'Abject poverty' driving Jordan's Syrian refugees to drastic action: U.N.

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Syrian refugee families will resort to increasingly drastic measures to survive unless the world does more to help, the U.N. refugee agency said, as it released a study showing that one in six Syrian refugees in Jordan live in "abject poverty". Two thirds of Syrian refugees in Jordan are living below the national poverty line of $96 per person per month, the UNHCR's "Living in the Shadows" report said. One in six refugees has less than $40 a month to make ends meet. At least 3.7 million people have fled Syria's almost four-year conflict and are registered as refugees, mainly in neighboring states. Jordan hosts 622,000 Syrian refugees, Lebanon 1.16 million, Turkey 1.6 million and Iraq 233,000, UNHCR figures show. Some 84 percent of Jordan's Syrian refugees live outside of camps. While most live in apartments or houses, one in 10 are living in shelters such as tents and caravans, the UNHCR said. It said almost 35 percent of Syrian refugee households in Jordan are headed by women, of which 2.7 percent are women living alone, and that poverty is worse among female-headed households. "Unless the international community increases its support to refugees, families will opt for ever more drastic coping strategies," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in a statement. "More children will drop out of school to work and more women will be at risk of exploitation, including survival sex," said Guterres, who is on a two-day visit to Jordan where he is expected to meet refugees in Zaatari camp. The UNHCR study, based on data from home visits to almost 150,000 Syrian refugees living outside camps in Jordan in 2014, shows that almost half the households visited had no heating, a quarter had no reliable electricity and a fifth had no functioning toilet. Almost half the refugee households were living in conditions assessed as "bad" or "urgent" and two out of five were living with poor sanitary conditions, the UNHCR said. Blizzards, rain and strong winds battered the Middle East last week, leaving freezing temperatures and icy conditions. UNICEF, the U.N. children's agency, has said that at least six children in Syria and Lebanon have died because of the severe winter weather. (Writing by Katie Nguyen; Editing by Tim Pearce)