Five years into the Syrian conflict refugees in Jordan have finished their means of subsistence and are increasingly slipping into poverty, a report by the aid agency CARE International concludes.
The report “Five Years into Exile” details concludes that Syrian refugees in Jordan, which currently number around 630,000, are facing deepening hardship due to reduced levels of assistance, access to services and lack of sustainable livelihoods.
“We are seeing growing evidence that after five years of conflict, an increasing number of Syrian refugees have exhausted their means of subsistence. At least two in three families live in poverty. We fear that without scaling up international assistance, the spiral of deepening poverty will accelerate with lasting impact on both refugees and local communities,” says Salam Kanaan, CARE country director in Jordan
The new report is based on interviews with 1,300 Syrian families living in urban areas of Jordan. Building on annual assessments conducted since 2012, the report identifies trends in the challenges facing refugees, their priorities, coping mechanisms and relations with host communities.
Significantly, half of Syrian families interviewed said their overall situation had deteriorated over the last year. Inability to pay rent remains their top concern, with 8 out of 10 families worried about housing; 6 out of 10 lack money to buy enough food, an increased share since last year, as a result of the World Food Programme’s reducing food support.
Lack of steady income and formal employment continues to be a fundamental problem for Syrian refugees. Some families have so far been able to mobilise resources to cover the gap between income and expenses, leading most to turn to debt or worst, child labour and keeping children home from school to save expenses for transport, uniforms, books and stationary. Female-headed households, which make up about 28 percent of surveyed households, continue to face additional barriers to livelihoods.
Access to education has improved somewhat since 2014, but one third of school-aged children are still out of school, with boys more affected than girls. The reason for this is mostly connected with the need for children to work and provide a source of income.
The report also found an increasing number of Syrian refugees are unable to enjoy legal protection or access services and assistance, since Jordanian authorities from mid-2014 introduced new policies for registration with the Government and UNHCR, making it more difficult for refugees to settle outside of the established refugee camps. Unregistered refugees lack access to health services and other assistance, as well as living in constant fear of arrest.
As in CARE’s previous assessments, many families reported difficulties dealing with the experience of violence and displacement, and the associated stress. “There is a lack of opportunities and spaces to meet for boys and girls, women and men. They are unable to escape from cramped housing conditions, haunted by uncertainty about the future, and constant worry about family and friends back in Syria,” says Kanaan. “This adds incredible pressure to already vulnerable people who are unable to meet some of their family’s most basic needs.“
The report also found important differences in the impact of war and displacment on refugees, particularly according to gender and age.
Many have had to take on new roles, with an increasing number of women and sometimes children having to contribute to the family’s income. Men and older people sometimes suffer from a parallel loss of status. Many parents are particularly concerned about their girls’ safety and “honor,” resulting in girls being confined to the house and sometimes forcibly married. Women and adolescent girls continue to be at increased risk of different forms of gender-based violence in both public and private spaces.
“While the numbers of Syrian refugees coming into Jordan has decreased this year, there is no end to their displacement in sight,” Kanaan says.
“The protracted nature of this crisis demands that we seek longer term solutions. We must address the need for sustainable livelihoods. We seek solutions that will benefit both refugee and host communities. This requires a stronger international commitment to funding. But we must also see the mutual benefits and opportunities available in opening up some work sectors, or creating less complicated procedures for registration of refugees.”
The research was carried out between December 2014 and March 2015, and involved interviews with 1,300 families, as well as focus group discussions and individual interviews with Syrian and Jordanian women, men, and male and female youth, and other stakeholders.