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Syria crisis: why is 15 the magic number?

Deborah Underdown, CARE International UK Communications Officer, is in Jordan assisting with the Syrian refugee emergency response

Syrian refugees queue outside the centre in Amman. © CARE / Sanda BullingSyrian refugees queue outside the centre in Amman. © CARE / Sanda BullingWalking down a street in East Amman I go up a few steps and am greeted by a queue of people. A line has already formed at the reception desk and its only 9am and there are no spare seats in the waiting area. This is CARE’s drop in centre - this centre is a place where Syrians, having fled their home country, come to find out if they can get help.

Each person who arrives is asked a series of questions. What is your name? Where are you living? What is your date of birth? How many family members do you live with? How many families are living in one house? The questions go on to find out if the family has debt, if they are receiving any help and if there any other issues – have they received any threats or been exploited? They are also asked if they have registered with the UN to make sure we are coordinating our response.

Who is most vulnerable?

Once these questions end and a form has been filled out, a CARE Case Manager reviews the form to identify which of the 1,500 refugees who visited the centre in the last week is the most vulnerable. Which of these families is the most in need? This is perhaps the hardest question anyone has to answer. As a refugee you need to score 15 points to get help from CARE (at the moment we are giving people money so they can pay rent and buy food and water). To score 15 points you need to meet certain criteria, for example people with a severe medical condition, people who are at risk of imminent eviction or where several families are living together will score more highly.

The Case Managers express their concerns about the people who are just one mark away from being granted help. We only have enough money to help a certain number of people so we have to make sure we are helping the most vulnerable but this means many people who are in need don’t get help. 

A mother and son from Syria at a distribution of winter clothes and bedding in Jordan. © CARE / Chevvy MorrisA mother and son from Syria at a distribution of winter clothes and bedding in Jordan. © CARE / Chevvy MorrisSince our drop in centre opened in November over 12,000 people have come through its doors and we are only able to help around one sixth of them. We just don’t have enough funding to help more than this amount at the moment. For the Case Managers this is hard – they have to answer the difficult question of who is more in need, who should we help and who can’t we help.

Where is the money going to come from?

Everyone is aware that if we had more money we could help more people but where is that money going to come from? At the moment the UN’s appeal, asking for $1.5 billion (the largest appeal it has ever launched) from countries around the world is only 20 per cent funded, leaving agencies struggling to respond. So for now 15 is the magic number.

This has been my first visit to the centre. I will be staying in Jordan for about two months, assisting our office in Jordan in their emergency response to Syrian refugees. So I will be regularly reporting back to everyone at home about what is happening here and how CARE is helping.

Donate to CARE's Syria Crisis Appeal

Deborah UnderdownAbout the author:

Deborah Underdown is a Communications Officer with CARE International UK.

She recently returned from Jordan, where she was helping with and reporting on CARE's response to the Syrian refugee crisis.

Follow her on Twitter @DUnderdown_CARE


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