As thousands of Syrians continue to flee conflict every day, seeking safety in neighbouring countries, aid agencies responding to the refugee crisis warn that the refugees risk being cut off from help as they seek shelter in Jordan’s towns and cities.
According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, the majority of Syrian refugees in Jordan live in urban areas, outside of formal camp settings. Aid agencies say it makes it harder for them to access vital help as the refugee population is widely dispersed in Jordan’s cities and towns.
Assessments carried out in host communities in Jordan by aid agencies CARE International and Oxfam have found that refugees are facing increased debt as they struggle to pay for soaring rent and rising costs for food, water and other basic essentials.
Many refugees in urban areas of Jordan are living in unheated or unfurnished apartments or garages, which are often overcrowded, with as many as twenty people, normally from extended family groups, sharing two or three rooms.
The Jordanian government is to be commended for keeping its border open and providing assistance for the refugees, despite severely strained resources. Jordanian host communities have also been extremely generous; but tensions are starting to arise because of the increase in refugee numbers and mounting pressure on limited services.
Syrian refugees have access to primary health care and schooling in Jordan, but often the available services are already stretched to the limit or far from their homes. Rental prices have gone up two to three times in the last year and there has also been an increase in food and gas prices.
“Syrian refugees in host communities urgently need help. As long as they have no access to income, their problems will only multiply. People are already running out of money for rent and basic needs; refugees are taking loans from each other, but soon there will be nothing left for them to borrow,” said Francis Lacasse, Oxfam’s Syria Response Crisis Manager.
“Families will be forced to desperate measures to get by; many are already obliged to beg for food. They are deeply ashamed to do this, but they have no choice,” said Lacasse.
The number of refugees fleeing Syria into Jordan has surged since the beginning of the year. More than 367,000 have sought registration with the UNHCR, although the Jordanian government estimates the total figure is as high as 420,000.
Research by the aid agencies shows that the average level of debt among urban refugees is US$650, which represents about three months' rent.
Oxfam is planning to provide cash assistance to some of the most vulnerable populations in Jordan and support both host families and refugees with water.
CARE International is addressing the needs of thousands of Syrian refugees living in vulnerable host communities, primarily through assistance to help pay for food and housing as well as information assistance, referrals and support to families.
Oxfam is dedicated to fighting poverty and inequity worldwide. The international and independent development and humanitarian organisation tackles poverty in four main ways: sustainable development in poor communities, disaster relief, local, national and global advocacy, and education with Hong Kong youth. Established in Hong Kong in 1976, Oxfam Hong Kong is a founding member of Oxfam, an international confederation that has assisted poor people in 94 countries. Oxfam Hong Kong alone has supported poor people in over 70 countries/regions.