Services for Syrian Refugee Children and Youth in Jordan: Forced Displacement, Foreign Aid and Vulnerability

Colette Salemi, Jay A. Bowman and Jennifer Compton

Economic Research Forum Working Paper Series, No. 1188 (2018)


This paper provides an overview of services available to Syrian refugee youth and children (aged 6-29) in Jordan, including education, cash assistance, nutrition, health, livelihoods, water and sanitation, shelter, and protection. The analysis is largely based on documents listed in the sectors of interest in UNHCR’s document library uploaded prior to November 2017. The authors identify several factors negatively affecting access to services and institutions for Syrian refugee children and youth in Jordan:

  • Lack of documentation: In 2016, youth were found to be three times more likely to not be registered with UNHCR, often because they were unaware of registration requirements and procedures. Refugees who leave camps outside of the official bail out procedures are not allowed to reapply to for asylum in Jordan, and without the required documents from UNHCR and the Ministry of Interior (MOI), these refugees are unable to access various types of assistance that they may be eligible for. Palestinian-Syrians are not allowed to cross the border into Jordan and for those that enter illegally, formal registration with UNHCR and MOI could result in deportation. Consequently many of these refugees remain undocumented and have extremely limited access to services. Children born in Jordan to Syrian refugee parents who are legally married can obtain birth certificates and Syrian citizenship, however many parents struggle with obstacles to birth registration.
  • Poverty: A large portion of Syrian refugees in host communities face chronic poverty, leading to coping strategies (skipping meals, reducing food intake, child labor, early marriage) that negatively affect the wellbeing of young people. Female-headed households are particularly likely to have children who are foregoing school for work. Youth in poor and undocumented households are especially at risk due to the prohibitions on their receipt of assistance.
  • Fear and insecurity: In and out of camps, insecurity keeps many youth at home, especially girls and young women.
  • Trauma and life interruption: Trauma, injuries, and fears restrict mobility and service access. Stigma associated with mental health or SGBV often keep young people from seeking psychological support services.
  • Even when young refugees seek services, they may face delays and queues for obtaining a doctor visit, or a place in school. Infrastructure and staffing may be inadequate to meet the increased demand for services.