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‘Ramtha in need of assistance as Syrian refugee influx depletes resources’

By Omar Obeidat - Jun 05,2014 - Last updated at Jun 05,2014

AMMAN –– Since the population of the northern city of Ramtha has almost doubled in just three years due to the influx of Syrians, the municipality can barely deal with environmental issues, Ramtha Mayor Ibrahim Saqqar said Thursday. 

Indicating that the municipality has been waiting for over a year to receive machinery from the government to help clean the currently “overpopulated city”, Saqqar said volunteers responded to an initiative launched in cooperation with the UNDP to clean up their own city, some 90km north of Amman. 

“The UNDP has approached us offering to help, and we told them that sanitation is the most pressing issue facing Ramtha,” he told The Jordan Times over the phone, adding that hundreds of residents, municipal workers and representatives of NGOs took part in the clean-up campaign on Thursday.

He noted that problems facing Ramtha are different from any other place in the Kingdom, since the influx of Syrians into the border city has increased its population from 80,000 to over 150,000. 

This rise in population has placed additional burdens on the municipality to keep the city clean, the mayor said, criticising the government for not providing Ramtha with “badly needed” equipment and garbage trucks. 

“Officials have met with us several times and promised to help, but unfortunately, it has only been promises so far,” Saqqar noted, adding that Thursday’s clean-up campaign was a message to the government to step up assistance to the city.

Ramtha has been the most hit by the three-year Syrian crisis, as nearly 15,000 residents are jobless, he said, referring to drivers who used to transport passengers and goods to and from Syria. 

Traders in Ramtha also used to exchange goods with Syrian merchants just across the border, he said. 

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