In Jordan, 35 percent of marriages involving at least one Syrian citizen took place with a girl under 18 years of age, marking a sharp rise compared to previous years. The data was released by the UNICEF representative in Jordan, Robert Jenkins, who discussed the situation of Syrian refugee children in the country and the activities that the organization is conducting to help minors.
Speaking in Rome, Jenkins said that two years ago the figure was over 18 percent and less than 10% before the Syrian conflict. The trend, he noted, is due to the ever more vulnerable situation Syrian families in Jordan find themselves in. In order to meet basic needs, he added, parents often feel that the best alternative under the circumstances is to "seek an alliance with another family that has the resources necessary to enable the girl to have some sort of opportunity."
UNICEF is working to help these families and increase their access to education, he said. In some cases, 27 euros are given to them per month in exchange for a commitment to send the children to school. One in every eight people in Jordan is Syrian.
The country, with a population of 9.5 million people, currently hosts 2.8 million refugees - 660,582 of whom are registered as Syrians. Of these, 337,557 are under age 18 and 102,390 are under age 5. Around 79 percent of Syrian refugees live in host communities while 141,059 live in refugee camps. There are also 63,581 Iraqi refugees in the country (32.9 percent of whom are under age 18) as well as 2.1 million registered Palestinians who have been staying there long-term.
Child labor is also increasing in the country, with 75,982 Syrian and Jordanian children affected. On the issue of education, UNICEF said that 212,000 Syrian children of school-going age have been registered, but 41 percent of these do not attend school regularly.
"The Jordanian education ministry has established that all children of any nationality have access to public schools. This is an ambitious initiative," he said, adding that a campaign had begun that involves door-to-door initiatives to ensure that all children can have access to education.
UNICEF helped 230,000 vulnerable children in Jordan and requires 270 million euros in 2017 to implement its programs to support children in the country. The organization is continuing its information, advocacy and collaboration activities with the government to support children and their families.
"We must ensure that, despite the lasting crisis, the world's attention does not get distracted. Jordan continues to need help, especially for children," Jenkins said. (ANSAmed).