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An App to Help the Forgotten Majority of Refugees in Jordan

6 September, 2016
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Every day, we read about refugees in Jordan, but media attention tends to focus on those who live in refugee camps. What we hear less about is the fact that, according to UNESCO, 80% of Syrian refugees in Jordan are urban dwellers who are slipping through the gaps of media attention and the reach of aid. More than half of urban refugees report living in substandard conditions, and half of school age children are missing out on an education.

"Access to aid drops dramatically as soon as you move from a camp setting to an urban setting," said Assistant Professor Noora Lori of Boston University in a crowdfunding video. Lori is one of a group of 26 undergraduate and graduate students at Boston University who decided to work on a solution to this problem: a mobile app that connects people to vital services. The app, entitled Urban Refuge, is currently being crowdfunded on Boston University's platform and and has another 19 days to attain its full goal of $15,000.

Currently, services are difficult to access due to poor administration, with addresses unevenly documented and information often spread by word of mouth. But with use of geo-coding to provide accurate locations, the students' tech solution aims to give much more coherent and complete mapping. Smartphone penetration amongst the refugee population in Jordan is relatively high, so using an app to address the problems has a strong chance of uptake.

"We're trying to make things more transparent. We're trying to organise information that’s already available, but to collate it into one centralised database that is searchable," continues Lori in the video. 

The students have produced a database of 160 organizations to be added to the app, mapped by latitude and longitude, to be accessed on an easy-to-use digital map. The kinds of services they are connecting to are employment organizations, legal rights information, and various kinds of educational services. 

The students have partnered with Boston University's Pardee School Initiative on Forced Migration and Human Trafficking, as well as the Jordan-based CSR consultancy firm Q Perspective.

The money sought by the students in their crowdfunder will cover the app’s development, translation, research and outreach. 

Should the app be successful in Jordan, they aim to adapt the technology to further locations where information is scarce for urban refugees.

Image: still from video

Tags MENA Because NGO social enterprise CSR Q Perspective technology apps for social change Syrian refugees urban refugees urban refuge crowdfunding Pardee School Initiative on Forced Migration and Human Trafficking USA Boston University