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Health Crisis Building in Jordan Due to Syrian Refugees

Jordan’s health system is beginning to crack under the strain of caring for 340,000 Syrian refugees. Amman is seeking help with the effort.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 2/15/2013, 1:14 AM

Za'atri tent city for Syrian refugees in Jordan
Za'atri tent city for Syrian refugees in Jordan
Reuters

Jordan’s health system is beginning to crack under the strain of caring for 340,000 Syrian refugees. Amman is seeking help with the effort.

“The pressure is beyond the health sector’s strength to continue providing services for the refugees,” Jordanian Health Minister Abdul Latif Wreikat said bluntly on Thursday, according to Bernama, the Malaysian national news agency.

Chronic diseases have been discovered among a large number of the Syrians who fled across the border to safety in Jordan as well, Wreikat said. This has led to a drop in supplies of medicines in some of the hospitals and health care centers, he warned. “We welcome any assistance to help enhance our capability to provide services to the Syrian refugees,” Wreikat said.

In Washington D.C., Jordanian Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Jafar Hassan met with reporters and analysts at the Jordanian Embassy to underscore the magnitude of the problem.

“Jordan is in no way positioned to spend the resources that are needed for this, simply because it does not have the resources,” said Hassan. The Hashemite Kingdom currently has an unemployment rate of 13 percent.

An average of 2,000 Syrian refugees has crossed the border into Jordan each day over the past month, he said. Of the 340,000 Syrian refugees currently in the country, 55 percent are children – and nearly every family suffers from disease or injury that requires immediate treatment.

International Medical Corps has been providing primary health care and psychosocial services through static and mobile clinics for the refugee population, according to the organization’s website. But it is not clear exactly how much aid the group has offered, working with its local partner, Jordan Health Aid Society, which also provides services to Iraqi refugees and “vulnerable local populations.”

The global humanitarian aid organization CARE, which has worked in Jordan since 1948, also released a statement last week saying it has been trying to relieve the strain on the system. The organization said it has offered cash assistance to pay for basic living costs, such as rent, food and winter clothing. Some 2,200 heaters were also distributed by the organization, and a refugee resource center was opened in East Amman for Syrians to receive assistance and information about where to go for medical and other social services.

“It’s important [to consider] the needs of refugees who are not living in camps but are on their own in Jordanian cities and towns,” reminded Kevin Fitzcharles, director for CARE in Jordan. The influx has also resulted in an increase in rent in some urban areas, leading to difficulties for local Jordanians who “might not be able to afford apartments anymore,” Fitzcharles noted. 

He warned it was important to help the Syrians build support within their own host communities in order to “avoid potential tension and break the isolation of refugees.”
            
But Jordanian officials maintain the issue is not one of a lack of good will, but rather an issue of resources. 

“I am not saying the good will will run out,” Hassan said, according to The Washington Times. “I am saying the resources are running out.”