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

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

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