition, it is providing food assistance to over 560,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan through electronic and paper vouchers.

International NGOs like Action Against Hunger are also having a huge impact on combatting hunger in Jordan. In 2015 alone, the organization helped 43,906 people in Jordan by providing them with nutritional support, safe water, sanitation and in some cases, enabling them to achieve economic self-sufficiency. The efforts of global organizations like this are vital to the protection of people in vulnerable situations. You can help facilitate their work by donating to Action Against Hunger here.

Mallika Khanna

Photo: Flickr

Jordan Examines Plan to Increase its Water Supply
According to a recent report in Petra, the news agency of Jordan, a considerably large incursion of Syrian refugees has intensified Jordan’s already distressed water supply.

During a panel discussion between the U.N. and the World Bank on developing and managing water resources and improving water and sanitation related services, the Jordanian minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Imad Fakhoury, said  the Kingdom’s demand for water has risen 25 percent in the last five years. He further stated that due to the massive influx of Syrian refugees, the country now hosts more than 1.3 million or 19 percent of the population.

Fakhoury also stated that water is a significant and unrelenting concern for Jordan because of the country’s critical water shortage. In terms of water supply, Jordan is considered one of the world’s most vulnerable. The World Health Organization (WHO), has asserted that water scarcity in Jordan will grow more daunting in the next two decades as its population of 6 million doubles and the effects of climate change produce increased precipitation uncertainty.

Currently, Jordan has one of the lowest concentrations of available water supply per capita. The minister emphasized the importance of “partnership between governments, the private sector, civil society, institutions and the U.N.” as pivotal to establishing a sustainable water and sanitation policies.

EcoMena, a consulting and environmental awareness raising organization, has said the Jordanian government seeks to begin a water supply management program that would impose regulation on water extracted from groundwater aquifers. Lack of rigorous legislation has led to illegal well drilling and irresponsible use of water and untenable water extraction from aquifers. The natural water replacement procedure is being thwarted due to the aquifers being used at twice the allowable recharge rate.

The government is also discussing plans to renew old and rusted water pipes allocated to private homes. According to EcoMena, water leaks in the U.S. alone account for 1 trillion gallons of water wastage each year. Wastewater treatment plants that allow for the use of wastewater is also an important element in the government’s supply management program as it allows for supporting water supplies in addition to reducing dependence on natural water supplies which will give aquifers adequate time to recharge.

Fakhoury emphasized the importance of the international community’s support to assist Jordan with any financial variance brought on by the large inflow of Syrian refugees.

Heidi Grossman

Photo: Flickr

Refugees In Jordan
In the past five years, the Syrian Civil War has turned into one of the biggest humanitarian crises of the 21st century. Millions of civilians have been displaced from their homes and forced to flee to other countries. This has created a refugee crisis the likes of which hasn’t been seen since World War II. Few countries have borne a greater brunt of this crisis then Jordan. Here are eight facts about refugees in Jordan.

  1. There was a massive flow of Syrian refugees into Jordan. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, there were over 620,000 Syrians living in Jordan as of June 2015.
  2. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, 80 percent of refugees in the country have adequate housing/shelter.
  3. A majority of Syrian refugees are being hosted by some of Jordan’s poorest communities with Amman, Irbid and Mafraq taking on over 76 percent of all Syrian refugees in Jordan. This is causing strain on public services and infrastructure and is creating tension between Jordanians and refugees.
  4. Many Syrian refugees lack basic services. Only 22 percent of refugee households have their basic domestic and hygiene needs meet. Additionally, 20 percent of refugee households do not have access to primary health care and 30 percent do not have access to tertiary health care.
  5. A large number of Syrian refugee children in Jordan are not receiving a proper education. Over 80,000 out of 226,000 children did not receive a formal education last year.
  6. Human Rights Watch explains that most of the barriers to children receiving education stem from unnecessary restrictions placed by the Jordanian government. These include unattainable registration requirements, bans on enrollment for children who haven’t been to school in three or more years and sanctions for refugees working without proper permits. By easing these restrictions, more children will be able to attend school.
  7. Syrian refugees are legally banned from participating in the formal Jordanian economy. Despite this, hundreds of thousands of refugees participate in informal jobs often in the construction or agricultural sectors.
  8. Despite the focus on the negative aspects of Syrian refugees in Jordan, there are a number of positive aspects as well. The influx of refugees has led to an increase in public investment in addition to a growth in the communication, manufacturing and construction sectors; all of which has led to a real GDP growth rate increase of 2.7 percent according to the World Bank.

While the situation in Jordan is problematic, it is by no means hopeless. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace outlines a number of measures that can be taken to help improve the lives of both Syrian refugees and Jordanian citizens. Increased humanitarian and developmental aid can be implemented to help meet the basic needs of refugees.

Allowing refugees access to formal employment will help create a more sustainable situation by allowing refugees to become more self-sufficient. Greater governmental aid can be provided to the Jordanian government to improve their capacity to manage the situation.

James Long

Photo: Flickr