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Food Security Situation and Livelihood Intervention Opportunities For Syrians Refugees And Host Communities in North Jordan

This assessment aims at providing an overview of the food security situation in areas of Jordan with a high concentration of Syrian refugees, as well as at assessing current opportunities for livelihood interventions to address the income gap faced by vulnerable Syrian refugee and Jordanian host community populations. Based on vulnerability studies conducted by REACH and WFP , the target population of Syrian refugees and Jordanian host communities was selected in six governorates: Mafraq, Irbid, Zarqa, Balqa, Ajloun and Jarash.

Demographics related to both Syrian and Jordanian families show similarities between the two groups. Approximately half of the target population consists of children under 15 years old. Compared to Syrians, a higher proportion of Jordanians had received / was receiving formal education.

Syrians and Jordanians depict significant differences in terms of their main income sources. Syrian communities were highly dependent on the direct support received through various actors. Also, a considerable proportion of Syrians were earning some income through unskilled labour, while Jordanians had more sustainable income sources. Average monthly income of Syrians was less than Jordanians, which can be attributed to their incapacity to access formal employment.

Both communities revealed that around 40% of their monthly expenditure is spent on food items. Further analysis reveals additional similarities: the amount of money spent on essential basic utilities such as energy, water, and transportation were not substantially different between the two communities. In contrast, Syrians spent less income on essential social services such as education and healthcare, a potential indicator for lower spending capacity among Syrian families and/or a result of the free education and health care now being provided. A high proportion of Syrians also spent a significantly higher amount on rent than Jordanians. People reported resorting increasingly to negative coping mechanisms such as the sale of personal items and the purchase of food and essential items on credit, revealing a trend of growing debts for refugee families.

Essential food items were readily available for purchasing in market places. Markets were located in close proximity and easily accessible in general. Overall, meat, fish and fruits consumptions were poor; high meat prices had directly impacted on comparatively low meat intake by most of families. Nevertheless, protein-rich food intake was somewhat ensured by adding eggs and dairy to the diet. Eggs and dairy prices were fairly affordable; however the high consumption variance across households can be a result of poor nutritional practices, attitude or knowledge among those with the poorest nutritional intake.

1% Jordanians and 3% Syrian households were food insecure while another 15% Jordanian and 18% Syrian households were at risk. Though not a significantly poor food security situation, nevertheless the findings illustrate a need for targeted food security interventions with integrated nutritional awareness. It was also noted that food insecurity can be somewhat attributable to geographical location, and Ajloun governorate was found to have higher food insecurity compared to other locations. Therefore household-level interventions targeting food insecure populations in specific locations could be considered through future initiatives. However, further studies on nutritional knowledge, attitude and practices are required to understand better the reasons for food insecurity among families at the ‘at risk’ or poor end of the food security spectrum.

Having insufficient or no capital was the key constraint Syrians faced to start livelihood activities. Also, the requirement for working permits in order to obtain jobs remained an obstacle. For Jordanians, lack of opportunities due to high competition but less demand was the most challenging factor. Since Syrian households were highly dependent on assistance by various actors, more sustainable solutions must be introduced. Conditional cash support for attending skill training programs could be considered as a potential option.

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