Magazine article Forced Migration Review

Failure to Adapt: Aid in Jordan and Lebanon

Magazine article Forced Migration Review

Failure to Adapt: Aid in Jordan and Lebanon

Article excerpt

Many aid agencies in Lebanon and Jordan find themselves stuck in a wholly inappropriate paradigm of assistance from which they cannot extricate themselves.

As the whole edifice of aid machinery descended on the world's latest emergency, it soon became apparent that it was ill-equipped to adequately address the needs of a displaced population from a middle-income country.

Although a majority of the refugees are either hosted or in rented accommodation, Za'atari camp in Jordan (now the world's largest refugee camp) stands out as the most visibly 'managed' Syrian population. It encompasses everything that is wrong about camps. The Jordanian government confines the population, taking possession of their identity papers, and disallowing free movement to other parts of the country. The aid agencies collude by containing the crisis through provision of aid. Both parties are bewildered when stones are thrown at them by frustrated camp residents. This is a predominantly educated population with resources and a history of regional migration and ties across the Middle East. They are finding it difficult to be 'grateful' for having to queue for a loaf of bread and a food parcel while trapped in a dusty field on the Jordan/Syria border.

There are some stark examples of organisations with solutions looking for problems. In Lebanon the population's biggest burden is spiralling rents, made worse by reducing work opportunities. They are not generally food insecure, yet they receive cash vouchers ($27 a month) from the World Food Programme (WFP) which cover only a part of the actual food consumption of people who are used to spending far more per month on essentials. Far from being a life-saving intervention, the voucher is just one of several 'coping strategies' - resources they can draw on - and it is hardly surprising that up to 40% of these vouchers are sold rather than redeemed. The depletion of household resources is, at this stage in the crisis, a financial, not nutritional or food-related, crisis. To say that the $27 per month voucher offsets other costs is a truism that does not justify such a costly venture, the administration of which drains both financial and human resources.

At least twice a month people queue up for their vouchers at warehouses or football stadiums in urban centres where a combination of 'non-food items' (from UNHCR), food vouchers (from WFP) and ad hoc gifts from Gulf states and philanthropic individuals are distributed. …

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