Mobile health clinics bring much needed relief in Southern Jordan

Jordan International Medical Corps mobile health clinics offer vital free primary health care to refugees and the vulnerable out of Danish Refugee Council's community centers in Southern Jordan.

Middle East

It is 11 am and a steady stream of Syrian refugees, some alone, some with children in tow, are making their way to the Danish Refugee Council community centre in Karak, southern Jordan.

It is a scene that is unremarkable to most. But in Jordan, however, walking to access free primary health care is somewhat revolutionary given the revocation of free healthcare access to Syrian refugees by the Jordanian government in November 2014.

Until recently, many of these vulnerable Syrian refugees seen walking to DRC's community centre to use International Medical Corps (IMC) free primary health care services have been forced into debt attempting to pay for healthcare, or have let health conditions deteriorate due to lack of alternative options.

"Simple illnesses, or those conditions that could be cured, are getting worse and worse with no health care services available," said Anthony Dutemple, DRC's Jordan Southern Program Manager.

The rare opportunity to access basic medicine is a start to filling the critical health gap Dutemple said.

Since April 2015, the IMC health clinics have provided basic primary health services out of DRC's Community Centre in Karak three times, and twice in Ma'an. Each day at least 70 people have attended. The service is open to all - including Syrian refugees.

Healthcare access has been a growing source of contention amongst host communities and Syrian refugees in Jordan since the Syrian crisis erupted in 2011. A recent health assessment coordinated by the REACH Institute found tension was building amongst Jordanians and Syrians surrounding sharing access to health care, with overcrowded facilities, a lack of qualified medical staff and shortages in medical supply identified as key concerns.

Of note, the study identified outbreaks of communicable diseases such as polio and measles posed a threat to the health of host community populations, despite being stymied by emergency vaccination campaigns.

As of June 2015, Jordan is hosting 747,360 Syrian refugees. UNHCR estimates that over 85 per cent of all Syrian refugees in Jordan are living in urban host communities, with camps taking only a fraction of refugees.

For those Syrians displaced in Amman, there remains a fundamental gap in assistance which the new community centers seek to mitigate.