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June 14, 2010 by hakeemmuh

Time and Again in Jordan

The Jordanian society had long enjoyed social harmony and a relatively unspoiled economic situation before the widespread recession hit, which brought countries into a harsh battle against the whirlpool of negative growth that is sweeping across the world. Fiscal deficit, the shackles of national debt, lack of small business enterprises, and a growing percentage of poverty have all been principal concerns of the Jordanian government. Consequently, the economic downturn may very well be the straw that will break Jordan’s back.

The decline has taken a remarkable toll on primary and higher education; studies show that young individuals who were once on school and university seats are now on the frequent lookout for jobs that might bring any added income. Rashid, a university dropout who was forced to quit his education and whom I met while visiting a refugee camp in Jordan, is living in the heat of the problem. ‘My father used to be a brick builder before he was laid off. I am now forced to wait tables in the evening to be able to feed my siblings and myself.’ Rashid’s situation is no different than that of hundreds who were forced, sometimes involuntarily, to leave their education. The deterioration has clawed deeper into the local reality where the effects of the slow economy are becoming more visible, more distressing to the heart.

In Al Hussein Refugee Camp, the grim face of poverty is plastered on the rickety, wooden doors of mud houses and shown on the faces of people who often sit on the bruised sidewalk, staring blankly at visitors to the camp, perhaps wondering if their arrival might alleviate the despairing hope of better living conditions. You can realize the bleak reality upon talking to any inhabitant of the camp: jobs are becoming few and hard to find, crime levels are on the rise, prices are skyrocketing (even in such impoverished areas in Jordan) and, worst of all, aid to the camp has ceased. The meager social support provided by the government is limited and sorely insufficient to cover basic needs. There is no proportionate relationship between inflation and the unchanging amount of wages. In areas such as Al Hussein Refugee Camp, there are no wages to talk about.

The contagious economic situation was indeed an uninvited guest to the camp, and sure enough an unwanted one at that. As Rashid and I walk through the narrow camp streets, you can see this fact in every nook and corner, in every face, and in every story we hear. Before taking leave of the camp, we sit on small wooden chairs and nibble on sweet corn out of paper cones. A thin, innocent smile breaks on Rashid’s face. ‘We’re still full of hope. I know there will come a day where we leave this place to better lives. When that happens I will come and tell you a better story than today’s.’

*Jabal el-Hussein camp is one of four camps established in Jordan after 1948 to accommodate refugees who left Palestine as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. As with other camps in Jordan, Jabal el-Hussein camp faces severe overcrowding and striking poverty. (Resource: UNRWA)

Photo: entitled “Little Red Door” is a photo taken by thooperman of the deviantArt community. I have chosen this particular photo because it very much resembles the Jabal el-Hussein camp with its high, mud walls and small wooden doors. The protective metal bars placed at the window from the building’s exterior is curved outwards from the bottom, creating a hollowed space. This space is used to place plant pots on the metal bars and is usually for little children to sit in it and safely enjoy the street view. (Link: Photo)


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