In August 2016, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) awarded the Near East Foundation (NEF) a one-year project grant to continue to scale up its work in Lebanon and another two-year project grant to continue its work in Jordan with refugees and host community members.
Eighty-six percent of Syrian households and 80 percent of Iraqi refugees in Jordan live below the poverty line. Similarly, poverty in Lebanon has increased 61 percent since 2011 due to the refugee crisis, and 70 percent of refugees in Lebanon are living below the poverty line. Access to basic services like housing, food, healthcare, and jobs are a significant challenge for both refugees and vulnerable Jordanian and Lebanese families who have to compete over these basic commodities. These conflict-affected and vulnerable families rank employment and income-generation as their highest priority.
While humanitarian aid focuses on immediate needs, NEF is pioneering innovative and cost-effective solutions to address these issues—providing families with conditional cash assistance to help place children in education programs, and implementing initiatives to help strengthen families’ economic resilience.
The PRM grant in Jordan is the third grant NEF has been awarded as a response to its successful programs there where so far over 2,000 refugees and Jordanians—mostly women—have participated in NEF-led business development training helping to expand and finance business in various sectors, including: cooking, sewing, dairy, agriculture, handicrafts, and carpentry.
Take Ebtisal, who fled the violence in Syria and came to Jordan in 2012. With a sick husband who was unable to work, Ebtisal found herself immediately searching for work in Jordan. Unable to find a job, she soon was introduced to NEF’s program helping refugees. Through the project she was given cash assistance to help her start her own catering business—where she makes Syrian kebah, a pastry filled with ground lamb, seasoning, and pine nuts, to sell to her clients.
Because of the success Ebtisal’s business was seeing, NEF connected her with the local bazar, which provided an opportunity for her to market her growing business and expand her client base. Ebtisal said that her clients, who are mostly Jordanian, say that her Kebah is delicious, which makes her feel proud of herself. Ebtisal is saving a portion of her profits so that she can soon buy a refrigerator and a larger oven so that she can expand her business and make more of a profit.
Another example comes from Muna, a Jordanian woman who is the primary breadwinner in her house. Before joining NEF’s project, Muna was struggling to make ends meet. She said “the love for my family inspired me to apply to be a part of the [NEF’s] program so I could try to start my own business.”
With the cash assistance she received, Muna opened a children’s clothing business. The small grant had a huge impact on Manu’s quality of life. When asked about how her business changed her life, Muna said, “After I received the grant, I felt like I am strong enough to do anything…if someone plans for something, they can achieve it. It is different when you don’t have enough capital to start something compared to when you do. It’s very empowering.”
With its newly awarded PRM grants, NEF aims to continues its efforts to reduce the negative coping strategies by providing economic opportunity for 4,380 refugees and Jordanians. And in Lebanon, NEF aims to reduce the vulnerability of 2,000 refugee and Lebanese households and help 3,500 individuals access resources that will help increase economic opportunity.
To watch NEF’s work in the region in action watch: