The international community has so far failed to offer adequate help to Syrian refugees and their hosts. Now is the time to do the right thing.
Entering its third year, the Syrian Civil War has cast a huge shadow on neighboring Jordan. The Jordanian government estimates the total number of Syrians in Jordan to be 1.3 million, while the UNHCR estimates the number of Syrian refugees (arrived after 2011) in Jordan at more than 512,000.
This would be the equivalent of 28.8 million refugees crossing the border into the United States. Meanwhile, al-Zaatari camp, which now hosts nearly 110,000 Syrians, has become Jordan’s fourth largest city.
The influx of refugees is not projected to slow down. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that one million Syrian refugees will be in Jordan by the end of 2013. The WHO predicts that 700,000 Syrians will live in Jordanian villages and cities, and 300,000 Syrians will live in camps by the end of 2013. Jordan has recently approved the construction of a new camp with the capacity of 130,000 persons near al-Azraq.
The huge influx has come at a cost. In a January 2013 study, Jordanian economist Khalid al-Wazani calculated the real cost of hosting one refugee to be JD2500 ($3528) per year.
The study estimated that the total cost of hosting Syrians until January 2013 was JD590 ($833) million. The largest components of the total cost to be subsidized inclue energy products (JD51 ($72) million), security (JD49 ($69) million), medical expenses (JD24 ($34) million), and infrastructure costs (JD25 (35$) million).
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Planning surmises that the cost of hosting Syrian refugees in 2013 only to be $851.1 million. The Ministry’s projections mean that the total cost since the beginning of the crisis will mount to $1.68 billion at the end of 2013.
It is difficult to calculate the total aid Jordan received for hosting the Syrian refugees. Many countries and international organizations have promised aid, and some have reneged on their promises. Nevertheless, the total promised aid to Jordan in 2013, provided by Japan, European countries, the United States, Canada, the Gulf countries, and international organizations, is several hundred millions short of the anticipated cost of $851.5 million.
This cost is particularly problematic for a country with a GDP of less than $40 billion. As the High Commissioner for refugees, António Guterres, proclaims, monetary aid is a “matter of survival” for refugees, and is an “existential” problem for host countries like Jordan. Affected by the burden of hosting the refugees, 75% of Jordanians now favor closing the borders with Syria.
The shortage of aid to Syria’s neighbors is not only problematic to the host countries, but also to the Syrian refugees. At the Zaatari camp, there is one toilet for every 50 Syrians. One survey claims that 4 percent of Syrian refugees under 5 in Jordan are suffering from malnutrition. The international community has so far failed to offer adequate help to Syrian refugees and their hosts. Now is the time to do the right thing.
Ala’ Alrababa’h is a Jordanian student who attends Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. He is majoring in government and economics. Ala’ has published in several news outlets and he keeps a blog at Ghurbeh.com. Ghazi Jarrar is a Jordanian student who attends Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. He is double-majoring in history and economics. Ghazi writes regularly on Jordan and Middle East affairs. You can read Ghazi’s articles in Ghurbeh.com.