10 Facts About the Syrian Refugee Crisis in Jordan

World Food Program USA
November 14, 2019

The crisis in Syria has become one of the most complicated humanitarian operations for the U.N. World Food Programme. More than 6.2 million people are displaced inside the country, and 6,000 more are forced from their homes every day. These 10 facts explain why the situation is so dire.

1. Since the start of the conflict in Syria in 2011, Jordan has shouldered the impact of a massive influx of Syrian refugees. Today, Syrian refugees account for over 10 percent of Jordan’s population, placing immense pressure on the country’s over-stretched resources at one of the most difficult economic periods in its history.

2. More than 670,000 Syrians have registered with UNHCR in Jordan (the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees). The vast majority of these refugees—81 percent—live in cities and towns instead of camps. This means they must find a way to pay for things like rent and transportation. However, only a limited number of refugees have work permits, so most of these families rely on humanitarian assistance to meet their most basic needs.

3. Since July 2016, the Jordanian government has granted more than 100,000 work permits to Syrian refugees, allowing them to work legally and earn an income for their families.

4. Right now, around 40,000 Syrians are stranded at the northeastern border between Jordan and Syria in an informal settlement called Rukban. The U.N. World Food Programme, along with other U.N. agencies and NGOs, has been providing food assistance to this population. Humanitarian access, however, remains difficult due to security risks and border closures.

A woman and her two daughters at a refugee camp in Syria
Photo: WFP/Marwa Awad

This family is just a part of the 40,000 people stranded inside the Rukban settlement in Syria. Living conditions are extremely tough due to the remoteness of the settlement and the harsh desert climate.

5. In November 2018, a convoy of humanitarian agencies, including the U.N. World Food Programme, reached Rukban with lifesaving food and supplies for the first time. Today, the U.N. World Food Programme is concerned that conditions in the camp have deteriorated further, with a number of children reported to have died of preventable causes. Despite the dire situation, humanitarian organizations have limited access or means to provide basic supplies and services.

Photo: WFP/Marwa Awad

WFP and UN entered Rukban on Feb 7th, 2019 and began offloading WFP, UNHCR, UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO assistance at select distribution points. The supplies will serve 40,000 people and provide enough vaccinations for 10,000 children.

6. Though most Syrian refugees in Jordan live in host communities, the country is now home to the second largest refugee camp in the world, known as Zaatari. The camp first opened in 2012 less than 10 miles from the Syrian border and has since become Jordan’s 4th largest “city.” Today, roughly 78,000 Syrian refugees live there in rows of prefabricated shelters provided by international relief agencies.

Photo: U.S. State Department

An aerial view of the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan as seen on July 18, 2013, from a helicopter carrying U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.

7. In Jordan, all eligible Syrian refugees receive a monthly cash or food voucher from the U.N. World Food Programme, which enables them to purchase food items in any of WFP’s 204 partner shops throughout the country. Families in refugee camps also receive fresh bread. The U.N. World Food Programme is currently providing food assistance to 500,000 refugees in Jordan.

Hamda stands in front of a camera at a grocery cash register
Photo: WFP/Mohammad Batah

Hamda, a Syrian refugee from Daraa, buys fresh groceries in Jordan’s King Abdullah Park refugee camp.

8. Half of all Syrian refugees in Jordan are children. To help keep these children healthy and in the classroom, the U.N. World Food Programme provides nutritious school meals that boost enrollment and attendance rates.


Syrian schoolchildren line up for assembly in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

9. In Spring 2016, the U.N. World Food Programme launched its first “Healthy Kitchens Initiative” in the Zaatari camp, in which Syrian women are employed to cook fresh, healthy school lunches for the camp’s boys and girls using locally grown vegetables, grains and fruit. These homegrown school meals provide children with the right nutrition and energy to focus in the classroom while supporting local food producers and providing jobs to primarily female-headed households.

Photo: Reuters/Muhammad Hamed

Workers prepare meals for students as part of WFP’s project to provide healthy meals to students and raise awareness of good eating habits.

10. By distributing cash and food vouchers instead of traditional rations, the U.N. World Food Programme provides a fresher and more diverse diet to Syrian refugees while supporting the country’s economy. As of July 2016, the U.N. World Food Programme had injected roughly $581 million into Jordan’s economy.

Jordan’s exceptional solidarity with the 1.3 million Syrians it hosts has tested the country’s resilience over time. While humanitarian assistance is acting as a buffer, food security among Syrian refugees in Jordan remains precarious. You can help by sending a box of food today.

Just $75 can feed a family of five for an entire month. Join us.


Want more info on Syria?

Check out our Syria hub for stories and stats on the latest operations.