Down a rough track where a few goats wander between the olive trees, stands the building Bassem and his family live in.
The Syrian family left their home in Dara’a in Syria over two years ago. Since then they have been living in Irbid governorate in Jordan.
Similar to the close to 520,000 registered Syrian refugees living outside of formal camps in Jordan, Bassem struggled to find opportunities for income. All their savings had gradually dried up, and they did not have the money for rent each month.
Below the poverty line
As critical changes related to Syrian refugee’s ability to access basic legal livelihoods are being discussed by Jordanian authorities and the international community, many living outside of camps across Jordan still face a difficult future and struggle to remain registered, access basic assistance and provide for their families.
9 out of 10 Syrian refugees in host communities in Jordan live below the national poverty line and for many, the available humanitarian assistance is barely sufficient to provide them with a basic social safety net.
Bassem’s wife and four children were affected by continuous search across Irbid for a place to call a temporary home. Life under constant eviction was difficult until they moved in to the apartment provided to them as part of NRC’s urban shelter project.
The project, implemented across three governorates in northern Jordan, aims to support Jordanian landlords to finish incomplete or renovate existing accommodation in return for allowing a period of rent-free lease to vulnerable Syrian refugee families.
“Having this apartment has made a huge difference in our lives. I simply don’t know how we would have coped otherwise”, says Bassem.
The project provides only a temporary relief from the otherwise constant pressure nearly all Syrian refugee families face to generate income to pay for rent.
18 months later, the 38-year-old was faced with the same uncertain future as his period being supported by NRC’s Urban Shelter project was coming to an end.
Hot water with solar energy
On the front porch of the first floor sipping a steaming glass of sweet tea sat Emad Al Shdooh, the Jordanian owner of the building Bassem and his family live in. He was about to share some good news with his tenant.
As part of a renewable energy project, NRC installs solar hot water heating systems in buildings owned by Jordanians in exchange for a negotiated reduction in rent. Emad had agreed to install a solar system in his building in exchange for extending Bassem’s lease.
“The idea is good,” explained Emad, “both parties benefit. For me, it’s a good investment, an even offset by the reduced rent for this next year.”
He went on to say that he is now considering installing a similar system for his own family.
“This has helped us on many levels,” says Bassem, “thanks to this project, we have rent we can afford, reduced electricity bills and a reliable supply of hot water.”
Not only has the average rent reduced by 28% after the intervention, but the electricity bill has dropped by 50% since the family turned off the electric water heater.
Increased demand for electricity
NRC hopes the 24-month joint project will demonstrate the economic feasibility, technical efficiency and reliability of renewable energy at both the municipal and household level and establish the viability of integrating energy sustainability with humanitarian assistance.
“Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis and the influx of Syrian refugees in Jordan, the demand for electricity has increased. Energy efficiency and providing a renewable energy alternative in addition to improvements in capacity are urgently needed to reduce the pressure on the power grid,” says Elias Jourdy, NRC's Shelter Programme Manager in Jordan.
- NRC and EU are working together to integrate energy sustainability with humanitarian assistance.
- The pilot project aims to install 160 solar water heating systems in houses owned by Jordanians and rented to vulnerable Syrian families in exchange for reduced rent for an agreed period of time.
- The project provides a source of clean energy, offers a solar water heating system for Jordanians for the long-term and ensures at least a period of secure tenure for Syrian refugee families.
- The project is implemented by NRC with the support of the Jordanian Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, and funded by the European Union.