“Since its creation in 1967, we have developed numerous programs for poor communities. This includes refugees and migrants, as well as Jordanians,” explains Dana Shaheen. Caritas distributes essential goods, provides housing, fosters access to medicine and education, and much more. “We count on our team of 370 employees as well as the support of nearly 3,000 volunteers. Many are refugees who are committed to lending a helping hand.”
Jordan has a Mediterranean climate, but the mountains and deserts can get freezing cold in winter. Many families have problems during this time of the year. For refugees, the situation is particularly difficult. “There are no official statistics on poverty in Jordan,” says Dana. “Many families live in dilapidated houses without insulation or heating. In the winter, they use covers and old stoves to keep warm. Families have to buy fuel, warm clothes, and shoes for their children, in addition to food and basic goods. Often, rent for these shoddy homes is high. Due to these living conditions, many also need medical assistance which they can’t obtain because most refugees don’t have jobs.”
Many refugee families have been dependent on aid for years. In order to lead them towards autonomy, Caritas Jordan uses a system of refillable debit cards. In this way, families can take back control and fulfil their needs themselves. “Basic needs include food, medical care, and housing. However, other needs arise depending on the family,” explains Dana. “Having the freedom to choose for oneself gives a sense of dignity.”
Besides this, “families are cared for by our services: we organize information sessions and personal budgeting support. These are very important to guarantee the effectiveness of our system.”
Another similar initiative is the “cash for work” program. Syrian and Iraqi refugees receive training and 50 days of employment in agricultural, artisanal, or waste management sectors.
Medical and psychological care
“Many refugees are traumatized by the tragic situations in their home countries or by incidents that occur during their voyages. There are victims of torture and abuse, and others who have witnessed such horrors. Children are especially in need of appropriate care. We also see a lot of loneliness,” describes Dana. “We also organize information sessions about finding work, tenant rights and duties, etc. We suggest activities to promote a smooth integration and limit refugees’ isolation.”
Another crucial form of support is medical assistance. “We give particular attention to prenatal consultations and medical care for young mothers and children,” specifies Dana.
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Despite the constant efforts of Caritas Jordan and that of other NGOs, refugees’ situations in Jordan are deteriorating. The government has decided to now subsidize medical assistance only in camps, meaning that refugees not living in camps must pay their medical bills themselves. For many, this is impossible. Food taxes have increased. Official aid has decreased. Access to water, education, and sanitation is difficult. Parents are forced to send their children to work instead of to school as a means of survival.