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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


Located at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe, Jordan is known for being one of the most politically stable countries in the Middle East and home to numerous historic sites, including Petra and the Dead Sea. Despite this rich cultural history, Jordan has suffered from poverty and underemployment, exacerbated in recent years by an influx of refugees from Syria — its neighbor to the north. Here are five facts about poverty in Jordan that give further context to this nation’s economic challenges. 

Five Facts About Poverty in Jordan

  1. With an arid climate and a paucity of water catchment systems, Jordan is the third most water scarce country in the world. An increasing majority of Jordan’s population inhabits urban areas. Yet large cities are often far from sources of water, necessitating costly water shipments. Furthermore, most of Jordan’s water resources go to its agriculture sector, which contributes minimally to Jordan’s GDP (despite its large intake of natural resources). As the population continues to swell, water scarcity will increasingly challenge farmers to improve food security through environmentally sustainable practices.
  2. The problem of water scarcity contributes to food insecurity. Dominated by a far-reaching steppic zone, only 1.97 percent of Jordan’s land is arable. Approximately 67 percent of the agricultural production relies on rain, leaving farmer’s vulnerable to drought. With limited production levels, Jordan must import 97 percent of its food. The resulting dynamic has made food security a common problem among Jordanians. A UNDP study found food insecurity in over one third of households, where families could not afford three meals a day. 
  3. Recently, faltering GDP growth represents another telling fact about poverty in Jordan. Jordan has suffered from an underperforming economy, stymied by the global economic crisis of 2007 and further exacerbated by the turmoil of the Arab Spring and ensuing conflict in Syria. The effect has been to depress Jordan’s GDP growth by hindering trade, industry and tourism. The GDP growth dropped from 8.2 to 2.8 percent between 2007 and 2013. Public debt reached 79 percent of GDP in 2014 and unemployment rose to 14 percent. Furthermore, women participate in the economy at lower rates than other nations in the region, despite comparatively higher educational outcomes
  4. An influx of refugees from Syria has put a further strain on Jordan’s stagnant economy and limited resources. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are 630,776 registered persons of concern and approximately 1.4 million Syrian refugees in Jordan. With only 20 percent of these asylum seekers located in camps, the majority are interspersed throughout the state, increasing the strain on Jordan’s water and food supplies, housing and energy.
  5. Regional Instability has exacted further costs on Jordan’s economy. Due to the low availability of domestic energy reserves, Jordan relies heavily on subsidized imports from its neighbors, such as natural gas piped in from Egypt. Since the 2011 uprising that resulted in the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, dozens of attacks by militants on energy pipelines have disrupted the supply chain to Jordan, incurring billions of dollars in losses as the country has had to substitute costlier heavy-fuel oils.

Though these facts about poverty in Jordan are troubling, Jordan’s government has launched major programs to stimulate the economy and protect against food insecurity. The World Bank projects Jordan to have a a 2.3 percent growth rate for 2017, and an average rate of growth of 2.6 percent between 2017 and 2019. 

Furthermore, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme and the World Food Programme, the Jordanian government has initiated anti-poverty policies aimed at improving sustainable agriculture and supporting citizens and refugees hit hardest by poverty in Jordan. 

– Whiting Tennis 

Photo: Flickr