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UNHCR Study on Plight of Syrian Refugees in Jordan

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 16 2015 (IPS) - A new United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) study “Living in the Shadows” released last week reveals the increasingly desperate conditions of Syrian refugees living in urban and rural areas across Jordan.

The report’s findings are based on data gathered using questionnaires answered by some 150,000 Syrian refugees, carried out during home visits by UNHCR’s partner International Relief and Development in 2014.

Almost half of the households visited had no heating, a quarter had unreliable electricity, and 20 percent had no functioning toilet.

Rental costs accounted for more than half of household expenditures, and refugee families were increasingly being forced to share accommodations with others in order to reduce costs.

The situation is particularly worrying for the most vulnerable populations, such as female-headed households with little or no means to provide for themselves, and children who risk losing out on education opportunities.

According to the study, two-thirds of refugees across Jordan are now living below the national poverty line, and one in six Syrian refugee households lives in abject poverty, with less than $40 per person per month to make ends meet.

In an effort to address this critical situation, UNHCR is providing monthly cash assistance to 21,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian families, or 14 percent of the Syrian refugee population living outside camps.

As of the end of 2014, over 10,000 additional Syrian refugee households have been identified as eligible for such assistance but, due to lack of funds, cannot be provided with support.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, stated that large numbers of Syrian refugees are sliding into abject poverty, and at an alarming rate, due to the magnitude of the crisis and insufficient support from the international community.

Guterres, who was on a two-day visit to Jordan last week, emphasised that this crisis can be mitigated if the international community steps up efforts to alleviate the suffering of the refugees.

“The generosity of the Jordanian people and the Government needs to be matched by massive support from the international community – support for the refugees themselves and for the local populations hosting them, but also structural and budgetary support to the Jordanian Government for education, health, water and sanitation and electricity to enable it to cope with this enormous challenge,” Guterres said.

Since the beginning of the crisis in 2011, the Government of Jordan, together with humanitarian organisations, has provided Syrian refugees with essential services and support. But as the Syrian conflict enters its fifth year in spring of 2015, the situation for many refugees is increasingly dire as savings and other resources become gradually depleted.

The vast majority (84 percent) of Jordan’s 620,000 registered Syrian refugees live outside the country’s main refugee camps of Zaatari and Azraq.

Funding is running out for the Government of Jordan to sustain free access to health services across the country and the World Food Program is finding it difficult to raise sufficient funds for food assistance, even though the vulnerability of refugees is likely to be even more severe in coming months.

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