As winter bites, people across Jordan look for cheaper heating solutions

Alternative Heating (1)
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AMMAN — Many around Jordan have tightened their belts due to prices rising, causing them to limit spending on necessities and basic supplies. With the winter cold, the increase in the price of fuel specifically has caused many to try and circumvent spending on heat, especially kerosene, to avoid staying without heat, Al-Ghad News reported. اضافة اعلان

One example is Ahmad Issa's mother; she merely turns on the kerosene heater in the morning for an hour before her children go to school to protect them from the cold. She said she realizes the difficulty the family has to go through to ration out basic needs to ensure heat is available, but she said that all situations lead to this.

Household emergency She added: "We can no longer fully fill the gallon of the kerosene after the price hike, so turning on the heat has become a great burden". The difficult economic conditions of the Issa family, which consists of seven, forced her to declare a state of emergency inside the house during winter to try to reduce using the heater as much as possible.

Securing kerosene, she added, has become overwhelming. She instead makes up for it by wearing more clothes inside the house, and on some nights, she makes her children wear coats and wraps them up in heavy coverings to stay warm.

This is not unique to the Issa family, she said. Many families are worried about the coming harsh cold and unstoppable winter, which coats and covers are no match against.

In 2022 kerosene and diesel prices continued to rise until November to 860 fils per liter, nearly a 40 percent increase from last year's prices, where the price per liter at that time was 615 fils.

 The poverty rate amongst Jordanians was 15.7 percent in 2017–2018, however, the World Bank forecasts a short-term increase, about 11 percentage points, in the national poverty, making it closer to about 27 percent. 

Rickety heaters and plastic bottlesMany across the Kingdom depend on kerosene as their primary heating method. 

People can be seen at various gas stations across the Kingdom carrying their rickety kerosene heaters and plastic soft drink bottles to fill them up with however much money they can spare, which is usually not enough. 

Ahmad's mother recalled a time when she waited next to a gas station for cars to leave for her to fill her heater with JD3 worth of kerosene as it was all she could afford. She also recalled feeling ashamed throughout the experience. 

She added that her anxiety about the cold winter had grown exponentially, and alternatives for heat were just as costly. Firewood, she said, is no longer available, especially since the price of a tonne has exceeded JD100. 

Community initiatives and innovative solutions Social activist Linda Abu Al-Ragheb said community initiatives to support low-income families in winter vary between coats, blankets, winter clothing, heaters, and different fuel types. This year, she said, is very different as assistance is exclusively for kerosene and heaters.

According to Abu Al-Ragheb, most low-income families have reached out to the initiative to secure the kerosene, while some have requested fireplaces.

Economic sociology expert Husam Ayesh stated that there is a major problem with the winter economy, pointing out the need for the government to consider people's basic needs. Focus, he said, needs to be particularly on poor and low-income households and their requirements to be able to live with the cold.

One such consideration is to take into account people's needs and plan accordingly, he said.

When it comes to kerosene — which is a matter of strategic planning for poor and low-income families and even middle-class families — the lack of it as a means of heating can cause a health issue, said Ayesh. The alternatives to kerosene, he said, are rubber or wood, pointing out that some may resort to chopping forest trees for fire or even resorting to burning old clothes.

 "Many people suffer from respiratory illnesses due to using these heating methods. Some have even lost their lives due tothe lack of heating resources," he said. 

The successive price increases are a problem that must be solved, said Ayesh. Many families find it difficult to buy and secure a safe heating method, so the government must find alternatives and solutions, he added. 

It is time, according to Ayesh, to allow these people to have heating power through thorough planning. Mechanisms to supply people with heating are the responsibility of the country, the government, and civil society institutions, he said

Lasting solutions that help people stay warm in the winter season, he added, must be continuous and permanent.

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