Syrian refugees in Jordan are more frequently finding themselves in life-threatening situations as they struggle to pay off their medical bills. Following the Jordanian government’s decision to end the subsidization of refugees’ healthcare costs, refugees with medical conditions, especially chronic diseases, now face greater challenges.
Between 2012 and 2014, Syrian refugees in Jordan received free healthcare and paid the same subsidized medical fees as uninsured Jordanian citizens. However, in February 2018, due to a lack of funding from the United Nations (UN), a decision was made by the Jordanian government to discontinue the subsidies, meaning that Syrian refugees living outside the designated refugee camps would no longer receive subsidized healthcare, and would instead have to pay 80% of the standard medical fees for foreigners. Prior to that decision, 45% of Syrian children under the age of six living outside the refugee camps were already struggling to access basic healthcare. Now, with most medical costs increasing five-fold, chronic diseases such as Sickle Cell Anemia and birth defects, among others, are experiencing an even bigger increase. With more than 85% of the 657,000 refugees in Jordan living under the poverty line, covering such fees is nearly impossible.
Rasha, a 10-year-old Syrian girl with Sickle Cell Anemia, was receiving treatment in Jordan for the same price as Jordanian nationals, paying a subsidized rate of $8. Without the government subsidies, Rasha’s treatment soared to $2,800. Rasha’s family only receives an estimated income of $400 per month, and such surges in medical fees obstructed Rasha from receiving the adequate treatment she needs. Rasha is only one of the hundreds of Syrian refugees facing such uncertainties. Walaa, a 24-year-old patient suffering from congestive heart defects, had her emergency check-up go from $0.70 to $9. In efforts to minimize her medical bills, Walaa started visiting a local doctor rather than the usual hospital she previously went to. As a result, Walaa’s long due tests at the hospital showed that she had developed a chest infection while also suffering from dangerously low blood pressure.
Patients with chronic diseases are among those most at risk of losing their lives due to the high costs of medical treatment they require and the limited funding available, with most organizations shifting to providing basic primary healthcare services only, such as vaccinations and maternal and child services, at a time when 83% of refugee family households have at least one patient with a chronic condition. Patients with kidney diseases, like 21-year-old refugee Asma, require up to three dialysis sessions per week, with each session now costing $65. As 129 refugees lost access to their dialysis treatment sessions this past April, with a further 25% expected to experience interruptions in their treatment, dialysis patients’ lives now lie in danger as they risk death if left untreated for ten days.
In accordance with International Human Rights Law, specifically Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which ensures the “right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health,” Defenders of Medical Impartiality (DMI) calls on the international community to adequately finance Jordan’s medical treatment programs for refugees. We also call on the Jordanian government to re-subsidize the prices of health and medicine services for the entire refugee population in the Kingdom. DMI also calls on INGOs offering medical services to include patients with chronic diseases under their umbrella, as they continue to face obstacles in receiving their much needed treatments.