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U.S. foreign AidThe percentage of GDP toward U.S. foreign aid is lower than most people expect, not even making it among the top 20 when compared to similar OECD nations. However, the U.S. does rank first in the amount of aid given, with over $34 billion going to foreign aid. The second-highest-ranking country is Germany, which gave about $24 billion to foreign aid. Many Americans may wonder where does this $34 billion go to and how is it used?

Top 5 Recipients of U.S. Foreign Aid in 2019

Iraq ($960 million)

The U.S. government’s role in war-torn Iraq shaped the way the U.S. allocates foreign aid in the country. Post-Iraq invasion saw mostly aid in the form of investments into essential services. ISIS and the areas it controlled and used to fund itself damaged the country. So, the plans following 2010 for U.S. foreign aid revolved mostly around reconstruction and infrastructure investments. Today, humanitarian aid mainly addresses those displaced by violence, especially those in former ISIS-occupied areas and those recovering from economic collapse.

Egypt ($1.46 billion)

Since 1978, Egypt received more than $50 billion in U.S. military aid and $30 billion in economic assistance. According to the Center for Global Development, military aid remains steady as of recent. However, humanitarian assistance is slowly declining since the 1990s. Although military aid makes up a majority of Egypt’s aid, issues relating to health, such as infant and maternal mortality rates, are improving. In addition, USAID made significant investments in Egyptian education. The aid currently works to foster economic development in the public and private sectors.

Jordan ($1.72 billion)

According to U.S. News and World Report, most of Jordan’s aid in 2019 is economic unlike the two countries above. The latest numbers for the year 2020 show significant investments from the U.S. to Jordan. U.S. assistance for Jordan’s COVID-19 response adds up to about $35.4 million. This includes almost $20.8 million in humanitarian support to assist refugees in Jordan. Throughout the years, Syrian refugees in Jordan received $1.7 billion in humanitarian U.S. aid since the start of the Syria crisis.

Israel (3.3 billion)

New statistics in 2020 indicate the U.S. granted Israel an additional $500 million to the Israeli state. The aid falls under the long-term agreement signed by the Obama administration. U.S. Foreign aid to Israel is almost all military aid. Since 2000, 70% of foreign aid assistance is military aid and in 2019, military aid made up a record high of 99.7% of Israeli aid. In total, Israel received the most U.S. foreign aid of any country since World War II.

Afghanistan ($4.89 billion)

As in Israel and Egypt, a large amount of U.S. foreign aid to Afghanistan is military support rather than humanitarian organization assistance. As for other forms of aid, the U.S. government recently announced a $266 million humanitarian aid package for the Afghan people. It will support people in the midst of conflict and facing severe food insecurity. Since 2020, USAID to Afghanistan amounted to $543 million. Essential products, food and direct cash will benefit more than 2.3 million people. This includes the most vulnerable and damaged families and households, many of whom have fled their homes. People flee due to the violence in the region or an inability to pay for necessities due to COVID-19’s economic effects on the prices of goods.

– Gene Kang
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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

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

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

life expectancy in Jordan

Jordan is an Arab country in West Asia with a population of more than 10 million people and a life expectancy of 74 years. Although some in Jordan face health and economic struggles, efforts are in place to raise the average life expectancy rate. Here are seven facts about life expectancy in Jordan.

7 Facts about Life Expectancy in Jordan

  1. As of 2017, road injuries ranked number nine of 10 factors causing the most deaths in Jordan. In 2007, road injuries ranked much higher at sixth, as there were 110,630 road accidents and 992 fatalities. That statistic increased from 1987’s 15,884 accidents. In response to these 2007 numbers, the Jordanian government applied new traffic laws in 2008 and increased police activity, which, ultimately, boosted life expectancy.
  2. Air pollution is in the top 10 risk factors of death and disability combined in Jordan. In urban areas, 50-90 percent of Jordan’s air pollution comes from road traffic, and based on a report in 2000, air pollution causes around 600 premature deaths each year. The main factor of poor air quality is lead-based gasoline used in cars, emitting lead pollution. In 2006, the government introduced two types of unleaded petrol for cars. However, air pollution was still a leading cause of death in 2017.
  3. Noncommunicable diseases are on the rise in Jordan. Even though these diseases cannot be transmitted to others, they remain some of the most common causes of death. From 2007 to 2017, Ischemic heart disease continued to be the number one cause of death for Jordanians and diabetes moved up from fifth to fourth. As of 2017, strokes ranked second.
  4. Chronic illnesses are some of the most common diseases in Jordan. Approximately one-third of Jordanians over 25 have a chronic illness or suffer from more than one. Reported chronic illnesses are largely caused by the practice of smoking tobacco. Out of the entire population, 38.2 percent use tobacco, including 65.5 percent of males over 15. If the amount of smokers does not decrease in the future, it will negatively impact the mortality rates and overall life expectancy in Jordan.
  5. Jordanian’s access to healthcare and insurance is increasing every year. From 2000 to 2016, on average, the percent of those insured increased by an average of 1.2 percent. Overall, 70 percent of Jordanians are insured. All children under six and citizens older than 60 are eligible for insurance with Jordan’s public healthcare sector as well. Primary healthcare clinics are available in both urban and rural areas, and those with insurance receive free medication.
  6. The Jordanian government developed a national electronic medical library (ELM). The ELM gives students and healthcare workers free access to medical resources to encourage and increase the number of people pursuing a career in medicine. The government hopes that the ELM will help increase the availability of healthcare and allow the medical industry in Jordan to flourish in the future.
  7. Mercy Corps has been supporting Jordanians since 2003. The organization has 250 workers in the country. Mercy Corps not only provides basic needs but also long-term solutions, such as working to reduce tensions between leaders in communities. Mercy Corps has helped more than 3,000 vulnerable households with costs to meet urgent needs and in 2017 alone, more than one million Jordanians benefitted from their work.

Although certain health and economic issues are prominent, Jordan is making improvements to its quality of living. The government is taking the initiative to move the country forward, economically and medically, which can only mean an increase in life expectancy in Jordan in the future.

– Jordan Miller
Photo: Unsplash

 

Helping Syrian Refugees After Arriving
The Syrian refugee crisis has been ongoing for more than eight years since the civil war that started in 2011. More than 5 million people have fled Syria, while many more were displaced within Syria itself. Externally, Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan have the highest proportion of Syrian refugees in the world. Since refugees often try to live in urban areas for better employment opportunities, they frequently struggle with financial resources and end up living below the poverty line. In response, domestic and international organizations are helping Syrian refugees after arriving in each of these three countries.

Lebanon

As of June 30, 2016, Lebanon had the most Syrian refugees relative to its population, which was about 173 refugees per 1,000 people, or a total of 1,035,700. Lebanon also hosts a high number of refugees compared to its GDP, equating to 20 refugees per $1 million in GDP. While Lebanon hosts a large number of refugees, it is struggling to provide for them. There are around a million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, 70 percent of whom live below the poverty line. These refugees often have little to no financial resources, which leads them to live in crowded homes with other families in more than 2,100 communities.

One organization helping Syrian refugees in the country is the Lebanese Association for Development and Communication (LADC), which emerged to help both Palestinian and Syrian refugees. Its projects range from community-based projects to aid projects with both local and more than 500 international volunteers helping to establish more than 6,500 beneficiaries. One of its projects was the Paradise Wall, a community art project to smooth the integration process between 120 Syrian and Lebanese children by asking them to work together creatively to produce a wall full of designs.

Turkey

Turkey hosts the largest number of registered Syrian refugees – currently at 3.3 million. Authorities claim that there are more than 3 million Syrian refugees, but that they have not registered. This is because they see Turkey as a transit country or fear deportation. The fear of deportation comes from the fact that Turkey offers temporary protection status to Syrians instead of internationally-recognized refugee status. This increases the likelihood of Turkey deporting the refugees while avoiding the risk of receiving international renouncement for doing so. Most refugees attempt to settle in urban areas in these countries, as opposed to refugee camps where only 8 percent of registered Syrian refugees live.

In Turkey, the UNCHR, EU and WHO have come together to fund the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM), which is a multi-regional organization that does a wide variety of work to help Syrian refugees after arriving in Turkey. It has many projects ranging from legal counseling to psycho-social support for children through playful activities. One of its projects titled Women and Girls’ Safe Space emerged to offer training sessions on women’s reproductive health.

Jordan

Jordan is proportionally the second-largest host of the Syrian refugees, sheltering about 89 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants as of 2016. Fifty-one percent of these refugees are children and 4 percent are elderly, meaning that 55 percent are dependents who rely on the remaining 45 percent of adult, working-age Syrian refugees. Consequently, more than 80 percent of them live under the poverty line.

To deal with this, the Jordanian government has initialized formal processes to help them escape poverty. In 2017 alone, the country issued 46,000 work permits so that Syrian refugees work. Recently, in collaboration with UNHCR, the International Labor Organization (ILO) established an employment center, The Zaatari Office of Employment, in the biggest camp for Syrian refugees. By August 2017, around 800 refugees benefited from this center by registering official work permits in place of one-month leave permits.

While the Syrian refugee crisis is still ongoing, it is important to note that many are helping Syrian refugees to settle and integrate into their host societies. Many countries from all over the world are starting to resettle the refugees within their borders to lift off the burden of poverty and overcrowding in certain areas. People often recognize Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey for their willingness to take in large numbers of Syrian refugees, but this must not erase the work a variety of organizations are doing to help refugees after arriving in their new homes.

Nergis Sefer
Photo: Flickr

Art Therapy for Syrian Refugees

Non-governmental organizations around the world have been using art therapy for Syrian refugees as a way to deal with trauma.

One of the non-governmental organizations using art therapy for Syrian refugees is Global Humanitaria, based in Spain. According to HuffPost, the organization has partnered with Bader Medical Center in Jordan to help Syrian refugees create artwork. These art pieces will be displayed in Madrid and Barcelona and sold online. The proceeds from these will support the artists.

More than the monetary value, therapy using the arts helps Syrian refugees express the horrors that they have experienced in Syria. According to Al Jazeera, many of the Syrian children are too young to verbalize what they went through. Others are too traumatized to talk about the things that they have seen. Art therapy for Syrian refugees gives children a nonverbal way to work through their thoughts.

Many Syrian children draw things that they have witnessed. These things often include bombs, severed limbs and tanks. Other children draw happier pictures to signify a happier outlook.

Art therapy for Syrians seeking refuge also gives children an opportunity to talk about their trauma on their own terms. According to Al Jazeera, Syrian children often become belligerent or withdrawn when asked about the situations that they have faced. Art helps them process these experiences.

Syrian refugees experience many of difficulties beyond escaping from the country. Several of the children at the Bader Medical Center have lost limbs, for example. Others must deal with a lack of education, employment and permanent housing.

In spite of the benefits of art therapy for Syrians seeking refuge, there is not much of funding for it. Al Jazeera discusses how little non-governmental organizations receive for art therapy. A lack of funds leads to not having enough patient time to make a long-lasting improvement.

This being said, even short-term art therapy for Syrian refugees has had a positive influence on the refugees exposed to it.

Cortney Rowe

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Jordan

According to the World Bank, around 13 percent of the population in Jordan live in poverty. This means 13 percent of the population spend less than $2.60 U.S. a day. However, nearly a third of the population in Jordan live in what is known as transient poverty, which means that they live in poverty for a quarter of the year. Considering that even the types of poverty in Jordan are varied, the causes must also be complex and varied, depending on the household and the area of residence. Outlined below are just a few of the causes of poverty in Jordan.

Top Causes of Poverty in Jordan

  1. Education
    While Jordan has begun improving public education tremendously at the secondary level in past years, it still lags behind the prestige and high-priced private school system. Those in the higher-middle and upper classes are able to afford good education, while the middle and lower classes are not able to pay for such schooling. The result is an education gap between the middle and upper classes. Furthermore, while some families might be well off during the time of year that their children do not attend school, often times they slip into poverty in order to afford tuition once school begins again.
  2. Wage Gap
    Another one of the causes of poverty in Jordan is the stagnant income. Many middle class families struggle with the difference between their salary and cost of living. While salaries have largely remained the same in recent years, cost of living is steadily rising – particularly in larger cities like Amman. This, along with the above factor of education, have forced some members of the middle class into what would be considered poverty. Another result of stagnant wages has been a decrease in spending of not only the lower class, but the middle class as well. In fact, 51 percent of Jordanian families spend as though they were living in poverty.
  3. Ramadan
    Strangely – or perhaps not – the season of Ramadan weighs considerably on Jordanian residents’ pocketbooks. During the month of Ramadan this year, Jordanian citizens collectively spent about $493 million U.S. on food alone. Considering the substantial increase in spending, some middle class citizens dip into poverty after the month of festivities associated with Ramadan.

The stagnation of income and shortcomings of the public education system reveal only some of the causes of poverty in Jordan. In order to combat a majority of these issues, creating jobs with reasonable salaries seems to be a solution offered by experts. In turn, King Abdullah II has introduced Jordan Vision 2025. Jordan Vision 2025 is a blueprint for social and economic development. The King hopes that the project will bring jobs along with it, which would likely help bring people out of poverty.

Sydney Roeder

Photo: Pixabay

Financial Inclusion in JordanAccording to the World Bank, financial inclusion is the point at which individuals and businesses in disadvantaged or low-income societies have access to affordable financial products and services. Financial inclusion in Jordan is increasingly important for economic growth, where nearly a third of the population lives below the poverty line. The influx of Syrian and Iraqi refugees, high unemployment rates and a strain on natural resources are plaguing the Jordanian economy.

The importance of financial inclusion in everyday life is that it eases monetary needs and helps people to prepare for the future. While progress has been made for financial inclusion in Jordan, there are still a great number of people who lack affordable financial services.

Around two billion people don’t use formal financial services and more than 50 percent of adults in the poorest households are unbanked,” the World Bank stated about financial inclusion across the globe.

As of early August 2017, financial inclusion in Jordan was behind the curve, with only 24 out of every 100 Jordanians over the age of 15 having a bank account.

Among Middle Eastern countries, Jordan has one of the smallest economies. In 2016, it slowed drastically and has remained stagnant. While crises in Iraq and Syria are key factors in the slowing of growth, the lack of affordable financial services is also to blame.

In today’s world where digital payments are king and cash seems to be the enemy, access to a secure network to receive, store and use money is a stepping-stone to financial inclusion and economic growth.

According to Visa, Inc., access to financial services allows children to get a proper education and homes to be safer, healthier and happier. As a part of the World Bank’s call for universal financial access, Visa, MasterCard and other payments companies have made a commitment to provide financial services to the unbanked adults of the world.

The Central Bank of Jordan has also devised a strategic plan for financial inclusion from 2018 to 2020. The Jordan News Agency reported that the plan will focus on the areas of financial literacy, protection of financial service recipients, support of small- and medium-sized projects, micro-finance and online payments.

The plan will also work on improving financial inclusion rates for women, young people and refugees in Jordan, as these groups are often alienated financially.

Madeline Boeding

Photo: Flickr

Article 308The infamous Article 308 – a bill allowing rapists to forgo punishment by marrying their victims – was repealed by the lower house of parliament in Jordan’s government in late July. This comes after years of activists’ attempting to fight it.

Article 308 was intended to be a precautionary measure to protect womens’ honor. As Jane Arraf of NPR reported, “According to tribal and social customs in a lot of Jordan, if a girl or a woman is raped, it reflects on the victim and harms her family’s honor. Forcing her to marry the rapist is used as a solution. Some of the lawmakers opposed to changing the law said being married would erase the stigma of rape.”

According to the Ministry of Justice in Jordan, 159 rapists avoided prison sentences because of Article 308 between 2010 and 2013. After 2013, the Ministry of Justice stopped publicly providing that information because of the controversy it created. Because of recommendations by the royal judiciary committee, Jordan’s Cabinet officially rescinded it in April of 2017.

Asma Khader, a lawyer who has worked on cases regarding Article 308, has worked to repeal the law for 35 years. She is the executive director to Sisterhood Is Global Institute and is a top campaigner for women’s rights. Khader and other activists believe that the repeal of Article 308 will hopefully bring a change in the mindset of shaming and blaming the victim in cases of rape.

Ghada Saba, a women’s activist, noted in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that “Our problem in all of these things, whether it’s human rights or women’s rights, is ignorance,” she said. “People … see women as a container that holds their children, nothing beyond that.”

Although the upper house still has yet to repeal the law, many believe that members will be largely in favor of it. Jordan is one of many countries – including Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia – that has repealed some version of this law in the past. Lebanon is currently working to repeal one of its variants, Article 522.

Thankfully, with the help of local and international activists, Jordan is on its way to moving past traditions and onto a brighter path for women’s rights.

Sydney Roeder
Photo: Flickr