Anera includes Jordan in its MENA area of operations
AMMAN - Delivering more than $67 million in assistance programmes in 2017, the American Near East Refugee Aid (Anera) organisation has been instrumental in easing the suffering of refugees and people affected by conflicts in the Middle East.
After 50 years of operating in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon and Syria, Anera is seeking a stronger presence in Jordan, one of the countries most affected by the Syrian crisis.
With more than 660,000 registered Syrian refugees, Jordan has the second highest share of refugees per capita after Lebanon, the UN refugee agency said. Jordan also suffered during the Iraq war in 2003 with an influx of Iraqis fleeing violence.
“Anera worked in Jordan in the past, in response to the Iraqi crisis,” said Anera President Sean Carroll. “As challenges continue and have grown since the start of the Syrian crisis (in 2011), we should be working in Jordan again. The Jordanian government as well as donors are encouraging us to come back.”
“We are gearing up to do more in Jordan and also prepare ourselves to be able to respond in Syria when the time is right,” Carroll said, noting that, while some refugees are returning to Syria, most of them have not started that journey.
“Refugees’ return will be a long process. The duration of forced displacement in the world is now averaging around 17 years,” he said.
“We seek to improve the lives of refugees and the communities they live in. Whether refugees end up staying in their host country, moving to a third country or returning to their home country, they need help to maintain dignity and safety and work towards economic stability,” Carroll said.
“Anera’s programmes on accelerated learning, vocational training, youth and community leadership and women’s economic empowerment will provide useful skills that are valuable towards a return to normalcy and prosperity, wherever they end up living.”
Anera started its work in the Middle East after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, responding to the needs of Palestinians and others caught in the conflict.
“Following the 1967 war several Arab and non-Arab individuals and organisations in the United States joined forces and formed Anera to provide a modest but important response to the crisis,” Carroll said.
Anera has grown considerably since then, delivering an average of more than $60 million annually in humanitarian and development assistance the past three years.
Much of the assistance is in in-kind donations of medicines and medical supplies — more than $530 million in the past 50 years. Although such donations represent about two-thirds of Anera’s assistance, the organisation has been increasingly involved in development programmes.
In Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas with more than 2 million people, Anera focused on capacity building and infrastructure repair. It has been training teachers and building classrooms and water networks.
In the West Bank, Anera helps farmers make efficient use of scarce resources, install water networks and capture rainwater.
In Lebanon, where approximately 1.5 million Syrian refugees live, Anera provides free dental care, food and medicine. It also helped improve conditions in hospitals and clinics for Palestinian refugees.
With the US cut on funding for UNRWA, the UN agency assisting Palestinians, Anera’s work has become more crucial. The organisation’s performance, like other humanitarian groups, relies heavily on donations, Carroll said.
“However, we have many strong partners and supporters, who, like Anera, remain committed to working in the region,” he said. “They know what needs to be done, whether building new kindergartens in Palestine or providing vocational skills to Syrian refugees that will help them get work no matter where they end up, or economic empowerment of women, which shows huge, positive results towards building security and prosperity.” he said.
“Our presence remains, our response is strong and our programmes are effective. The challenge in these circumstances is to remain agile, innovative, cost-effective and impactful,” Carroll added.
In addition to ten long-established Palestinian refugee camps, five camps were built in Jordan to host Syrian refugees since 2011. The Zaatari Camp, the biggest Syrian camp, hosts 78,527 refugees. Nearly 20% are under 5 years old and 20% of households are headed by women.
Most Syrian refugees in Jordan live in urban areas. More than 80% live below the poverty line, 51% of refugees are children and 4% are elderly, UNHCR figures indicate.