Jordan: International support urgently needed for Syrian refugees

30 May 2013
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Jordan urgently needs greater international support in order to continue accommodating refugees from Syria inside its borders, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said today.

Conditions are already poor for the approximately 100,000 Syrian refugees settled in Zaatari camp in the north of the country, and are set to worsen; but a lack of financial resources and political will is testing the Jordanian government’s ability to meet the increasing needs.

Half a million Syrian refugees in Jordan

Nearly half a million Syrians have sought refuge in Jordan, making up a third of the 1.5 million who have fled to neighbouring countries. Until last month, a thousand refugees per day were arriving at Zaatari camp, which has become the largest temporary settlement for Syrian refugees in the region. 

“Thus far, the Jordanian government has made significant efforts to host refugees,” said Antoine Foucher, MSF’s country manager in Jordan. “But the pressure caused by the massive influx of refugees has resulted in an increasingly difficult situation.”

The camp has so far exceeded its capacity, and tensions are running high. Host communities in Jordan are also under pressure from the influx of refugees, particularly in the Northern Province, where the population has doubled in recent months. “There is no existing sustainable solution for hosting refugees, mainly due to a lack of long-term financial support,” said Foucher.

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MSF increases staff

Life is hard for refugees in Zaatari camp. In late March, MSF teams opened a 24-hour paediatric hospital there, the only facility open to children under ten in the area. More than 270 children have been hospitalised and treated since the paediatric hospital opened.

MSF has also increased staff and expanded activities to cope with the constant flow of new arrivals. An outpatient clinic for children opened in late April. During the first five weeks of activities MSF medical staff carried out around 2,000 consultations, 60 of which were emergency cases.

“Our staff are witnessing more and more cases of diarrhoea and respiratory infections, which reflects the precarious living conditions of the refugees in this overcrowded camp, and we expect to see an increase in dehydration cases over the summer,” said Claudia Truppa, MSF medical doctor in Zaatari.

Water availability is clearly a crucial issue in the region. Sanitation facilities are also insufficient for the size of the camp’s population.   

Healthcare under strain

With the influx of refugees, Jordan’s healthcare system is also under strain. Like other health organisations in Zaatari, MSF refers the most severe cases to Jordanian public hospitals outside the camp.

These hospitals are nearing full capacity, and insufficient funding threatens the ability of the country’s healthcare system to treat Syrian refugees properly.

“Without political will and financial commitment from states, the Jordanian government risks resorting to drastic measures: permanently blocking refugee access to the country or restricting access to care in public facilities, undermining the already precarious living conditions of hundreds of thousands of Syrians,” says Foucher. “Jordan urgently needs greater international support if they are to sustain a real open-door policy.”

MSF's work in the region

MSF has been working in Jordan inside an Amman hospital since 2006, performing reconstructive surgery and carrying out outpatient consultations for wounded persons from Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

MSF staff is also present in Syria, where it currently operates five hospitals in the north of the country, as well as in Lebanon and Iraq, where it provides medical and psychological care to Syrian refugees.

Find out more about MSF's work in Syria and Jordan