For single mothers like Iman, UNHCR’s cash assistance payments are more vital than ever
In 2013, Iman Azooz fled war in Syria after her husband died, leaving her to raise their five children alone. She found refuge in Jordan, but life isn’t easy for the 48-year-old single mum.
Restrictions on work rights for refugees, along with the pressures of single parenthood, mean it’s difficult for Iman to find a job and secure a steady income. It’s a constant struggle to meet basic needs like rent, food and heating. A small one-bedroom apartment with very little furniture can cost AUD $360 ($JOD180) a month and, as in most countries, heating bills are rising.
The rising cost of living in Jordan means more women, like Iman, are being forced to make tough decisions about where to spend the little money they have – from paying rent or buying food. A refugee single mum like Iman usually receives $347 a month in cash assistance from UNHCR, but these monthly payments don’t stretch as far as they used to.
Almost 70 per cent of Syrian refugees report struggling to afford food in the past year, and most say they ration food and reduce the number of meals they eat in a day. Syrian refugees also now find themselves with the highest levels of household debt since late 2018.
To afford basic items and services, many refugees are resorting to borrowing money or taking out loans for food and other essential supplies, and are unable to pay debts or rent.
Despite these enormous economic pressures, UNHCR’s cash assistance program continues to have a positive effect, both financially and on mental wellbeing. Donations to the Leading Women Fund go directly to women like Iman, who find themselves the head of their household.
Some 93 per cent of surveyed refugees say the money improves their living conditions, and helps to reduce their stress levels. In 2022, most spent the money on essential needs, mainly rent (80 per cent) and food (45 per cent), followed by bills (29 per cent) and health costs (22 per cent).
The program is now distributing money through mobile wallets, providing refugees with more independence in managing their finances. For Iman and her family, this cash assistance is a lifeline. It helps to put food on the table and a roof over their heads.
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