Obama in Middle East: A parting gift for Syrian refugees

A young girl from Syria flashes the victory sign near the Jordan-Syria border crossing of Jaber. Photo by: Jared J. Kohler / UNHCR

U.S. President Barack Obama promised assistance for Syrian refugees in Jordan on Friday (March 22), a day before concluding his four-day tour of the Middle East.

The pledge — $200 million — will come in the form of budget support to the Jordanian government. Obama vowed to work with Congress for approval of the money, as well as loan guarantees aimed at helping Jordan in a number of sectors, including health care, education and infrastructure.

Obama’s announcement comes as the strain of taking in Syrian refugees intensified in Jordan. The number of refugees in the country now totals almost half a million, or 10 percent of Jordan’s population, said Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

“The alarming figures, if the rates continue as we’re seeing today, will probably double by the end of the year,” he said, adding that the current influx of refugees is already “creating social and security problems” in the country.

The refugee intake is expected to cost Jordan some $550 million a year, he added.

The U.S. assistance will help provide for humanitarian needs and other basic services, including education for child refugees. It follows the U.S. pledge in early March to, for the first time, give direct aid to Syrian rebels. Part of that assistance is meant for internally displaced people in rebel-held areas, who don’t receive much of the aid being delivered in Syria due to government restrictions.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.