Lockdown restrictions in Jordan have helped prevent the spread of coronavirus whilst leaving the most vulnerable without access to basic necessities. For many refugees, the past three months have been a daily struggle for survival, writes Olivia Paras, Islamic Relief’s Programme Manager in Jordan.

Olivia Paras, Programme Manager for Islamic Relief in Jordan.

The government in Jordan has taken stringent measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Since mid-March the police and armed forces have patrolled the streets here enforcing a strict curfew. The lockdown has impacted everyone, including Jordan’s 745,000 or so registered refugees.

Jordan’s refugee community consists of over 50 nationalities, many of whom are now more vulnerable due to with the restrictions on mobility both within the country and across its borders. The lockdown has threatened the flow of assistance that is critical to their daily lives, especially as many aid organisations suspended their activities after the announcement of a national emergency.

Hassan is a Syrian refugee who lives with his family in a tent in Ramtha. He has been struggling to provide for them during the quarantine.

“We are a family of four, my wife and I and our two children. We have a two-year old girl and a one-year old boy. We are desperately in need of vegetables and milk for the children.”

Public transport was suspended in the area and the curfew rules meant that Hassan was only able to shop between 10 am and 6 pm. “I walk around an hour to reach the only stores that are open hoping they might have the necessities for my family.”

Surviving one challenge after another

Before the coronavirus outbreak, we supported Hassan and his family through Islamic Relief’s winter survival programme. The family received 228 JD as cash assistance to help make ends meet as Hassan had no stable source of income. That support has now run out and like many refugee families, they are facing severe financial difficulties.

“I’ve relied on the cash I received from Islamic Relief to sustain us for the past three weeks but we don’t know what we’ll do if this lockdown situation continues,” Hassan told us.

“At the beginning of the quarantine we endured torrents of rain, which made it hard for me to look for work. We had no option but to be confined in the house. This has made it more difficult to feed my children as all the markets are so far from where we live.”

“My wife is pregnant and gets very tired. She finds it hard to move around due to her pregnancy. She lacks proper nutrition, which I can’t afford at the moment.”

Ongoing struggle to make ends meet

The Covid-19 crisis has affected millions of people across the world in many different ways. For refugees who struggle to meet their basic needs, it is not just a global health crisis but a daily struggle for survival. Fear of catching the virus is one concern among many, as the inability to find work or access food and healthcare has added to the hardships they already face.

Fortunately in the past couple of weeks, restrictions are starting to ease, though life is far from back to normal. Aid agencies like Islamic Relief are trying to reach vulnerable communities but the pandemic has forced more refugees to rely on humanitarian assistance. We are doing all we can to help them but for many families like Hassan’s their needs will remain even after the pandemic is over.