Jordan, a safe haven for refugees since the start of the Syria crisis in 2011, hosts the third highest number of Syrian refugees in the world. The majority lives in cities, while others reside in Azraq and Zaatari camps.
Despite the strain of the refugee influx on Jordan’s economy, communities continue to live in relative harmony. Life has recently become harder for refugees and vulnerable Jordanians due to the consequences of COVID-19. The EU is a significant aid contributor, helping both refugees and host communities.
What are the needs?
According to the United Nations, 83% of Syrian refugees outside camps in Jordan live below the poverty line. Most Syrian families rely on humanitarian aid to meet their basic needs at a time of aid cuts and economic crisis, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In refugee camps, essential services have been maintained and health safety measures put in place to fight COVID-19. However, urban refugees and host communities struggle to access basic services and earn an income. Instead of going to school, some refugee children are sent to work or get married at a young age.
Following a declining second coronavirus wave and fewer COVID cases, the government has started to lift restrictions, including in refugee camps. The delivery of work and leave permits to Syrians in the camps is gradually resuming.
Some 10,000 people are stranded in a no-go military zone on Jordan’s north-eastern border, in the informal settlement of Rukban. Its population consists mostly of Syrian women and children. Since the coronavirus outbreak, these ‘stranded’ people no longer have access to lifesaving health and nutrition services in Jordan.
With limited prospects of returning to Syria, refugees need better access to social services, healthcare and economic opportunities to help them become more self-reliant.
How are we helping?
Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, the European Union has channelled roughly €3.2 billion to Jordan through humanitarian, development and macro-financial assistance. Of this total, humanitarian aid amounts to over €392 million.
In 2021, the EU has mobilised €17 million in humanitarian assistance, including €2 million to help Jordan tackle the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and build the camps health system’s resilience to future surges. EU humanitarian aid provides health care, multi-purpose cash assistance, water and sanitation, education, and protection.
EU humanitarian aid is supporting people in Zaatari, Azraq, Emirati Jordanian camps and Rukban, but also Syrian and non-Syrian refugees who live outside of the camps. The provision of essential services in villages and towns across the country also benefits vulnerable Jordanian families. Various programmes address the specific needs of women and children who make up more than 50% of the refugee population.
Since the first reported coronavirus case in early March 2020, EU partners have closely monitored the epidemiological situation inside the refugee camps, under the leadership of the Ministry of Health.
They have also stepped up prevention and preparedness measures and trained health facility staff.
The EU supports health interventions focused on immediate lifesaving in specific locations – especially where refugees and vulnerable Jordanians struggle to access essential healthcare services. Our assistance focuses on sexual and reproductive health care and cash for health interventions.
Awareness campaigns have ensured that refugee families are protected and have access to hygiene products. Vaccination is taking place in the camps at an increasing pace, with over a third of the eligible camp population having received at least one dose mid-August.
To address educational needs, EU-funded programmes ensure quality schooling for vulnerable children, including those with disabilities. Innovative approaches are used to help out-of-school children find their way into the formal education system.
The aim is to achieve inclusive education and an environment that systematically protects vulnerable children. Since schools had been closed, home schooling has been supported through creative tools, with follow up via phone, video and chat services.
Syrian refugees in Jordan without updated documentation are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. The lack of official documents limits their freedom of movement and prevents them from entering the labour market and access essential services such as healthcare and education.
The EU is therefore supporting the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and a consortium of partner organisations to help regularise the status of refugees without proper registration. Although the pandemic has changed the face of communication, registration teams continue to operate remotely, using innovative technologies and secure procedures. In addition, working on issues related to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is also a high protection priority.
Mutual commitments exist between the EU and Jordan following pledges made at a London conference in 2016 and the five Brussels Syria conferences that have taken place yearly since 2017. The Brussels conferences have been successful at mobilising international financial support for Syrians and their host communities, both inside Syria and in neighbouring countries.