COVID-19 cash assistance is a lifeline for refugees in Jordan
A university professor, a Yemeni tradesman, a car repair man and a father of eight. The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the lives of refugee families across Jordan. This is how UNHCR’s emergency COVID-19 assistance, with the support of Austria, the European Union, and the US, is helping.
A university professor for many years, Abdelazeez spent his life teaching international law in universities throughout the Middle East. Now a refugee in Jordan since the start of the Syrian conflict, Abdelazeez struggles on a daily basis to support his three children, wife and mother.
With academia being a closed sector for refugees, Abdelazeez has not been able to continue his work, and has been facing challenges in meeting not only the basic needs of the family, but also the medical expenses for his elderly mother and the additional educational support that his son Omar requires due to his special needs. “I have accepted the reality of life here in Jordan, it’s difficult. I feel that I have lost 27 years of learning and professional experience. But my belief in God that there will be better times still remains.”
Sultan from Yemen finds himself in a similar situation. Before the outbreak of the conflict, he was a successful tradesman selling clothes to several large outlet malls. Since fleeing to Jordan in 2014, he has been unable to work due to the obstacles for non-Syrian refugees in accessing the Jordanian labour market.
“I came here because I thought there would be a future, but it has been more difficult than I expected,” Sultan says explaining how difficult it has been to provide for his family and depending on humanitarian assistance.
The challenges Abdelazeez and Sultan have faced in recent years in supporting their families were exacerbated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But help was on hand as their families were among over 70,000 vulnerable families that have received COVID-19 cash assistance from UNHCR Jordan over the past year. For most families, the assistance helped pay off some of the debts that refugees have accumulated as a result of the economic impact of the pandemic, as well as outstanding rent and electricity and water bills.
Muthab, 36, who has lived in Jordan for 16 years after fleeing his home in Baghdad, Iraq, was also a recipient of COVID-19 cash assistance. A divorced father of two, Muthab saves every penny he earns to provide for his children. But over the past year he has struggled a lot. As a windscreen repair specialist, Muthab didn’t receive any calls for work during the lockdowns.
COVID-19 also made life very difficult for Hanan’s family. As a construction worker in Aleppo, Syria, Hanan was able to support his family for years, but a number of health issues have prevented him from working since fleeing to Jordan five years ago. Consequently, the family now depends on the two eldest sons, Ahmad, 18, and Mohammad, 16, to provide an income. But the informal work opportunities that Ahmad and Mohammad relied on prior to the pandemic dried up and the family has struggled even more. Just three months ago they were evicted from their previous house as they couldn’t afford the rent and still owe two months of rent to their current landlord.
“We normally only have one meal a day, and sometimes we have to prioritize feeding the young children over ourselves. Sometimes we don’t even have JOD 2 for bread and water,” says Hanan explaining the difficult decisions his wife and he have to take to meet the basic needs of the family.
After receiving the COVID-19 cash assistance from UNHCR in August 2021, Hanan decided to put some of it towards rent, and the rest towards food. “I bought chicken and fruit so the family could have a nice meal,” he says with a smile.
Abdelazeez, Sultan, Muthab, and Hanan’s are some of over 70,000 households that over the past year have received COVID-19 cash assistance from UNHCR Jordan, to help meet their basic needs. This assistance was supported through funding from Austria, the European Union, and the US. COVID-19 emergency assistance is specifically targeted towards refugees and their families who were severely affected by the impact that COVID-19 has had on the livelihoods of refugees and vulnerable Jordanians.