As the second set of Geneva peace talks continue this week, Islamic Relief is underlining how the Syria crisis is fuelling suffering in nearby Jordan – and calling for action to prevent further deterioration in conditions.

The conflict in Syria, which has been termed “the most serious tragedy” of the early 21st century, has forced over 2.3 million Syrians to flee their war-torn country. Of these, around 570,000 are seeking safety in nearby Jordan.

The impact on Jordan

Jordan, which shares a border with Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the West Bank, has a population of around 6.5 million people. The country has limited natural resources, and both agricultural land and water are extremely scarce.

A low income country, unemployment last year hit 12.5 per cent. The majority of Syrian refugees live in the country’s northern region, mostly in already poor governates.

Increasing strain in already poor communities

The massive influx from Syria means that around 10 per cent of the population of Jordan are now refugees.

Both Syrians and Jordanians are suffering from the serious strain on Jordan’s public resources and infrastructure, as the government strives to respond to the needs of incoming families as well as assisting poor Jordanians. Schools and hospitals are overcrowded, the cost of rental accommodation is continuing to rise, and pressure is increasing on basic utilities such as energy and water.

Competition for jobs is driving a decrease in wages, as refugees compete with local people and other migrant groups in the bid to earn a living. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that 160,000 Syrians are working in construction, agriculture and in the services sector.

According to the latest UNHCR figures, there are 569,749 Syrian refugees currently living in Jordan. Only 20 per cent of refugees live in camps, and most seek shelter in poor host communities that are themselves in need of support. The majority of Syrian refugees are therefore vulnerable to homelessness and destitution – particularly as access to cash to pay for essential rented accommodation is a significant challenge.

In addition, Jordanians and Syrians are seeing an increase in essential living expenses, whilst housing and basic social services stagnate.

Heightened vulnerability amongst Syrian refugees

Syrians are largely reliant upon humanitarian aid agencies like Islamic Relief to help them secure food and meet their basic needs. For the 80 per cent that live outside of the camps, short-term cash for rent schemes such as those provided by Islamic Relief, provide only limited respite from the daily threat of homelessness as they exhaust their finances.

In addition, it is thought that 79 per cent of Syrian refugees are women and children, many of whom are without a breadwinner and are dependent upon assistance. They also have limited opportunities to access safe spaces or social services – further increasing their vulnerability.

Longer-term solutions to prevent destitution

Islamic Relief Jordan is proposing an immediate response to protect Syrian refugees and the host community in food, health and shelter sectors. The organisation is calling for longer-term shelter programmes to respond to rent increases, and for spiralling rental costs to be capped – benefitting both the refugee and host communities.

Rent programmes, say Islamic Relief, must raise awareness of tenant rights and help improve their coping mechanisms – empowering refugees and giving them the means to become more self-reliant. They must also establish referral pathways to enhance the response to refugees and the host community.

In its latest needs assessment, the organisation also recommends that minimum codes for shelters eligible for aid programmes be set – in order to encourage refugees to seek better shelters and landlords to properly maintain their accommodation. It is also pushing for brighter futures for Syria’s refugee children, calling for increased focus on getting children into school.

Islamic Relief continues to lobby for improved access and humanitarian corridors to Syria, and has been delivering humanitarian aid to Syrians suffering in the violent conflict since 2011. From our field offices in Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey, we work inside war-torn Syria, and also provide vital support to refugees seeking safety in a number of countries – particularly, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.

About Islamic Relief Jordan

At the onset of Syria humanitarian crisis in 2011, Islamic Relief Jordan delivered an emergency response programme and has since then scaled up its capacity and operations. The organisation now has 123 staff across the country, and has successfully delivered multi-sector interventions as the lead humanitarian agency in Irbid, Mafraq, Jarash, and Amman.

More than 200,000 refugees – 57 per cent of the Syrian population – have benefitted from Islamic Relief’s work to provide food, healthcare, cash for shelter as well as essential items such as hygiene kits and winter necessities.

A strong partner with international and local non-governmental organisations, Islamic Relief Jordan is strengthening the overall response to the continuing crisis in nearby Syria. The organisation’s annual fund of almost £35.8 million is supported by funding from OPEC, Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development (AECID), Disasters Emergency Committee, World Food Programme and its own funding streams.

Shelter

So far, the Islamic Relief cash for rent scheme has protected 19,210 individuals from homelessness. The programme is open to vulnerable families on the condition that their children attend school. This component reduces poverty, improves livelihoods, and promotes access to education for Jordanians and Syrian refugees. It is helping to reduce early marriages and child labour, and is giving children and young people the chance to escape the poverty trap.

Health

Islamic Relief Jordan is one of only a handful of humanitarian organisations working to improve access to healthcare. Since 2012, the organisation has been providing primary, secondary and tertiary health care for vulnerable people – particularly Syrians injured in the conflict as well as those with chronic diseases. So far, almost 13,000 patients have been treated through the programme.

Food

Islamic Relief Jordan has been working in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP) since 2012, handling about 50 per cent of Syrians included in the food voucher scheme. Working in areas where the majority of refugee families live, Islamic Relief has already reached almost 200,000 people.

Food vouchers worth 24JOD are distributed monthly, entitling each beneficiary to buy food in 13 contracted shops in Jarash, Irbid and Mafarq. E-Voucher cards will be introduced in the coming months, to speed up access to food.

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