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Running on Empty II: A longitudinal welfare study of Syrian refugee children residing in Jordan's host communities

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After six years of war, the 659,593 Syrian refugees registered in Jordan continue to live precariously. Many Syrian families that arrived in Jordan after the outbreak of the war depend heavily on various forms of cash assistance, are more likely to have accumulated debt over the years in exile and face continuous financial stress. Increasingly pushed into less expensive housing, transportation costs to reach services have become a real burden, particularly impacting girls and young women. Families continue to rely on negative coping mechanisms, such as child labour, often with detrimental effects on boys’ education.

In order to better understand the changing circumstances of Syrian refugee families with children living in host community over time, UNICEF undertook a longitudinal study starting in January 2016. Running on Empty analyzed the initial wave of data collection in January 2016, focusing on monetary welfare of Syrian families in Jordan, access to services and social cohesion. This current instalment of the study includes findings from the next two waves in May and October 2016. This report focuses primarily on access and barriers to services for Syrian refugees living in host community.

This third wave of data collection in the longitudinal study showed notable changes in the fields of education, child protection, health and water and sanitation:

Education: The percentage of Syrian school-aged refugee children attending formal education improved from 72% in January 2016 to 79% in October 2016. A third of children who have never been enrolled in formal education in Jordan could not enroll for reasons including lack of proper documentation. For boys, child labour, school violence, and the high costs related to schooling (for transportation and stationery supplies) are the main barriers to their enrolment. For girls, barriers include the distance to the nearest school, the high cost of transportation, the need to help out with household chores, health problems, and families refusing to educate their daughters.

Drop-out rates: Sixty-eight per cent of out of school Syrian refugee children were previously enrolled in school in Jordan and have dropped out since. The poor quality of teaching and learning environment and violence in schools are the main reasons why children say they drop out of school.

Labour and Child Labour: As the policy context changed over the past year, Syrian refugees report high levels of awareness (92 per cent) of the work permit application fee waiver, but only 18 per cent report that they or members of their family have registered for work permits. Children continue to be major contributors to household income. This study found that for Syrians in host communities, 22 per cent of the total household income generated through labour (which excludes any form of cash transfer or assistance) comes from children under the age of 16.

Birth and civil registration: 41% of Syrian households with children that are registered with UNHCR have at least one child born in Jordan. Of these children, 6% do not have valid birth certificates from the Government of Jordan and will have a hard time obtaining them, primarily because of their family books being unavailable. This will affect their access to education and other basic services in the future.

Health: 85% of children in the study had medical needs in the last six months prior to this assessment. The number of children accessing NGO and CBO clinics has increased since the first dataset collected in this study. The number of respondents reporting that transportation costs are a barrier to accessing public healthcare has also risen.

Water and Sanitation: 23% of Syrian refugee households in host communities do not have enough water for all their household needs. 35% of households suffered overflows of sewerage in the last year, while 18% suffer this on monthly basis. This leads to a high risk of contamination and unsafe and unhealthy living environments.

It is important to emphasize that despite the multi-faceted nature of these challenges, the Government of Jordan, humanitarian partners, communities, parents and the children themselves continue to strive to meet the needs of all through this prolonged crisis. Critical to their success are sustained and predictable investments, timely implementation of high quality programmes and solid advocacy efforts for sound and evidence-based policy decisions.