In Jordan, Tensions, Prices Rise as Refugee Aid Drops Off

March 16,2015

AMMAN— As the war in Syria enters its fifth year, half the population has been displaced and 4 million people have left the country. With no end to the conflict in sight, however, it is not just Syria that is reeling. Resources in neighboring countries are stretched to the limit and in the Jordanian capital, workers say prices and tensions are rising quickly as international aid becomes harder to attain.

There are no bombs going off these days in Jordan, but families say since the Syria war began, everything has changed.

Saleh Awad is a taxi driver and the father of nine children. As he eats lunch with his family off a large cloth on the floor, he says rent has gone up by 75 percent in recent years.

And as refugees pour out of Iraq as well as Syria, he says, competition from laborers who will work for almost nothing makes its almost impossible to make enough money to pay the bills.

Ten percent of the people in Jordan are now refugees from Syria; but, international aid is dwindling along with the patience of host countries, says Andrew Walker, who heads the United Nations refugee agency in Jordan.

"Over time the welcome mat gets thinner and thinner. I think the security situation in the region magnifies the concerns of Jordanians of what impact the refugees have," he said.

The impact, he says, includes sharing the limited resources of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, the countries where most Syrian refugees now live. The United Nations is seeking $3 billion for Jordan alone, but so far has raised only 5 percent of the money.

"On top of that you see the fighting that is going on inside Iraq and the displacement that is going on inside there," said Walker. "One of the challenges is: when does this stop? How long do we have to try to provide a humanitarian response to the political failures?"

These political failures, he adds, could also spread the security crisis into neighboring countries.

Outside Saleh’s house, his 15-year-old son Zaid entertains his younger siblings. He says no one expects the nearby wars to end soon and he plans to join the military after he finishes school.

He says he plans to defend the homeland, but his father says fears the war could expand are not nearly as troubling as fears the economy will further deteriorate, driving Jordanians from their homes and adding to the millions of displaced in the region.

Saleh adds, after four years of war, he is increasingly anxious because every day it becomes more difficult to feed his children.