New cash assistance program benefits more than 3,000 people
By Florian Seriex, ACF USA, February 2016
Action Against Hunger, in partnership with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), launched a new intervention in December to support at-risk Syrian refugees in Jordan—and Jordanians themselves—to cope with severe weather conditions this winter.
The needs are tremendous. An estimated nine million Syrians have fled their homes since civil war broke out in March 2011. With the fifth anniversary of the crisis looming next month, Syrian families are struggling through another harsh winter.
Some 2,240 refugees and 960 Jordanians are benefiting from our cash assistance efforts in the region this year. We provide a stipend to families to help cover needed winter items—that way, they are empowered to use their existing and limited resources to meet other basic needs for rent and food.
This new program benefits families in Irbid, which hosts Jordan’s second-largest share of refugees living outside of a camp environment (143,448 people, or 23 percent of refugees). Irbid is characterized by a high ratio of Syrians to Jordanians (13 percent), with 26.7 percent of the population currently at risk of falling into poverty.
We are delivering humanitarian assistance to these families through several channels—providing cash, distributing ATM cards, and providing gas heaters. Our program enables the most vulnerable families, who have significantly limited resources, to stay warm during the winter months while continuing to meet their other basic needs.
Situation likely to deteriorate
Assessments that we, and other humanitarian workers, have conducted in the area indicate that refugee households and vulnerable Jordanian households are not able to generate enough income to pay for adequate heating and other necessary items, like warm clothing and outerwear, to cope with the cold. These expenses strain the resources of families already struggling to meet their needs for food, water, and shelter.
Fatima, a 24-year-old Syrian refugee from Dara’a, explained how the assistance from Action Against Hunger would allow her to buy winter clothes for her children and pay her rent. She is also working on reducing some of the debt that hangs over her family.
“I have about 1,000 Jordanian Dinar [approximately $1,410 USD] of debt and I’ve been forced to delay some payments. It sometimes feels like the debt will never go away, but I am grateful that I can use part of the humanitarian aid I receive to reimburse the debts. I feel like I am making progress for my family.”
Arnaud Phipps, our Country Director in Jordan, warns that many families in the region are resorting to dangerous measures just to get by.
“Because there are now even greater demands on their limited resources, families are reducing the quantity, quality, and diversity of food they eat; borrowing from money lenders and accumulating debt; sending children to work to earn money; marrying children off very young; not treating medical conditions because they cannot afford fees for health services. Many face eviction from their shelters. The situation is likely to worsen as winter progresses.”
Our cash assistance program is designed to help at-risk families survive the difficult winter. When spring arrives, we will still be where we are most needed, helping Syrian refugees and host communities in Jordan to recover from this crisis.