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, art therapy 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 Syrian refugees also gives the refugee 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 According to Al Jazeera, Syrian children often become belligerent or withdrawn when asked about the situations that they have faced.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 Syrian refugees, 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 JordanAccording 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 Jordan
According 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

Common Diseases in Jordan
Jordan is a small country in the Middle East with a population of about 6.5 million people. The nation plays an important role in the convoluted political relationships that exist in the region. In fact, Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab countries in the entire Middle East to have made peace with Israel. Jordan faces many challenges, including a lack natural resources and an abundance of deleterious diseases.

For about the last 20 years the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been working and collecting data in Jordan. According to the CDC’s website, Ischemic Heart Disease is the number one cause of death, accounting for 18 percent of total deaths in the nation. Ischemic Heart Disease is a specific type of heart disease in which there is an insufficient supply of blood to the heart.

Despite the fact that Ischemic Heart Disease is one of the most common diseases in Jordan, significant progress has been made towards decreasing total deaths. In fact, the annual mortality rate per 100,000 people from this disease has decreased by over 40 percent since 1990.

One way that the effects of the common diseases in Jordan can be mitigated is through the reduction of tobacco use. According to The Tobacco Atlas, over 1 million Jordanians use tobacco each day. The results of this behavior are quite consequential. In fact, each year more than 2,000 people in Jordan die from tobacco-caused diseases.

When traveling to Jordan, the CDC recommends receiving vaccinations for Hepatitis B and Typhoid. Both of these diseases can be contracted by consuming contaminated food or water.

Fortunately, there are actions that travelers to the region and locals can take to reduce the risk of contracting Typhoid Fever. Frequent washing of one’s hands, practicing proper body hygiene and drinking purified water are a few of the steps recommended by the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers (IAMAT).

Progress has certainly been made in regard to combating some of the more common diseases in Jordan, but nonetheless, there are still harmful diseases in Jordan that must be confronted.

Adam Braunstein

Photo: Flickr

App for the Illiterate and DeafApproximately 5.3 percent of the world’s population lives with hearing loss. That amounts to 360 million people across the globe. The disability is more prevalent in developing countries, where most of the deaf population is also illiterate. MindRocket, a startup company in Jordan, seeks to improve the deaf community’s engagement in society by developing an app for the illiterate and deaf.

In developing nations, most deaf and hearing-impaired children rarely receive formal schooling. Those who do usually don’t advance past third or fourth grade level and struggle with reading. This lack of schooling paired with communication struggles creates a gap between the deaf and hearing communities. This resulted in a high unemployment rate among the deaf. A higher percent of those with hearing loss work low-grade jobs compared to those in the hearing workforce.

There are some resources that translate spoken word into written word instantly, yet these apps do not help the deaf that cannot read. MindRocket’s founder, Mahmood Darawsheh, noticed this unfair disadvantage and felt compelled to help. He started his company aiming to create technologies to assist the deaf. Their first product, Mimix 3D, is a mobile app that translates written or spoken English into American Sign Language acted out by an avatar. The app is available for both iOS and Android.

The company also developed an Arabic version for Android called Turjuman, which has reached 10,000 users. This app was more challenging to develop due many different dialects spoken in the Middle East and North Africa. It currently understands the Gulf countries and the Levant dialects.

The app allows for a hearing-enabled person to speak or write a message that the avatar will immediately act out. The deaf participant can reply through a sign language keyboard that will translate the symbols into written text. MindRocket plans to develop a web plug-in where website content can be translated through avatar hand symbols appearing on screen. They are looking doing the same for movies as well.

Darawsheh believes that his app for the illiterate and deaf should be free for those who require its assistance as well as those who wish to learn sign language. He hopes that products will help integrate deaf communities into the public and private sector,as well as improve their engagement and independence in society.

Hannah Kaiser
Photo: Flickr

Cost of Living in JordanIt may not come as a surprise to many expats in the city to know that the cost of living in Jordan ranked globally in the top 50. Prices are abnormally high for imported products, particularly for alcohol and other foreign made groceries.

According to the 2016 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, the cost of living in Jordan ranks right up with major European countries; it is number 50 out of 209 countries surveyed in total. In another report by The Economist Intelligence Unit, the cost of living in Amman ranked number one out of the Arab nations. For what is considered to be a developing country, these numbers may come as a surprise to the average American. However, these numbers are largely due to the gap in average salary versus average cost of products.

Compared to the staggering cost of living ranking, Jordan ranks number 65 in the world when it comes to average monthly salary, according to an article in The Jordan Times. The average monthly salary is around $637. This is problematic for many considering that the average cost of rent is above $500, and utilities for two people averages $129.

For tourists visiting the country, it is important to note that although some products may look as though they are the same price, there is the currency exchange to take into account. In fact, the dinar is currently equivalent to $1.41. This means a meal that is 10 Jordanian dinars will really cost around $14.

However, there are ways to keep costs down, as noted in a site for expats. Outside of rent, it is usually cheaper to buy local products. When buying fresh fruit and vegetables, it is advised to buy products that are in season. This way, the products will not be imported and therefore more expensive.

As of 2017, the unemployment rate in Jordan has climbed to just under 20 percent. This means that even more people are without the means to meet the high cost of living in Jordan. It will be interesting to monitor Jordan in the years to come to see how citizens and government respond to this gap in salary, employment and cost of living.

Sydney Roeder

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Jordan
Jordan may be experiencing a new era of political change. The nation is one where freedoms are very limited. However, the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has opened pathways to human rights reform in Jordan. Below are nine facts about human rights in Jordan.


Facts about Human Rights in Jordan


  1. Freedom of speech is limited in Jordan, especially when it comes to criticism of authority. Journalists, academics and artists can be imprisoned for “defamation” of the king, the government, Islam and foreign nations. A proposed reform issued to the Jordanian Parliament in 2015 would offer alternative punishments, such as community service, if implemented.
  2. Jordan recently loosened restrictions on public assembly through the 2011 Public Gatherings Law. This law allows for public demonstrations to be held without prior approval from the government.
  3. Women possess an equal right to participate in government, and 20 of Jordan’s 130 government representatives are women. Despite this, women in Jordan lack many of the civil liberties available to men. Marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men are unrecognized by Jordan’s government. Jordan’s nationality laws restrict women from passing their nationality down to their children and non-Jordanian spouses.
  4. Additionally, Jordan has one of the largest gender gaps in the world, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). Jordan ranks at 134 of the 144 countries studied by the WEF. Though both men and women are comparatively well-educated in the region, women face several economic barriers that men do not. Women are given paid maternity leave and child care when entering the workforce but lack anti-discrimination protections, which encourages private businesses to hire men instead of women to avoid the cost. Many women also lack the right to inherit the wealth of their parents.
  5. Jordan also has a poor record of crimes against women. The law allows for perpetrators of “honor crimes” to be given reduced sentences. There are also penal code loopholes that allow rapists to escape prosecution if they have been married to their victim for three years. Recently, King Abdullah II endorsed a motion that would abolish these loopholes and it is expected to be ratified by Parliament.
  6. Jordan has been a leader in the Middle East for implementing regulations that protect migrant workers from forced labor and human trafficking. However, Jordanian law is set up in a way that still allows these abuses to happen. Migrant workers have limited freedom of movement and must get permission from an employer before leaving their houses; 50,000 migrant workers in Jordan are confined to their houses day and night. Employers are rarely prosecuted for violating migrant labor laws and Jordan lacks shelters for workers escaping abuse.
  7. According to the Human Rights Watch, local governors detained over 19,000 people without trial in 2015. Many of these people were imprisoned for a year or longer.
  8. Jordan has taken in over 650,000 Syrian refugees. Approximately 20 percent of them are living in refugee camps. The refugee crisis has put significant strain on Jordan’s public infrastructure. By November of 2016, Jordan received just 57 percent of the funding it required from the international community to cope with the influx of refugees.
  9. In March 2016, King Abdullah II released a 10-year plan to improve human rights in Jordan. The plan was developed with input from NGOs and aims to allow suspects a right to a lawyer, restrict the scope of the death penalty, hold public trials to keep police accountable for brutality and torture, strengthen freedoms of speech and assembly, pursue equal rights among workers, provide legal protections for the disabled and provide equal rights and opportunities for women. We have yet to see if the Jordanian government will fully commit to these reforms.

Though human rights in Jordan may appear to be improving, there is still a long way to go. Continued support of NGOs is essential to continue the development of human rights in Jordan.

Carson Hughes

Photo: Flickr

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