A resilience-based reading of the impact of the Syrian crisis in Jordan | Ibrahim Saif

09 Jan 2014

Syria Syrian refugees at Zaatari Camp in Jordan. Photo: Areej Abu Qudairi/IRIN

This month Jordan will take part in the international pledging conference for Syria in Kuwait and will present its National Resilience Plan, detailing how the country is addressing the challenges related to the impact of the massive influx of Syrian refugees on the host communities. 

Close to 600,000, Syrians who took refuge in Jordan now account for nearly 10% of Jordan’s population. Most of them (80%) live in urban and rural host communities across the country and not in camps. Coming at a most challenging economic period for the Kingdom, the sheer volume of the numbers has placed a critical pressure on the country’s social, economic, institutional and natural resources. Increased competition for access to public utilities, schooling, health services, infrastructure, and jobs is not only straining the budget, government services, and families, but it poses threats to social cohesion and peace.

This argument may not be new, but it is now well-supported by detailed assessments and analyses of the impacts of the spillover of the Syrian crisis on the Kingdom, document in the recently completed “Needs Assessment Review of the Impact of the Syrian Crisis on Jordan (NAR).”

The NAR indicates that the impact of the Syrian crisis on Jordan has manifested in three different but interrelated manners:
- increased pressure on public finance, worsened trade deficit and losses to key economic sectors;
- exacerbating vulnerabilities for the poorest segments of the Jordanian population; and
- deterioration of access to quality basic services in the most affected governorates.

Overall, the Central Bank of Jordan estimates that the impact of the Syrian crisis will have reduced Jordan’s GDP growth by 2 percentage points in 2013, reducing growth to 3% - 3.5%. This may threaten not only to derail the development trajectory of Jordan, but also to stunt economic growth and development for years to come, especially if the situation in Syria persists.

The spillover effects of the Syrian crisis are taking a heavy toll on Jordanians, especially on the most vulnerable segments of the population in the northern part of the country, where over half of Syrian refugees currently reside.

With a 25% decline in agricultural exports to Syria and a 30% decline in imports, the crisis has also led to losses of livelihoods in agriculture and food trade.

The provision of social services has also suffered as a result of the crisis, as pre-existing pressures are exacerbated as a result of increased demand.

Country-wide, 41% of Jordanian public schools are now crowded, against 36% in 2011. About 80 schools had to work double shifts in order to enroll over 85,000 Syrian children (excluding camps) – of an estimated 150,000 eligible for enrollment.

The Syrian refugee influx has also overwhelmed the capacity of an already under-resourced public health care system to deliver quality services to all. The increased caseload has pushed the health care financing system close to breaking point.

The existing supply of housing is not able to meet demand, in particular for lower income groups. Increased demand has inflated rental prices up to 200%, with extremes at 300% in some areas compared to pre-crisis values. Additionally, municipal service delivery capacity is overstretched and development control has become increasingly difficult. Growth of informal settlements has exacerbated shortfalls in maintenance and building of roads.

As the crisis continues, it is likely that Jordan will witness more flows of refugees. UNHCR estimates that by the end of 2014, over 800,000 Syrian refugees will have crossed the border into the country. Host communities, services and infrastructure will soon reach their absorption capacities.  In some areas, these thresholds have been stretched to breaking, whilst in others they have already been exceeded. 

The Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation initiated the NAR at the Host Community Support Platform meeting in September 2013. It was undertaken in coordination with all relevant line ministries, and provides the basis for Jordan’s National Resilience Plan – a three year programme of high priority investments required to address impacts of the crisis, as detailed above in health; education; water and sanitation; livelihood and employment; municipal services; energy; housing; and social protection. Failure of the international community to support Jordan with the burden of financing these investments will undoubtedly jeopardize hard-won development gains achieved over decades.

Through this National Resilience Plan, Jordan is appealing to the international community at this particular point in time to increase the levels of aid to its national and local institutions and communities to mitigate the adverse consequences of the Syria conflict. This will complement the generous humanitarian support being provided.  It will also enable Jordan to take greater responsibility for the planning, implementation and management of response interventions being designed for its own host communities.

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