Women ASPIRE Jordan Trip
Earlier this February, I was fortunate to travel to Amman, Jordan with Dr. Anindita Dasgupta and the Jordanian Women ASPIRE team during the pilot-phase of data collection. During our brief but busy two weeks in Jordan, we worked closely with in-country principal investigator Dr. Maysa’ Kahdra and project coordinator Luma Samawi to review collected pilot data, finalize study materials for the larger study, and finalize study sites (healthcare centers utilized by Syrian refugees). We also liaised with key stakeholders from University of Jordan, Institute of Family Health (IFH), Jordanian Ministry of Health (MoH), and the Columbia Global Center in Amman.
Unlike other members of team ASPIRE, this was my first time traveling to Jordan, or for that matter, to any country in the Middle East. As my prior work focused on refugees resettled in the US, I had to understand the unique demographics of this region. Jordan, a country with a population estimate of less than 10 million (1) hosts over 1 million Syrian refugees (2) (registered and unregistered); according to official figures. With Turkey and Jordan being the only other countries that host a larger number of Syrians, approximately 1 out of 10 people living in Jordan are Syrian refugees. Among the 660 thousand registered Syrian refugees (3), 21.3 percent live in camps, while the majority live in urban areas, with the highest concentration in Amman Governorate (4). As expected with any other country that receives a large number of refugees, this influx has strained country-level resources as Syrian refugees compete amongst vulnerable Jordanians over jobs, and where signs of community host fatigue are reported (5). Syrian women also experience additional gender-related adverse events (6) due to the conflict and displacement.
As a doctoral student visiting Jordan, this trip provided me with a better understanding of the global refugee crisis and reinvigorated my determination to become a researcher. Meeting face-to-face with the Jordanian team provided me with the essential contextual knowledge that I would not have otherwise obtained by working remotely in New York. It emphasized how important collaborative visits like these are, and how necessary it is for all members of the team to listen, learn, and to provide constructive feedback to one another. I saw this first-hand as our bi-national team worked carefully together to maintain the scientific integrity of survey measure while accounting for the cultural context in which the survey would be implemented.
Embedded in the Social Intervention Group (SIG), ASPIRE has complemented my research goals as the mission of the SIG team is to develop and implement evidence-based sustainable solutions. I am truly fortunate to be working with a dedicated team of experts who can develop and then subsequently implement their research on a global scale. From my time with ASPIRE, I have learned a lot from our research partners both in Jordan and in Turkey who have a wealth of expertise in their country and within their field. Once completing my PhD, I hope that my work will focus on alleviating the burden of mental illness in refugee populations through evidence-based sustainable mental health interventions in both domestic and global settings. I look forward to our research in ASPIRE in the years to come and the impact that research programs like this will have on vulnerable populations.
During my downtime, and in between site visits and completing required study materials, I also attended the International Medical Corps (IMC) (7) conference on mental health and psychosocial support services among refugees and vulnerable Jordanians. This conference examined coping mechanisms and help-seeking behaviors among Syrian refugees in Jordan and identified several barriers to service utilization. The conference also brought together national and international actors interested in addressing mental health disparities among this marginalized community and provided an opportunity to meet other professionals passionate in helping the refugee population.
We ended our visit in Jordan by providing a day-long training for the research assistants (RAs) who will be conducting the survey assessments with Women ASPIRE study participants. This was the highlight of my trip, as the RAs were highly motivated to be involved in our study, and were compassionate and empathic towards the plight of their Syrian neighbors. This was inspiring to hear as the protracted Syrian crisis enters into its seventh year with no clear end in sight.
At this time, Women ASPIRE is actively immersed in data collection to understand the gendered physical health and mental health needs of female Syrian refugees living outside of camps in Jordan. This cross-sectional study also examines barriers to healthcare, and is expected to be completed by this summer, where an estimated 600 Syrian women plus their social network will be enrolled. Study sites are conducted within IFH in Amman, while study sites for MoH will be conducted in Amman, Irbid, Ramntha and Zarqa. We are grateful to have incredible collaborators in Jordan who were extremely gracious during our visit, and who without their collaborative spirit would make implementing this project impossible.
Mohamad "Adam" Brooks
PhD Student at CSSW
GRA for ASPIRE
1. The World Bank. Population, total | Jordan [Internet]. [cited 2018 Apr 24]. Available from: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL?end=2016&locations=JO&start=2016&view=bar
2. Ghazal M. Syrian refugee population increases slightly last year [Internet]. Jordan Times. 2018 [cited 2018 Apr 24]. Available from: http://www.jordantimes.com/news/local/syrian-refugee-population-increases-slightly-last-year
3. UNHCR. Situation Syria Regional Refugee Response [Internet]. [cited 2018 Apr 24]. Available from: https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/syria/location/36
4. UNHCR. Situation Syria Regional Refugee Response [Internet]. [cited 2018 Apr 24]. Available from: https://data2.unhcr.org/en/situations/syria/location/47
5. 3RP. 3RP Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan 2016-2017 [Internet]. 3RP Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan 2016-2017. [cited 2018 Apr 24]. Available from: http://www.3rpsyriacrisis.org/
6. UN Women & Reach. JORDANIAN AND SYRIAN REFUGEE WOMEN’S LABOUR FORCE PARTICIPATION AND ATTITUDES TOWARDS EMPLOYMENT [Internet]. UN Women | Jordan. [cited 2018 Apr 24]. Available from: http://jordan.unwomen.org//digital-library/publications/2017/3/jordanian-and-syrian-refugee-womens-labour-force-participation-and-attitudes-towards-employment
7. International Medical Corps. Jordan [Internet]. International Medical Corps. 2017 [cited 2018 Apr 24]. Available from: https://internationalmedicalcorps.org/country/jordan/