Fast Track to Employment for Refugees & Migrants Programme


Do you want to help refugees and migrants? Work with us to make a difference

Our Fast Track to Employment program is designed to equip refugees and migrants with the necessary language for employment skills and find them jobs in many of the sectors we cover, including Retail, Hospitality, Care & Nursing, Safety and Agriculture. We have an 80% job placement success rate and increasing demand for staff from employers.

We work with employers such as the Beannchor Group, RGIS, Bluebird Care and many others.

Our unique programme finds practical solutions to the challenges that refugees and migrants face such as lack of childcare, gender-related and geographical constraints and access to employment.

We collaborate with employers, foundations, charities, NGOs and government offices who commission or sponsor this program. We also welcome opportunities to work with CSR managers, philanthropists and other potential employers. Find out more about the programme here – every sponsor makes a difference, all support makes an impact.

Did you know?

Your organisation can help give refugees and migrants a chance to start rebuilding their lives. Our programme can take refugees and migrants from zero level of English and equip them with the necessary language skills for employment within an average of 25 weeks. Social and job-market integration is achieved efficiently and effectively.

Integration of refugees and migrants is beneficial to the host country’s economy and communities alike. For example, for every hired refugee, the UK government saves a minimum of £8,600 per year.

Research has also shown that migrants contribute on average £20bn in taxes to the UK government. In the United States Refugees pay back more in taxes over 20 years in the USA than what they take out of the country. Therefore, integrating refugees and migrants into job markets will beneficially impact the host countries and its residents.

Success Stories

We have a track record of successfully placing candidates who have taken this Fast Track program.

Mourad started work at Little Wing Pizzeria as a trainee pizza chef and is really enjoying his new role –

“Maximpact’s program has provided me with intensive english for employment training and a job placement opportunity. All this happened within 5 weeks!”

Moustafa has settled in well as a pastry chef in the kitchens of the newly opened Grand Central Hotel in Belfast.

Mohamad, who is working at the Merchant Hotel in Belfast –

”  Thank you very much for helping me find a job at the Merchant Hotel Housekeeping team. I found the English language 5 weeks course beneficial. I look forward to having more lessons with you. Thank you all!” 

More candidates are entering the job market as a direct result of this training. Find out more about our Fast Track to Employment program and how you can help changes lives today.

For more details email Caroline Kennedy at

For details of all our training and work across more than 200 sectors see

Maximpact: Training for Refugees & Migrants to Facilitate Labour Market Intergration

Bill Wolsey, owner of the Merchant Hotel in Belfast is interviewing the refugee participants.

Bill Wolsey, owner of the Merchant Hotel in Belfast is interviewing the refugee participants.

June 26, 2018, Maximpact has organized interviews for all the participants of the English for Hospitality program.

The English for Hospitality language training ends this week and several participants have already found jobs within the sector. Other participants have interviews lined up for this and next week.

Bill Wolsey, the owner of the Merchant Hotel in Belfast, is very interested in providing job opportunities to migrants and refugees. He took time from his busy schedule to come and meet our participants to tell them about the hospitality industry, career growth and opportunities.

At the end of the interview, Mr. Wolsey has set interviews for next week with his HR department to see what jobs they can be allocated.

For more information contact Maximpact at info(at)

Language for Employment and Vocational Training Program to Integrate Refugees Faster into the Labour Market

Today the world finds itself in front of the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. Culminating with Syria conflict, over 60 million people have been displaced globally.

Countries accepting refugees are struggling to reconcile humanitarian and economic aspects of the ongoing crisis. Supporting repatriation or integration are two possible solutions for mitigating refugee and immigrant experience. Even though supporting sustainable repatriation would be the best solution, that option is not feasible for many refugees, in particular those coming from countries where devastating conflicts are still going on.

Integration of the refugees into local communities is a long process. Statistics show that it takes 5 to 6 years to integrate 50% of migrants into the labour market and up to 15 years to get 70% them employed.

Research carried out by the University of Sussex has identified that some of the most important obstacles for integration occurs due to insufficient knowledge of local language and a lack of the access to employment and vocational training for the sectors in demand for the foreign labour force.

Maximpact brings together the needs of local labour markets and refugee integration by implementing innovative, sector-specific language and vocational training for employment of refugees and migrants.

With its refugee-migrant education and employment program Maximpact offers the possibility to corporations, governments, NGOs and other private and public organisations that to work together towards helping refugees and migrants to rebuild and change people’s lives for the better.

Find out more about the training program


Are you interested in carrying out or sponsoring Language for Employment and Training for Refugees?

Whether you are a company looking for a corporate social responsibility program, an International Nonprofit Organisation or perhaps home office or government body – you can make a real change in people’s lives by offering refugees Language for Employment and/or Vocational Training program.

Social and economic integration can be achieved faster by equipping refugees with the necessary skills and connecting them to employers.

At Maximpact, we take care of the entire cycle.

Contact Caroline at carolinek(at)



Maximpact Organises Recruitment Day for Women Migrants for the Care Sector

Last Thursday, 21 June 2018, Maximpat has organised a recruitment day at HAPANI office with one of the largest providers of homecare services in the UK. In less than eight years they have grown from one business to 200 delivering 20,000 customer visits every day.

Today, they are looking to help refugees and migrants into employment by providing them with work opportunities and training.

During the recruitment day, it was identified that out of 23 participants only three spoke good English to be hired, the rest require English courses. The participants have been in Northern Ireland between 3 months and 3 years.

Maximpact is now working with their partners to create a women empowerment project to provide women with the necessary training and employment opportunities.

Would you like to support these women to find work? Contact us to see how!



Sector-Specific Language Skills for Employment

Sector Specific Language for Employment is designed to overcome challenges refugees and migrants face when attending current English courses. These challenges are gender based, religion and discrimination, geographical logistics and teacher’s language barrier.

Maximpact and its team have designed an innovative online live training concept, which has been proven to resolve the problems encountered and increase the rate at which the refugees learn and find work.  Read More


Job-Ready Vocational Training Services in the Care Sector

Care sector has a shortage of staff and refugees would be a good fit to fill in the job positions.

The training is carried out by the largest homecare provider in the country, ensuring the best vocational training is provided.

Depending on the level of language, refugees and migrants will be given language training for care followed by a 5 day on the job training including practical experience. Training is a blend of online live and on location training. Read More

Men working at a restaurant making crepes - food and drinks concepts

Employment Ready Vocational Training in Hospitality Sector

Depending on the level of English, trainees will improve their language skills for working in hospitality and will also receive on-the-job training for developing industry specialised skills.

The language training is carried out online by a live trainer. The trainer applies a highly interactive methodology, which is adapted to each participant. Vocational training is carried out within a hotel or restaurant.  Read More


Employment Ready Vocational Training in Agriculture Sector

Refugees and migrants are trained in “Harvesting and picking” and “Packaging”.

Agricutlure industry has a shortage of agriculture workers as more young people leave into the city to find white-colour jobs. Read More

Refugees Depend on Trees

Refugees arrive from South Sudan at Uganda's Bidibidi settlement camp. September 7, 2016 (Photo by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Refugees arrive from South Sudan at Uganda’s Bidibidi settlement camp. September 7, 2016 (Photo by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

ROME, Italy, June 26, 2018 ( News) – To help regenerate forests in areas hosting displaced people and refugees where heavy reliance on wood fuel puts forests and woodlands in jeopardy, two UN agencies have published a new handbook promoting sustainable livelihood opportunities through community-managed forests.

For their handbook, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) calculate that there are 68.5 million refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people worldwide, 80 percent of whom rely on wood fuel for cooking and heating.

In areas hosting displaced people, often with scant resources of their own, dependence on wood fuel is especially pronounced.

“The massive increase in demand for woodfuel for cooking caused by sudden influxes of refugees and other displaced people is usually the main driver of forest degradation and deforestation in displacement settings. It places enormous pressure on nearby forests and woodlands and is often a source of tension between the host and displaced communities,” write Shukri Ahmed, deputy strategic programme leader, Resilience, FAO; and Craig Sanders, deputy director, Division of Programme Support and Management, UNHCR, in their Foreword to the handbook.

A lack of sufficient cooking fuel also has an impact on the nutrition and health of vulnerable people in such settings, they point out.

When a settlement is created for displaced people, it is often considered to be temporary. Yet in reality, displacements last, on average, more than 20 years, evolving into protracted crises and creating tough living conditions that undermine human health and prevent inhabitants from pursuing their usual livelihoods.

Planning the appropriate management of forests and woodlands in displacement settings is important, in both the short and long term, for ensuring sustainable energy access, minimizing environmental and social impacts, and building resilience in households and communities, the handbook states.

“As protracted crises increase, we have seen much degraded, treeless land in displacement settings. FAO and UNHCR have developed the long-term solutions required to create lasting, renewable sources of energy, food and income. We just need to implement them at scale,” said Ahmed.

“A business as usual approach will only continue fueling conflicts, as communities compete for scarce resources, and deprive future generations of vital natural resources,” Ahmed warned.

A tree nursery in the Mtendeli refugee camp, Tanzania (Photo by Arturo Gianvenuti) Published in the handbook "Managing forests in displacement settings."

A tree nursery in the Mtendeli refugee camp, Tanzania (Photo by Arturo Gianvenuti) Published in the handbook “Managing forests in displacement settings.”

Ahmed and Sanders explain that, “A planning approach to the use of forest resources is crucial for building resilience and enabling sustainable development in both displaced and host communities. In particular, well-planned forestry interventions can ensure a sustainable supply of woodfuel, timber and non-wood forest products for those communities, thereby helping to ensure their well-being.”

Forests and trees underpin core ecosystem services such as freshwater supply, soil stability and fertility, agro-biodiversity and biodiversity conservation, all of which contribute to the resilience of communities.

“Responsible environmental management is integral to today’s approaches to dealing with large-scale displacement and managing its consequences,” explained Andrea Dekrout, UNHCR senior environment coordinator, Division of Programme Support and Management.

In Uganda’s Bidibidi settlement, for example, one of the world’s largest refugee-hosting areas, UNHCR and FAO estimate that annual wood fuel consumption mounted to over 300,000 tonnes in 2017.

At this rate of consumption, if left unmanaged, the wood fuel supply in Bidibidi will only last up to three more years and will wipe out the forest.

As hundreds of people every day cross the border from South Sudan, the countryside around Bidibidi is gradually turning into a vast refugee camp.

To address challenges like this, on June 20 FAO and UNHCR released the handbook “Managing forests in displacement settings,” which could be useful to all actors involved in forest management and plantation projects working to meet the needs of displaced and host communities.

“The handbook gives practical guidance on how to accelerate and support forest recovery and regeneration, protect forests, and plant trees to rehabilitate degraded land and support energy needs. It includes a list of actions – from growing trees to identifying, preparing and caring for nursery sites,” said co-author Arturo Gianvenuti, FAO forestry and wood energy specialist.

The handbook takes the reader through the establishment of a tree plantation, including the identification of suitable sites; appropriate soil conservation practices and site preparation methods; species selection for planting; adequate sources of seeds and seedlings; suitable sites for nurseries; and other important aspects of plantation design, establishment and management.

When needs are urgent, with the sudden influx of large displaced populations, the handbook recommends planting fast-growing trees, preferably indigenous species, to generate an ongoing source of wood fuel, small construction items and fodder.

The handbook also recommends planting trees for energy, timber, food and fodder, to generate income opportunities for refugees and host populations, help build their resilience, and reduce the environmental impact of displacement settings.

The handbook stresses that forest management plans should indicate who owns the right to harvest and who will benefit from the harvest of wood and non-wood products.

The involvement of the local community is crucial as it helps build a sense of ownership, and ensure forest interventions are well managed.

At this year’s meeting of the high-level political forum on sustainable development set for July 9-18, there will be an in-depth review of Sustainable Development Goal 15, which includes sustainable forest management.

Featured Image: The ‎Popular Committee for Refugees – Maghazi Camp, and the BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights planted olive trees, placed Palestinian flags, and sang traditional and patriotic songs to mark Land Day March 30, 2014. (Photo by Joe Catron) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Maximpact Offers Language Help for Refugees

Syrian boys in Raqqa, June 2013 (Photo by Beshr Abdulhadi) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Syrian boys in Raqqa, June 2013 (Photo by Beshr Abdulhadi) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, April 26, 2018 (  News – “I want to help” is “Ana bady asa’ed” in Arabic, the language of much of Syria. This simple translation illustrates the steep learning curve Syrian refugees face trying to re-start their lives in an English-speaking country, such as Canada, the United States or the United Kingdom, which together have taken nearly 100,000 Syrians fleeing the conflict.

Of course, the learning curve is just as steep for Syrians resettling in Germany, Sweden or Austria, the European countries that have taken the greatest number of refugees from this war-wracked country.

Nearly 13 million Syrians are displaced after seven years of conflict, a total that amounts to about six-in-10 of Syria’s pre-conflict population, according to the Pew Research Center. No nation in recent decades has had such a large percentage of its population displaced.

About one million displaced Syrians have moved to Europe as asylum seekers or refugees since the conflict began, according to data from Eurostat, Europe’s statistical agency, and data on refugee resettlement from the UN High Commission for Refugees.

The humanitarian impact of the Syria crisis remains deep and far-reaching:

  • 13.1 million people in need of humanitarian assistance
  • 6.3 million people are food insecure
  • 5.6 million people have fled the country
  • 1 in 3 schools are damaged or destroyed

Delegates to a major EU and United Nations donor conference in Brussels April 24-25 pledged some US$4.4 billion in 2018 to meet the deepening needs of displaced Syrians, as well as the main refugee hosting countries in the region – Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq.

By the close of the conference on Wednesday, a further US$3.4 billion had been pledged for humanitarian and development programmes in 2019 and 2020.

The conference was held at the ministerial level, and brought together 57 countries, 10 regional organizations and 19 UN agencies. More than 200 NGOs met in Brussels on Tuesday to provide operational recommendations to the ministerial part of the conference held the following day.

NGOs emphasized the vital importance of education for the future of young Syrian refugees. Two key issues emerged across the hosting countries of Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey: low school attendance among refugee populations, linked to protection issues, and poor quality education.

A lack of adequate adaptation processes was highlighted, particularly in Lebanon, with refugee children attending schools where they do not speak the language of tuition, preventing them from learning effectively and increasing drop-out rates.

In his address to the conference, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said that a quarter of the world’s refugees are Syrians, and that a quarter of all Syrians are themselves refugees.

Despite generous support from hosts, up to 80 percent of refugees from Syria are living below the poverty line in some countries, and 35 percent of child refugees are out of school.

The pledging event opened with a video of six-year-old Syrian refugee Farah, who lives in Zaatri refugee camp in Jordan. She loves learning languages and science, dreams of becoming a teacher and a poet.

But learning a foreign language remains a high barrier for resettling refugees.

Now, Maximpact is stepping up to help.

Based in Europe, the United States and the United Arab Emirates, Maximpact is a unique platform offering comprehensive development and support services to the circular, impact and sustainability sectors.

Employers, donors, NGOs or government organizations who want to change Syrian refugees’ lives for the better and facilitate the integration process can do so through Maximpact’s Language and Vocational Training for Employment.

Within three to four months, refugees will have general and working language skills, technical vocational skills and potential placements after graduating in fields such as: nursing, caregiving, hospitality, fruit picking and packaging, and waste management.

The languages covered are English, French, Spanish, Italian, German and others upon request.

All trainings are demand-oriented and build specific skills tailored to prospective employers’ needs. By bridging refugees’ and employers’ needs, Maximpact aims to improve job prospects for refugees in their host countries.

Dr. Linda Morrice, an education professor at the UK’s University of Sussex, said, “Refugees who are starting a new life in Britain want to work and see this as a key pathway to integrating. This government needs to improve the current resettlement system in order to ensure refugees resettling in Britain now, like those from Syria, have the best opportunity and support to gain employment which meet their skills.”

“We must shift the focus from talking about ‘meeting numbers and targets’ to ensuring that we have fast-track learning routes in place, especially English language learning,” Morrice said.

The Maximpact project will provide an opportunity for Syrian and other refugees to expand or adapt their skill sets, increase their confidence, and offer productive services to the communities where they are now living.

Contact Caroline Kennedy at to find out more about the Maximpact refugee training program.

Meanwhile, the United Nations is negotiating a new global compact on refugees with its Member States.

As the number of people forced to flee their homes continues to climb, the new compact aims to transform the way the international community responds to refugee crises, by providing more predictable and equitable support for the countries and communities which host them.

“With unprecedented levels of forced displacement, we need a new deal on how we manage refugee situations globally,” said UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Volker Türk.

“The compact embodies a new approach where the major host countries – typically among the poorest in the world – get the robust and sustained support they need, and refugees can contribute to their own futures and the communities where they live,” he said.

UNHCR was given the task of developing a global compact on refugees by the UN General Assembly in the historic New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, of September 19, 2016, in which 193 governments pledged to forge a fairer global system.

The draft refugee compact is being discussed in a series of formal consultations with UN Member States at the Palais des Nations in Geneva between February and July 2018. NGOs and other stakeholders have observer status.

The expected outcome is a non-binding document, reflecting consensus among UN Member States. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees will present a proposed draft compact in his 2018 report to the UN General Assembly at the end of 2018.

Featured Image: Two Syrian girls, aged 12, study at a temporary school in northern Lebanon, set up by UNICEF and the Lebanese NGO Beyond Association with the help of UK aid. (Photo courtesy DFID, UK Department for International Development) Creative Commons license via Flickr

“Together for Youth, With Youth”

The 83 Heads of State and Government who participated in the 5th African Union - European Union Summit in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, November 30, 2017 (Photo courtesy African Union) Posted for media use

The 83 Heads of State and Government who participated in the 5th African Union – European Union Summit in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, November 30, 2017 (Photo courtesy African Union) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire, December 5, 2017 (  News) – To ensure a sustainable future, the European Union and the African Union are solidifying their decade-old financial and structural cooperation in order to support young people and women.

At the 5th African Union – European Union Summit in Abidjan last week, leaders from 55 African Union and 28 European Union Member States gathered to coordinate with young people and with each other with the primary message, “Together for Youth, With Youth.”

EU President Jean-Claude Juncker said, “Already today, the majority of African citizens are under 25 years old, and by the middle of this century, one in four people on Earth will be African.”

“But this demographic dividend cannot deliver without smart investments,” said President Juncker. “This is precisely why we are going to put our investments in education, in infrastructure, in peace and security, as well as in good governance – all of which will in turn inspire good business environments and create much needed jobs and growth.”

Ahead of the Summit, young leaders from Africa and Europe gathered at a Youth Summit on October 9-11 in Abidjan, and their work intensified in the context of the AU-EU Youth Plugin-Initiative.

The Youth Plug-In Initiative brings together 18 Europeans and 18 Africans to act as youth ambassadors for the 5th AU EU Summit. The youth ambassadors presented their ideas to improve the futures of Africans and Europeans alike to global leaders at the Summit.

A summary of the youth ambassadors’ views on six key topics – education, job creation, governance, peace and security, environment and climate change, as well as culture and the arts – is presented in the Abidjan Youth Declaration.

On the topic of education, the youth ambassadors had two new ideas to present.

The AU-EU Rural Education Action Program (REAP) is a proposed, multipurpose and incentive-based pilot intercontinental program to facilitate access to and the completion of primary and secondary education for children, particularly in rural areas.

REAP focuses on integrating schools in remote and hard-to-reach zones to attract and retain students, especially girls, in schools. It maps hard-to-reach areas and develops “toolkits” that include equipment and training.

The AU-EU Network of Digital Hubs for Primary and Secondary Education envisions an initiative, implemented through a public-private intercontinental partnership with major IT companies, aimed at promoting digital skills and digital connectivity at the earliest stages of education, to unleash the potential of digital technology in the community through youth education, training and support programs.

On the topic of Environment and Climate Change, the youth ambassadors from Europe and Africa agree. They state, “Every day, we move closer to the environmental apocalypse to the detriment of all of us, particularly marginalized groups. Youth inclusion is key to ensure environmental preservation and address climate change; it is up to our generation to change the course.”

“As is stated in the Abidjan Youth Declaration, youth-led initiatives must be supported to counterbalance existing tendencies and interests that work against the environment. African and European youth share the same concerns about biodiversity, desertification, coastal erosion, and unsustainable resource management. As the first generation to bear the brunt of climate change and environmental disruption, we must urgently work together on common challenges. It is crucial that we find inclusive, fair and sustainable ways to govern natural resources both locally and globally,” the youth ambassadors state in the Abidjan Youth Declaration.

The youth ambassadors presented two new ideas to improve human response to environmental issues.

First, they suggest mobilizing youth to monitor infrastructure development projects, while guaranteeing the efficacy of impact assessments, through a new AU-EU Youth Initiative on Sustainable Infrastructural Development they’re calling GREEN ID.

Second, they would introduce a youth-led project which expands across the EU and the AU the use of transparent mobile direct-payment methods to ecosystem services for biodiversity conservation, natural resource management initiatives and risk compensation.

Also in advance of the Abidjan Summit, the 6th EU-Africa Business Forum took place on November 27, where business leaders, investors, innovative start-ups, and young and female entrepreneurs from both continents developed recommendations on how to improve the business and investment climate.

After taking all this input into consideration, the 83 European and African Heads of State and Government set out their joint commitment to invest in youth for a sustainable future.

They committed to focusing their work on four strategic priorities:

  • Mobilizing investments for African structural and sustainable transformation, European leaders presented, and African partners welcomed, the EU’s new External Investment Plan, a €4.1 billion (US$4.8 billion) initiative to draw in €44 billion (US$51.9 billion) of private investments for sustainable development and job creation. Special attention will be paid to enhancing entrepreneurship of women and young people.

The newly launched Sustainable Business for Africa Platform is intended to allow for structured dialogue with the European and African private sector.

  • Investing in people through education, science, technology and skills development

Support for inclusive education and vocational training was highlighted. Leaders also agreed to enhance the mobility of students, staff and academics across the African continent, as well as exchange programs between Africa and Europe, such as ERASMUS+, the European Union funding program for education, training, youth and sport.

  • Strengthening Resilience, Peace, security and governance

Leaders will step up their work to enhance peace and security on both continents, pledging to strengthen strategic, political and operational cooperation between the African Union and European Union, in close partnership with the United Nations.

Support to ongoing work to fight against terrorism was reiterated, including the Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram, the Joint Force of the G5 Sahel and the African Union Mission in Somalia, to all of which the EU is the biggest financial contributor.

  • Managing mobility and migration

European and African leaders reaffirmed their strong political commitment to address the root causes of irregular migration in a spirit of genuine partnership and shared responsibility, and in full respect of international laws and human rights, as well as creating legal pathways for migration.

They stressed the need to improve the conditions of migrants and refugees in Libya, and to provide them with appropriate assistance and to facilitate their voluntary repatriation to their countries of origin, as well as to create solutions for refugees.

Libya is the main gateway for people attempting to reach Europe by sea, with more than 150,000 people making the deadly crossing in each of the past three years.

Fleeing war and poverty, the refugees and migrants – most from Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Zambia, Senegal, Gambia and Sudan – are smuggled into Libya by a network of criminal gangs on the promise of reaching Europe.

Hundreds of African refugees, many of them young people and women, are being bought and sold in “slave markets” across Libya every week, Al Jazeera reported last week, with many of them held for ransom or forced into prostitution and sexual exploitation to pay their captors and smugglers.

To jointly address the situation of migrants and refugees who fall victim to criminal networks, in particular inside Libya, President Juncker, and High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat agreed to set up a joint EU-AU-UN Task Force to save and protect lives of migrants and refugees along the routes and in particular inside Libya.

Efforts will be intensified to enhance intra-African mobility and the free movement of persons within Africa.

On this basis, the European Commission and African Union Commission pledged to put forward concrete projects and programs within three months.

Featured image: Three young boys in El Sereif, North Darfur, Sudan. Today, more than half of all Africans are under 25 years old. (Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran / UNAMID) Creative commons license via Flickr.

Jordan’s Refugees Must Drink


By Sunny Lewis

AMMAN, Jordan, March 24, 2016 ( News) – Jordan, one of the world’s driest countries, is dumping much of its water into the sand – allowing 76 billion liters a year to flow from broken pipes, according to an assessment by the nonprofit aid organization Mercy Corps.

“By one estimate, the amount of water lost nationwide every year could satisfy the basic needs of 2.6 million people, or more than a third of Jordan’s current population. It is a tragedy of waste,” mourns the report, “Tapped Out: Water Scarcity and Refugee Pressures in Jordan.

Published in 2014, the report outlines urgent needs and provides key recommendations to guide institutional donor efforts and policies, advisories that are even more urgent today as distressed refugees from war-torn Syria surge across the border into northern Jordan.

Since the onset of the Syrian crisis five years ago, Jordan has borne the impact of this massive Syrian refugee influx. Today, those refugees account for about 10 percent of the kingdom’s population of 6.3 million, placing severe pressure on its water resources at a difficult economic period.

The Mercy Corps report quotes former deputy prime minister of Jordan Marwan al-Muasher, who warns, “Water scarcity is an existential threat to Jordan.”

An irrigation canal in Jordan, where groundwater levels are falling a meter each year. (Photo courtesy Global Freshwater Initiative)

An irrigation canal in Jordan, where groundwater levels are falling a meter each year. (Photo courtesy Global Freshwater Initiative)

Based on interviews conducted in three northern governorates in Jordan – Amman, Mafraq, and Irbid, the areas taking the greatest number of Syrian refugees – the Mercy Corps report asks donors to invest in long-term infrastructure development, strengthen government agencies and address the nexus of conflict and conservation.

A team of Mercy Corps engineers is working to rebuild the aging water system so that both Jordanian and Syrian refugee families will have enough clean water to stay healthy. Their work has already improved access to clean water for 500,000 people in Jordan.

Ghassan “Gus” Hazboun, Mercy Corps’ Water Engineering Director, said last July that in Jordan’s northern areas the leakage can be up to 70 percent of the water that flows through the network. “So we have water that’s already been treated, already been pumped from the aquifer to far-away places, and then we lose that water in the network,” he said.

“The best thing we can do, the only way forward, is to treat the network – to fix any damage and spare the waste of water. Reclaiming that wasted water is better than finding a new source of water,” said Hazboun.

Mercy Corps started with two wells in the Zaatari refugee camp, and now has three wells there, one well in Azraq camp, and several projects in host communities.

“We recently developed a well near the border between Jordan and Syria,” said Hazboun. “The water comes here, to the water treatment and filter area. And now we are ready to build a new pump station, control building, and a 500-cubic-meter reservoir.”

“This infrastructure is very important for the northern areas, including the city of Mafraq. The water we are providing goes to all the houses and we are supplying everybody, both Jordanians and Syrians,” Hazboun explained.

The World Bank is working to increase Jordan’s water supply in a different way.

On Monday, the bank released an account of its efforts to help the Jordanian government restore ecosystems and improve people’s livelihoods in the Badia desert, which covers about 80 percent of the country.

The World Bank and the Global Environment Facility are collaborating on a US$3.3 million grant to help the government create opportunities for the nomadic Bedouin livestock breeders of the Badia and make them more resilient to climate change and water scarcity.

Through the Badia Ecosystem and Livelihoods Project, this work is focused in Mafraq and Ma’an, impoverished governorates in north and south Badia with diverse, fragile ecosystems, unique archaeology and ancient history.

Livelihoods Project partner National Center for Agriculture Research and Extension (NCARE) is establishing rangeland reserves and reservoirs of rainwater for animal drinking. A mandated rest period in the reserves is allowing endemic plants, gone for 20 years, to re-emerge.

The bank also is supporting “high-value, low-volume ecotourism” by working with the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) to establish an ecotourism corridor in Mafraq that is already attracting other donors.

The project is expanding ecotourism by strengthening RSCN’s Al Azraq wetlands reserve and the Shaumari wildlife reserve.

All this work and investment is crucially important to Jordan, one of the world’s most water-vulnerable countries, but more help is needed.

Struggling with low rainfall, limited surface water storage, excessive groundwater mining and high dependence on waters shared by neighboring countries, Jordan now must also provide drinking water to hundreds of thousands of refugees.

In view of ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, influential countries such as the United States should consider how to help the region’s vulnerable nations steer clear of destabilizing water crises, says Professor Steven Gorelick who teaches at Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences and is a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

“Jordan is a peaceful and generous country that has absorbed hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees,” Gorelick said in January. “The U.S. is not sufficiently helping that country deal with the consequent stress of inadequate water supply.”

Countries in the Middle East and North Africa are over-pumping groundwater, he said. In Jordan, where people depend on groundwater for 80 percent of their freshwater, levels are dropping three feet (one meter) each year, and will likely be depleted by 30 to 40 percent within the next 15 years.

“Refugee migrations from conflict-torn lands and global warming-related extreme weather will likely worsen the situation,” said Gorelick.

Gorelick heads the Stanford Woods Institute’s Global Freshwater Initiative, focused on developing a comprehensive national hydro-economic model to evaluate new supply options and demand strategies.

The initiative is coordinating the Jordan Water Project, an international, interdisciplinary research effort aimed at developing new approaches for analyzing strategies to enhance the sustainability of freshwater resources in Jordan and, ultimately, arid regions throughout the world.

Featured image: Refugee child draws water in Zaatari Refugee camp in northern Jordan. Coming from a country with sufficient supply of water however, Syrian refugees are adjusting to water scarcity, especially difficult for mothers and children. (Photo by European Commission) Creative commons license via Flickr
Header image: A view of Zaatari refugee camp, where at least 80,000 refugees live, is located 10 km east of Mafraq, Jordan, June 2014. (Photo by Dominic Chavez / World Bank) Creative Commons license via Flickr