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Jordan says it cannot continue to bear brunt of Syrian refugee crisis


By Dale Gavlak
Catholic News Service


AL-KHALDIYA, Jordan (CNS) — As a donors conference to stem the Syrian refugee crisis opened in London, Syria’s neighbours, which have hosted hundreds of thousands of refugees for the past five years, say they cannot continue to bear the brunt of the burden.

King Abdullah II of Jordan, one of dozens of world leaders who participated in the Feb. 4 gathering, warned that his country is now at a “boiling point.”

“Sooner or later, I think, the dam is going to burst,” he told the BBC, saying the refugee influx engulfing Jordan is draining it of funds, vital social services, education and health care.

And it’s not just Syrians coming: Iraqis and others fleeing violence in the aftermath of the Arab Spring uprisings still seek shelter in the cash-strapped, oil-poor kingdom.

The Syrian crisis has cost Jordan $6.6 billion over the past five years, Jordanian officials recently reported. In 2016 alone, Jordan can expect to spend $2.7 billion on refugee assistance. But officials said that international aid pledges for the refugees have remained underfunded.

It’s not just governments that are going into the red over the continuing crisis. Humanitarian agencies, like the World Food Program, have faced mounting financial challenges to keep up assistance.

Last autumn, the World Food Program cut back on food aid to the refugees, some of whom responded by heading to Europe or returning to Syria. The program said it now has funds to help feed 526,000 vulnerable Syrian refugees in Jordan until May.

The international Catholic charity Caritas, operating in Jordan, has tried to pick up the shortfall with food aid. But it, too, is dependent on funds from Caritas partners worldwide and government assistance to help provide Syrian and Iraqi refugees with shelter, education and winter items.

Omar Abawi, head program manager for Caritas Jordan, said operations assisting Syrian and Iraqi refugees for 2016 are projected to cost $21 million.

“By this first quarter, we received around $14 million, so we have a gap of $7 million-$8 million this year,” Abawi told Catholic News Service. “Although we are still in the first quarter, we expect that 90 per cent of the needed funds will be received.”

Copyright (c) 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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