Cash Transfers: The Best Hope for Urban Refugees
The vast majority of the 4.8 million Syrians who have fled their country are from cities—retailers, professionals and business owners. As a result, almost 85% of them have chosen to settle in urban areas, mainly in Jordan. Most families have exhausted their resources and are now forced into dangerous and exploitive work—such as begging on the streets or prostitution—simply to survive.
In response to this escalating crisis, UNHCR has launched the Donation for Transformation initiative. This strategic response will support the cash assistance program that has been established in Syria, and provide monthly cash transfers to refugee families who are in desperate need of food, access to medical care and other basics of life.
UNHCR has already identified and pre-approved 14,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugee families for the cash assistance program. However, these at-risk families are on a waiting list until funds are available to assist them.
Helping Urban Refugee Families in Jordan
$97 out of every $100 donated goes directly to refugee families. There are no overhead or administrative fees except for minimal bank charges.
of urban families live below the national poverty line, on less than $92 per month
of households have unreliable electricity
of families have no working toilet
of families have pulled children from school to support the family
Why Cash Transfers?
UNHCR’s cash transfers are a successful method for assisting refugee families who have settled in cities where large distributions of aid are not possible or ineffective. This innovative approach has proven transformational for families because cash transfers:
for families to spend money where most needed, whether it be for rent, to pay bills or buy food.
by eliminating delivery and distribution costs that, in turn, reduce administrative costs.
to families who can take charge of their lives, restoring a sense of normalcy and autonomy.
by ensuring refugees don’t need to sell their tools or other assets for cash.
Uses existing technology
like ATM networks, to provide assistance quickly and in places where physical distributions are impossible.
Boosts local economy
in neighbourhoods that have generously welcomed refugees and seen their resources stretched to a breaking point.
will help a Syrian family of 5 for one year
will help a Syrian family of 5 for four months
will help a Syrian family of 6 for a month
Evlen Abu Jabel, a UNHCR Helpline staff member in Amman, Jordan. Evlen is one of around 12 staff who answer calls from refugees across Jordan, providing legal and protection advice and answering queries about UNHCR services. Staff are trained to listen and resolve refugee issues and if not possible, refer cases on to specialist UNHCR staff members who will follow up with refugee households in question.
Tamara Bakez is a UNHCR Senior Field Assistant in Amman, Jordan. Tamara conducts home visits and follow-up assessments with refugee families. Here Tamara talks with Ahmed and Saadah in their empty family apartment on the outskirts of Amman.
Mazen and Khalid (5 years) collect the family's monthly cash assistance. Every month UNHCR provides them with money to help cover the cost of the exorbitant rent on their tiny, one room flat. Mazen can only collect the money after completing an iris scan. This helps UNHCR to prevent fraud and helps to make sure that the correct families receive the money they are entitled to. Khalid enjoys the excursion from the small flat to collect the money.
How do Cash Transfers Work?
The program is designed to get help to families quickly and securely, through a customized 4-step approach. Here’s how it works:
- Families call the Helpline to apply for cash assistance.
- A home visit is conducted and a questionnaire completed. Families that meet the criteria are registered in the program.
- Successful applicants open a bank account into which UNHCR deposits money each month.
- Recipients withdraw cash each month from their secure account at any ATM.
The entire process takes less than 30 days, with money arriving within 4 days of eligibility being confirmed.