UNHCR Jordan

SMS with instant relief: Ibrahim and his family receive much needed support

A smile lights up Hala’s face as she watches her father, Ibrahim, withdraw money from the ATM. “Tonight we will have a big Iftar,” she says, “We haven’t eaten meat for over a year or been able to buy fruit for the last two months.”

Ibrahim’s family is receiving emergency cash assistance from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Funded by CERF, the programme is helping 18.000 refugee families in Jordan to ease the economic impact of COVID-19 by providing cash for essentials like food, water, utilities or rent.

Cash assistance

Ibrahim and his daugthers withdraw the money made available through UNHCR at a local ATM in Amman, Jordan. Credits: UNHCR Jordan 

It is the first time Ibrahim and his family receive financial support from UNHCR and it is desperately needed. After fleeing their home in Dhamar, Yemen almost ten years ago, Ibrahim, his wife and three children sought asylum in Amman, Jordan. Ibrahim earns a living by collecting metals, iron, copper and plastic from the side of the road and selling it to scrapyards or recycling plants. As he gets older, work has become more difficult. “I am now almost 60, I don’t have the energy. This work is for young people. I only make enough money to buy some bread and water,” he explains.

With little money to pay for even the basics, the family has relied on the generosity of their landlord who has waved rent payments for the last year in order to keep a roof over their heads. But when COVID-19 spread, impacting the wider Jordanian economy, Ibrahim became worried that this situation may change. “We have heard many stories of refugees being evicted. I do not know what I would do if this would be the case for us.”

The news of receiving 100 dinars in cash assistance through UNHCR came as a big relief. “I was very surprised when I received the message about the cash assistance but so happy. I had lost hope that we would get any support,” says Ibrahim. He adds that his children didn’t believe him either until he showed them the text message on his phone.

 “I would love to bring them cheese, olives, apples. To survive not just on bread. It will be nice not to worry even if just for a day,” he says.

Beyond these basic wishes, Ibrahim explains he is also conscious that he will have to set aside some of the money just in case they are required to pay rent. “I know it's only 100 dinars, but for us this is worth millions.”

Jordan UNHCR

With the money, Ibrahim is buying food and puts the rest aside to pay his rent. Credits: UNHCR/Jordan 

Cash-based transfers empower vulnerable families to best decide how to meet their needs. This is especially critical for the most vulnerable, who are hit hardest by the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

UNHCR is leveraging the existing cash-based transfer architecture in Jordan. The Common Cash Facility provides a secure, efficient and innovative cash transfer approach that has enabled predictable cash payments at scale to refugees, while accommodating multiple organizations’ cash transfer programmes. It has reduced costs and duplication, and has resulted in improved efficiency, accountability and coordination of cash assistance activities.