THE Salvation Army's response to Syrian refugees who have fled to Jordan continues to provide help to desperate people from both countries. Major Henk van Hattem – a Dutch Salvation Army officer serving in the Czech Republic – has just returned from Jordan, and he spoke to the International Headquarters (IHQ) Communications Section while at IHQ for an International Emergency Services debrief.
The major says he had been expecting many challenges in Jordan, particularly with regards to security, but that in his experience the country was 'an oasis of peace' – albeit a place where the refugee crisis was having profound implications for locals as well as Syrians.
The Salvation Army is working in partnership with the Lutheran World Fellowship (LWF), which has a long-term office in Jordan. Together they began to prepare a support programme for 200 families affected by the refugee crisis which has seen 600,000 people added to the country's six million population. Hank compares this to the idea of six million refugees fleeing to a country the size of the United Kingdom or France – in about 18 months.
The programme has grown from the initial plans, and 1,001 families are now being supported with winterisation kits including a heater, gas bottle, vouchers for six refills to get through the winter, blankets and – importantly – carpet for the concrete floors that many families are having to live on. Families with children also receive a warm tracksuit for each child.
Major van Hattem explains that the project will not only benefit Syrian families. Forty per cent of those being helped are Jordanians for whom the influx of refugees has brought hardship. In many border towns the price of everyday commodities such as food has risen dramatically, while wages have not changed. One local family he met – and which is supported by the Salvation Army and LWF – has two disabled daughters who need full-time care from their mother. The father works as a guard, earning only 250 Jordanian dinar (US$350) a month, half of which goes on housing. The remainder of his wages cannot stretch to cover the rest of the bills because prices have risen rapidly.
Some families are accounting for the price rises by renting out space, such as a garage, for refugees to live in. For those without such facilities, however, times are tough.
Around 200 families have already received their winterisation kits, with another 600 due to be distributed in two weeks and the rest given out before Christmas. The most needy families have been identified in conjunction with the local authorities and working with a local agency, the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organisation (JHCO). By going through JHCO the Salvation Army/LWF partnership is able to be recognised as a charity.
As well as the family support, The Salvation Army and LWF are trying to address the issue of Syrian refugee children who are missing out on schooling. Two school projects are being prepared to enable a total of 290 Syrian children to attend Jordanian schools, which will be extended to cope with the new influx of pupils. Part of the funding is now in place but Major van Hattem says the rest of the money is taking longer to source, particularly with the eyes of the world's donors drawn to The Philippines.
Report by the Communications Section