New clinic for Iraqis in Amman

The Jordan Red Crescent (JRC) has signed an agreement with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to open a clinic for cash-strapped Iraqis in Amman, according to JRC officials.

The clinic is currently being equipped and will be ready to receive its first patients in a few weeks. Treatment will be free of charge.

"This is a pilot project. We will see how it works and hopefully, if enough patients make use of our services, we will work on establishing new centres in other areas," said Mohammad Hadid, the JRC chairman, who is also chairman of the Standing Commission of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. 

The three-room clinic will be located in Jabal al-Taj, in downtown Amman. It will have the capacity to handle 120 patients a day, said Hadid.

He said the JRC plans to expand its activities to other cities hosting Iraqis, including Zarqa, 30km east and Irbid 60km north of Amman.

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"Although the centre will be designated for the Iraqi community, Jordanian citizens in need of medical care and who cannot afford it [elsewhere] are also welcome," Hadid told IRIN.

The clinic will also cater for the psycho-social needs of patients traumatised by the violence in Iraq.

"We recognise that many of the Iraqis suffered greatly from the consequences of war, either through losing people close to them or sustaining physical injuries that effect them psychologically; it was therefore necessary to provide the clinic with a psychological counselling unit," Hadid said.

The idea to open the clinic at Jabal al-Taj was inspired by the success of another health clinic in Hashmia, on the eastern outskirts of Amman, where 50-60 Iraqi patients take advantage of health care programmes.

In June the JRC signed an agreement with the UN Refugee Agency (UNCHR), according to which the latter will refer Iraqi patients to JRC hospitals.

Refugee data

There are no official statistics on the exact number of Iraqis in the kingdom, but the UNHCR puts their number at about 750,000. Amman estimates them at 350,000 to 400,000. Earlier this year the Norway-based refugee organisation, Fafo, began a survey throughout the kingdom to find out the exact number of Iraqis.

The government insists that most Iraqis are "guests" and refuses to recognize them as refugees.

The UNCHR in Amman has nearly 25,000 Iraqis registered as refugees. The rest are either staying with annually renewable visas or illegally. Most have chosen to live in the modest but congested eastern part of the capital.

Jordan has repeatedly urged the international community to provide financial assistance as the growing number of refugees is burdening its health and education services. Earlier this year, officials in Amman imposed strict measures to discourage asylum seekers from entering the country.