Irbid is known as Jordan’s cultural capital and is home to 10 universities. However, pockets of severe poverty exist in the city, particularly in the refugee camps that are home to more than 25,000 inhabitants.
Overcrowding and lack of access to basic facilities and employment mean that many refugee families are unable to care for and protect their children.
A hidden population living in poverty in refugee camps
Irbid is located 70 kilometres from the capital, Amman, and is home to over 1 million people. Irbid is considered the cultural capital of Jordan and is home to four major universities and a large number of private colleges and schools. The city’s primary industry is the service sector, mostly related to the university population. There are 26 publishing companies and Irbid has the highest number of internet cafes per capita in the world.
In 2007, there were 70,000 registered students attending Irbid’s 10 universities, including Jordanians and international students from 47 different countries. In spite of this boost to the local economy, many of the city’s inhabitants live in poverty, compounded by overcrowding, high unemployment and lack of access to basic health care.
Approximately 25,000 Palestinian refugees are camped in Irbid and in recent years, Jordan has accepted many political refugees from Syria. Without citizenship, these people are unable to access basic social services and it is difficult to find employment. Children are most at risk since they have been forced to leave home and have often experienced traumatising levels of violence.
The situation of women is improving, but more could be done
Jordan has a stable economy and is developing at a rapid pace, but in spite of this, unemployment levels are high, particularly among young people. This is due to factors including a lack of career guidance, and a lack of jobs that match young Jordanians’ university qualifications. Cultural expectations are also an obstacle for women looking to gain employment. With reduced opportunities for employment, fewer than 12% of Jordanian women participate in the economic sector.
Universal primary education for boys and girls is close to 100% and secondary school enrolment is higher for girls than boys. Although well educated, Jordanian women are disadvantaged by a number of laws including the Personal Status Law which mandates that all unmarried women under the age of 40 are legal minors and must have a male relative as a guardian. Women and girls are also at risk of domestic violence, and while rape is a criminal offence, marital rape is not. Rape charges are often dropped if the perpetrator marries the victim.
Our work in Irbid
In 1999, SOS Children’s Villages established its presence in Irbid, working to support vulnerable children living in the city. Several SOS families provide a loving environment for local children who are no longer able to live with their parents. An affectionate SOS Mother is the head of each family and children grow up alongside their SOS brothers and sisters.
The children from SOS families attend local nurseries and schools with children from families living in the surrounding neighbourhoods, enabling them to make connections with others in their community from an early age.
Young adulthood brings the opportunity to move into shared accommodation so that youngsters can adjust to the responsibilities of independence. As well as cooking, cleaning and looking after themselves independently, young people benefit from the support of a youth worker, who helps them prepare for responsibilities such as financial management and cooperating with others in the workplace. At the same time, many continue to pursue their education or undergo skills training, making our youth programme the perfect stepping stone to a life of independence.
Growing up in a loving SOS family, children in our care in Irbid have hope for a bright future. Support their childhood, and become a child sponsor today.