Without the ability to legally work, refugees struggle to make ends meet. Many come to CRP with their last $40 in their pockets, not knowing how they will pay rent or buy groceries. While most people in Jordan don’t starve, malnutrition is rampant among urban refugees and needy Jordanians. Cheese, hummus, and olives for breakfast? Too expensive, just bread will have to do. Chicken with rice and okra for lunch? Meat is hardly affordable, so rice and a tomato. Lamb kabab for dinner? Many parents skip meals all together so that their kids can eat.
Still, not every single family is in the same position. Some may have had some savings or receive remittances from relatives who have made it to other countries. Assessing each family’s circumstances helps us to determine who needs help at what level and to what frequency. Further assessment shows how successful CRP is in alleviating nutritional concerns.
CRP calculates families’ nutritional needs through a app that we developed ourselves, using guidance from the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), who also supports our food-voucher program. When conducting home visits to assess beneficiaries’ basic needs, our staff members use the app to record how often they eat different foodstuffs. We want to make sure that beneficiaries have access to food that improves their health and well-being—even if their resources are few.
Concentrating especially on legumes, pulses, and leafy vegetables like cabbage, the app evaluates whether family members are receiving essential nutrients—vitamins, minerals, proteins and fibers—to prevent deficiencies, diseases or a lack of energy. According to our Jason, our Director of Data and Marketing, such a shortage of nutrients is especially prevalent in the Sudanese community. “One of the things we are looking to do in our new downtown center are nutrition classes. In the case of those beneficiaries who may eat regularly, but without a diversity of foods, we can invite them to learn more about nutrition in these classes,” he elaborates. It’s because of this tracking that we’re able to understand the needs of our beneficiaries and create programs addressing those needs.
“The app has also really boosted the efficiency of home visits in general. We had to write down everything on paper before, now we simply use a tablet,” Rahaf, a volunteer staff member at CRP explains. Rahaf has been on the home-visit team for one year, and seen its progression. “Our whole voucher-program depends on home assessments, so if we can make that process more efficient, we can evaluate more families and the waiting time for much-needed food vouchers is reduced.” As a small NGO, our budget is funded in large part through smaller donations. We are committed to using our resources responsibly and allocating them to those most in need of help.
Apart from being an environmentally friendly alternative to paper, the app helps our data team to evaluate the whole “home-visit architecture,” as Jason calls it. “Our home visits use a 360° holistic assessment that goes beyond food security. We look at the condition of the home, the financial condition of the family, health concerns, certain social concerns like whether it’s a female-headed household, which tend to be more vulnerable.”
There are two concrete ways that Jason and his team have used data to help CRP’s evaluations. He holds up two fingers, explaining, “One, we are able to share it with staff as we do trainings. We go through all the questions in an evaluation and work out the correct assessment as a team. So just from that training aspect alone, it helps us become more effective.” The second point, he says, is that because our assessment is holistic, “it allows us to intervene in other areas like, for example, health.” During medical days, beneficiaries can come and see doctors at CRP for free. “And in the future, if we have more resources available for health-related interventions, we can use the data we already collected to build upon.”
When CRP began talking to MCC about support for our food-voucher program, their advice on assessments was invaluable. Thanks so much to MCC for both their financial and logistical support.