Jordan hosts close to three quarters of a million refugees, most living outside of camps. The majority are vulnerable, unable to independently maintain a dignified life. In this context, UNHCR Jordan’s unconditional monthly basic needs cash assistance programme is a lifeline for many. During the first half of-2020, around 33,000 vulnerable refugee families living in urban areas and mostly but not exclusively from Syria, benefited from monthly assistance in the form of a social cash transfer (unrelated to Covid-19 emergency cash transfers also distributed by UNHCR in the late spring of 2020 and discussed in an annex to this document). Based on a survey administered via telephone to 590 cash transfer recipients, this report presents the results of the mid-year postdistribution monitoring exercise.
The results suggest that the distribution modalities of the monthly cash assistance generally work well – over nine respondents out of ten received the assistance on the day they were expecting it and were able to collect it at an ATM close to their place of residence. A minority of respondents (fewer than 10%) felt unsafe or at risk withdrawing or spending the cash, with fears of theft appearing greater than fear of catching Covid-19. Most cash recipients would not trade the cash programme for a combination of cash and in-kind support. The feedback on service delivery is broadly positive, and the helpline well-known.
Like in previous years, and in line with the fundamental purpose of the monthly cash assistance, refugees mainly spent their grant on rent and food. Both tend to be pricier in Amman, compared to other Governorates in the Kingdom. Compared with mid-2019, a considerably smaller share of respondents used the cash grant to cover utility bills and pay for health costs. That a relatively small share of respondents reported dedicating part of their cash assistance to health costs or hygiene items suggests that the COVID pandemic has not (yet) influenced the spending patterns of the most vulnerable. (Indeed, actors have been distributing cash for WASH and hygiene kits as part of the Covid-19 response.) The average amount spent on these different categories has evolved little in the last year, although average food expenditure is slightly decreased while the mean amount of cash assistance spent on debt repayment has considerably increased (+48%). Needs among the beneficiary population remain high - across nationalities and locations, most respondents state not being able to meet more than half of the basic needs of their household. Of the respondents who fall in this category, close to two thirds of respondents (64%) note that they are unable to afford sufficient food, while 27% struggle to pay their rent. Slightly over half find themselves to afford appropriate shoes and clothing. Particularly worrying given the 2020 context, 31% of respondents note that they cannot afford to pay for health costs. Many (60%) of the respondents had had to resort to borrowing money in the four weeks prior to data collection (May 2020). This debt is a perceived safety concern for many.
Despite the monthly cash aid, beneficiaries are forced to rely on a variety of negative coping strategies. The most common coping mechanism across nationalities and governorates is to reduce spending on health or education, followed closely by buying food on credit, both of which are crisis-level coping strategies. As demonstrated by increased scores in this domain compared to the latest round of post-distribution monitoring in late 2019, food-related coping strategies have become more frequent in the past six months, particularly for the Syrian beneficiary cohort.