October 1 2022 7:44 AM E-paper Subscribe Sign in My Account Sign out

Government launches $2.4-billion 2021 response plan to the Syrian crisis

INGOs expect international funding to be limited, due to pandemic

A Syrian child stands among shelters at the Azraq refugee camp in Azraq, Jordan, December 9, 2014. (Photo: NYTimes)
AMMAN — The Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation launched the Jordan Response Plan (JRP) to the Syrian crisis for the year 2021, with a budget of approximately $2.4 billion. اضافة اعلان

The plan outlines and budgets different elements of the country’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis. Jordan is the world’s second-largest host of refugees, with around 658,000 Syrian refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and a total estimated population of 1.3 million Syrians living in the country, or slightly under 10 percent of the total Jordanian population, according to the International Labor Organization.

The JRP states that it is “the only source to identify the requirements needed to mitigate the impact resulted from hosting Syrian refugees including requirements to support the budget and host communities, where it is recognized as the only national lead owned strategy to deal with the burdens resulted from Syria crises, serving both host communities and Syrian refugees.” The plan is built on two pillars, resilience and humanitarian/refugee, divided across four components and seven sectors. This year, a new component was added dedicated to COVID-19 relief.

The plan dedicates $221.6 million to education; $202.9 million to health; $49.6 million to shelter; $388.9 million to social protection and justice; $116.6 million to public services; $218.3 million to water, sanitation, and hygiene; $69 million on economic empowerment and livelihoods; and $215.2 on economic empowerment and food security. Additional budget support needs include energy, security, transport, labor permit losses, and depreciation of infrastructure.

“As UNHCR, we would like to commend the Jordanian government for continuing to include Syrian refugees throughout the response,” said Francesco Bert, senior external relation officer at UNHCR Jordan, in an interview with Jordan News. “Now it’s particularly more important as we’ve entered the 11th year of the Syrian crisis.” He highlighted the importance of the fifth Brussels Conference on the future of Syria taking place on March 29 and 30, which seeks to “continue supporting the Syrian people and mobilize the international community in support of a comprehensive and credible political solution to the Syria conflict, in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.”

Bert emphasized the increased challenges facing Syrian refugees in Jordan during the pandemic. “It’s fundamental to recognize that the socioeconomic effects of the pandemic have exacerbated needs on the ground, not just among refugees but particularly among Jordanian host communities,” he said. “We have seen an increased level of vulnerabilities across both groups, Jordanian host communities and Syrian refugees, and therefore there is an additional need to continue to support Jordan in this regard.” He also commended Jordan for including Jordan in its national response to COVID-19, particularly through the recent vaccination campaign. 

The pandemic and its economic after-shocks are estimated to have increased poverty by around 18 percentage points among Syrian refugees in Jordan, according to a joint study by the World Bank and the UNHCR. Syrian refugees suffer from related social concerns in addition to poverty, such as lack of access to education; only a quarter (25) percent of eligible Syrian refugee students are enrolled in schooling, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council.

 “The government is good for refugees, but it is not enough,” said Rima (whose name has been changed), a Syrian refugee and mother of eight, in an interview with Jordan News. “I have many needs, for health, food, and services.” Rima came to Jordan from a village called Zour Shammar near the city of Raqqa in 2016 due to “the conditions of war and fear for my children.” She has five daughters and three sons. 

“We know from intention surveys amongst refugees that there is no intention of returning to Syria in the next 12 months because of a host of concerns around safety, livelihoods in Syria, et cetera,” said Alexander Kouttab, Head of Policy and Advocacy at the Norwegian Refugee Council Jordan. “So it means that the issues of hosting Syrian refugees for the Jordanian government is going to continue to be relevant and important now and into the future. What’s most important now is that the refugee response is fully funded.” 

“The needs out there are more acute due to Covid, so when we talk about refugees and also about vulnerable Jordanians, these are the segments of the population that have been hardest hit by the economic fallout from Covid in terms of loss of income, loss of jobs, we’re talking about households that primarily rely on daily wages and don’t have a financial buffer or anything resembling resilience in the face of economic shocks,” Kouttab said. “And not only have they been impacted significantly by the economic fallout, but they’re also struggling to get back to where we were before Covid. So their ability to recover has also been dramatically impacted by the economic fallout of Covid. So fewer jobs, more competition for jobs, and so forth.” 

Like Bert, Kouttab commended the government’s support for Syrian refugees through the JRP. “The Jordanian government compared to other neighboring states in the region really continues to stand above and beyond the responses of others. It has shown willingness to introduce innovative policies that support refugees in livelihoods, with the introduction of work permits, particularly now flexible work permits, and also through education, the double-shift school system.”

However, he also acknowledged the limits in international funding for the JRP likely to occur due to the economic pressures of the pandemic. “We are aware that there is likely to be an impact on funding from some donor states, because of Covid. Our strong appeal is that that impact be minimized as much as possible. We have the continuing reality of hardship, displaced Syrian population in Jordan, coupled with the additional economic burdens created by Covid. Bert likewise added: “We expect and encourage donors to continue to come forward and support Jordan.”

“Now is the time not to reduce funding,” Kouttab concluded. “Now is the time to be fully committed together, with the Jordanian government, in our response to the refugees. It’s never been as important as now.”