Jordan: International Aid Urgently Needed for Syrian Refugees

Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in Jordan are living under increasingly precarious conditions and Jordanian authorities are unable to provide them with adequate water and health care.

Jordan 2013 © Enass Abu Khalaf-Tuffaha/MSF

Zaatari Camp, close to the Syrian border, where over 100,000 Syria refugees reside.

 NEW YORK, MAY 30, 2013—Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in Jordan are living under increasingly precarious conditions and Jordanian authorities are unable to provide them with adequate water and health care, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warned today.

Increased international aid is urgently needed so that Jordan can cope with the rising influx of people and remain a refuge for Syrians fleeing violence in their country.

"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, which will worsen already precarious living conditions for hundreds of thousands of Syrians," said Antoine Foucher, MSF head of mission in Jordan. "Jordan urgently needs greater international support if they are to sustain a real open-door policy."

Of the nearly 500,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, more than 100,000 reside in the Zaatari camp in northern Jordan. The camp population has grown beyond the facility’s capacity and tensions within are mounting. Roughly 1,000 people have been arriving daily over recent months. MSF increased its staff and expanded its activities in the camp to address increasing needs there, in part by opening a pediatric hospital in late March and an outpatient clinic for children in late April.

Over the first five weeks of its activities, MSF staff carried out roughly 2,000 medical consultations, 60 of which were emergency cases. More than 270 children have been hospitalized and treated since the opening of the hospital. Existing health care facilities in Zaatari are insufficient for the size of the camp population, and water availability is a crucial issue in the region.

"Our staff is witnessing more and more cases of diarrhea and respiratory infection, which reflect 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, an MSF medical doctor in Zaatari.

Like other health providers in Zaatari, MSF refers the most severe cases to Jordanian public hospitals outside the camp, which are already nearing full capacity. A lack of international aid has threatened the ability of the Jordanian health care system to provide adequate treatment to Syrian refugees.

The Jordanian community is strained by the influx of refugees, particularly in the Northern Province, where the population has doubled in just a few months.

"Thus far, the Jordanian government has made significant efforts to host refugees, but the pressure caused by the massive influx of refugees has resulted in an increasingly difficult situation,” said Foucher. “There is no existing sustainable solution for hosting refugees, mainly due to a lack of long-term financial support."

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

MSF is also present in Syria, where it 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.