Dubbed as an oasis of stability in a conflict-ridden region, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has been a safe haven for people escaping war and persecution in their native countries – including Circassians, Chechens and Armenians – ever since the 19th century. More recently, successive waves of refugees from Palestine, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Syria have sought shelter in the country, putting a strain on its infrastructure and public services.
Despite its status as an upper middle-income country – ranking 80 out of 188 in the Human Development Index – Jordan maintains pockets of food insecurity, especially in communities that have been hit by the protracted economic crisis of 2008 and are now hosting refugees. At the moment, it is home to nearly 700,000 UN-registered Syrian refugees.
Jordan is one of the world’s four most water-deficit countries. Due to scarce water supplies, recurrent drought, urbanization and desertification, agricultural production is insufficient, making Jordan a net importer of food.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has been present in Jordan since 1964. In recent years, WFP has been working with the Government and national organizations to create economic and livelihood opportunities for vulnerable and food insecure Jordanians while assisting over half a million Syrians through an e-voucher programme.
WFP also supports government efforts to invest in the next generation through school meals programmes that encourage school enrolment and retention and promotes activities to enhance the economy, agriculture and national development of Jordan, creating more jobs for vulnerable Jordanians and allowing Syrian refugees the opportunity to be self-sufficient.
In 2016, Jordan became the first country in the world where WFP used the innovative iris scan payment system to provide food assistance to the people it supports. Under this system, Syrian refugees in camps can buy their food from WFP-accredited supermarkets using nothing but their eye. No cash, voucher or credit card are needed.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Jordan
WFP is assisting the government in implementing a national school meals programme reaching up to 350,000 school children in the most vulnerable and food insecure areas. WFP is also providing school feeding in camps for Syrian refugees.
WFP assists vulnerable Jordanians affected by the extended economic crisis through cash and food transfers. Alongside food assistance to meet immediate needs, WFP runs food-for-assets/training activities that allow young men and women to hone their professional skills and improve their chances of employment.
Assistance for Syrian refugees
WFP is providing food assistance to over 560,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan. Refugees in camps receive their payments through an iris scan platforms, while those living outside camps receive electronic vouchers to be spent in local shops. This has contributed to the local economy through job creation and additional tax revenues. WFP also distributes fresh bread to refugees living in camps.