Cash assistance to Palestine refugees from Syria in Jordan provides semblance of stability

27 December 2016
Mohammad accesses the cash assistance from UNRWA through the e-card programme, introduced in Jordan in April 2016. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Christien van den Brink

Mohammad Adnan Alwesh and his family – consisting of his wife Samah and their three kids, Tareq, Rayan and Adnan – fled from Yarmouk camp in Damascus in 2014. Their life in Amman has been far from easy since.

Mohammad’s family are among the more than 3,500 Palestine refugee families from Syria who rely on UNRWA cash assistance in Jordan.

The family of five lives in a small, unfurnished apartment in Jabal al-Hussein, a neighbourhood in Amman. Since 2011, the continuing political upheaval in Syria has driven many Palestine refugees from Syria (PRS) like Mohammad’s family to flee to Jordan.

Life in Jordan, while free from violence, has not been easy on Mohammad. Having worked with his father as a butcher in Yarmouk since he was a child, he finds himself walking the streets of Amman every day looking for work. “Sometimes I can find work as a waiter or a cleaner, but it is just for a few days,” he says.

The stress of not being able to fully provide for his family resulted in a nerve disorder. “We are now dependent on others, which is really difficult for me,” the young parent explains while playing with his youngest son, Adnan. “We really struggle to make ends meet. Life is much more expensive here than in Syria. We always have to ask help from our relatives,” he adds.

Mohammad, Samah and their three children in their home in Jabal al-Hussein, Amman, Jordan. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Christien van den Brink
Mohammad, Samah and their three children in their home in Jabal al-Hussein, Amman, Jordan. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Christien van den Brink

The UNRWA Emergency Coordination Unit provides Mohammad and his family with cash assistance to cover their basic needs. In April 2016, the Agency introduced the e-card, which allows PRS access the cash at their convenience.

“Once the cash is available, UNRWA sends a message to the PRS on their mobile phones or informs them through other means so that they can withdraw their money from an ATM,” explains Rawan al-Amad, the UNRWA Emergency Social Worker based in north Amman.  The family receives JOD 425 (US$ 600) every three months, which represents just under JOD 30 (US$ 42) per person per household per month.

The e-cards ensure a more dignified and empowering way of providing assistance. “We use the cash to pay the rent and to buy food,” Mohammad says. While smiling, Samah adds, “As an extra, Mohammad loves to buy chicken for the kids.”

Mohammad continues, “We prepare fried potatoes. It always feels like throwing a real family party.” Samah recalls, “Before we registered with UNRWA, we hadn’t eaten meat for I don’t know how long.”

“But I like pizza most!” jumps in 8-year-old Rayan, who dreams of becoming a lawyer someday.

The family is hopeful that Mohammad will find a stable job someday, enabling him to become independent again. “We have a family house in Syria,” Mohammad recalls. “The house is located in the middle of Yarmouk. I don’t know what happened to it after we left. We follow the news and it looks bad. It might have been completely destroyed.” Yet, despite the uncertainty, Mohammad’s wife is keen to return; “If the war in Syria finishes, we will go back,” Samah says decidedly.

Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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