Health conditions in Jordan are among the best in the Middle East. This is due in large part to the Kingdoms stability and to a range of effective development plans and projects which have included health as a major component. Jordan has approached development from a holistic perspective, realizing that poverty, illiteracy and health form a triangle which must be addressed together. Advances in the struggle against poverty and illiteracy, in addition to the spread of sanitation, clean water, adequate nutrition and housing have combined to make for a healthier Jordanian citizenry.
Jordan was forced to shoulder a very heavy burden because of the Gulf Crisis of 1990-91. In addition to losing much of its trade, the country faced massive immigration, rapid demographic growth and urban migration. All of this imposed great stress on Jordanian society, infrastructure and natural resources, with a negative impact on the socioeconomic development and health of the country. United Nations sanctions imposed after the Gulf War have compounded the problems by severing economic links with Jordans main trading partner, Iraq. In spite of these difficulties, however, Jordan has continued its efforts to provide all of its citizens with an acceptable standard of living.
The main goal of Jordans health strategy has been to provide adequate health coverage to all. In order to meet the objective of providing "health for all by the year 2000," the government developed a health strategy which aimed at developing a comprehensive health system, including the services of the private sector, to ensure preventative, tertiary and rehabilitative care for all. To best accomplish this, government policy has deftly encouraged geographical complementarity in services by encouraging private sector facilities in the urban areas for those able to afford higher costs, while concentrating public sector facilities in the relatively less-affluent non-urban areas. Like its policy of favoring spending on basic education over higher education, Jordans public health spending has concentrated on primary health care in all parts of the country, while leaving tertiary health care mostly to the private sector.
As a result of these insightful policies, health care services have risen rapidly with the public and private sectors complementing each other. Over the years, an extensive network of health care facilities has been formed, including 323 primary health care centers, 274 secondary health care centers, 307 maternal child-health care centers, 41 comprehensive health care centers and 188 dental clinics. Perhaps the clearest example of Jordans emphasis on primary health care is in the area of childhood immunization. In 1996, 98 percent of Jordanian children were fully immunized.
One example of the link between education and health can be seen in the area of medical personnel. Jordan boasts a high percentage of doctors and nurses, and this concentration has led to marked improvements in the quality and availability of health care over the past two decades. In 1996, for every 10,000 Jordanians there were 16.5 physicians, 25 nurses, 4.9 dentists and 17.9 hospital beds.
While the Kingdom has concentrated its efforts mainly on improving and extending its primary health care system, it also hosts some of the most advanced medical facilities in the region. As the reputation of Jordanian doctors spreads in the region, a growing number of heart patients are coming to Jordan for medical treatment. Jordans first open heart surgery was conducted in the Amman Military Hospital on May 17, 1970, and its first heart transplant was completed on August 9, 1985, at the Queen Alia Centre for Heart Surgery and Treatment.
Jordanian doctors have also pioneered in the technique of microinsemination, an advanced method of in vitro fertilization. For the first time in the region, in January 1995 a team from the Farah Hospital successfully transplanted a fetus nesting in the Fallopian tube to the uterus of the mother. The success of this operation reflects the high quality of advanced medical procedures available in Jordan.
The nutritional status of the people of Jordan has also improved vastly over the past 30 years. In 1961, the average Jordanian received a daily intake of 2198 calories. By 1992, the figure had reached 3031 calories, an increase of 37.8 percent. The average intake for all developing countries in 1992 was 2553 calories, an increase of 33.1 percent over the 1961 figure.
Water and sanitation available to only 10 percent of the population in 1950 now reaches 99 percent of Jordanians. Electricity now also reaches 99 percent of the population, as compared to less than 10 percent in 1955.
The Jordanian government has been involved in efforts to provide low cost housing for the poor. The National Housing Strategy encompasses the various aspects related to housing such as the improvement of living conditions, support for the construction industry, the development of local building materials, community participation, manpower training and a statistical housing information system. Moreover, Jordans housing policy includes the provision of government loans at subsidized interest rates for construction. These credits are provided to both private individuals and to governmental agencies involved in public housing. The Urban Development Corporation also provides some low-cost shelter for the poor in the Amman area.
Over the past two decades, Jordans basic health indicators have improved greatly. Life expectancy at birth now stands at 68 years, up from the 1986 figure of 64 years. In 1965, the average Jordanian could only expect to live to age 50.
A contributing factor to the rising average lifespan has been the reduction in infant mortality rates. According to UNICEF statistics, between 1981 and 1991 Jordan achieved the world's fastest annual rate of decline in infant mortalityfrom 70 deaths per 1000 births in 1981 to 37 per 1000 in 1991, a fall of over 47 percent. Moreover, the decline in infant mortality has not stopped. According to Jordans Ministry of Health, the figure fell even further in 1996 to only 32 deaths per 1000 births.
The spread of adequate sanitation and potable water, improvements in dietary intake, accessibility to advanced and affordable health care, improved pre-natal care and childhood immunization programs are some of the primary factors which have combined to lower infant mortality rates and raise life expectancy. The success of Jordans health care system is therefore a major reason for the high natural rate of population growth. While average fertility levels have actually declinedfrom 7.3 in 1984 to 4.6 in 1996a higher childhood survival rate means more Jordanians entering marriageable age.
|Life Expectancy (1996)
|Infant Mortality Rate (1996)
|32 per 1000 births
|Physicians Per Capita (1996)
|16.5 per 10,000 persons
|Nurses Per Capita (1996)
|25 per 10,000 persons
|Dentists Per Capita (1996)
|4.9 per 10,000 persons
|Hospital Beds Per Capita (1996)
|17.6 per 10,000 persons
|Source: Ministry of Health, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
Jordans people are its biggest asset, and the Kingdom is committed to utilizing every sector of its populace to the highest degree. Disabled persons are no exception to this policy, and Jordan has made substantial progress toward incorporating them into the labor force. The Ministry of Social Development coordinates activities concerning the care and rehabilitation of the disabled with numerous governmental, voluntary and private institutions.
Handicapped racer Maha Barghouti, breaking a world record at the first International Para-lympics World Championship in Athletics, Berlin, 1994.
© Special Olympics Jordan
addition, the ministry offers classes and rehabilitation programs for disabled persons,
including children who need extra attention at an early age. Particularly active in
advocacy for the handicapped is HRH Prince Raad bin Zeid, who chairs the Jordan
Sports Federation for the Handicapped and the Friends Society of the Jordan Eye Bank and
Prevention of Blindness.
On March 29, 1993, King Hussein signed the Law for the Care of the Handicapped, a major step toward securing the rights of disabled persons and including them in the labor force. The law guarantees each disabled person the right to work, prohibits the refusal of medical insurance because of disability and ensures the right of disabled persons to pursue education at all levels. To counter the financial burden often incurred by families, the law provides a government stipend to needy parents of disabled persons. The law also stipulates that the Ministry of Labor is responsible for providing suitable vocational courses to the disabled, and it exempts organizations that care for the disabled from property taxes.
Jordan's labor force is estimated at 1.189 million, or about 25.8 percent of the population. This figure is expected to increase as more women enter the labor force in conjunction with the implementation of birth-spacing and other population programs. Because of the expected movement of women into the labor force, the population growth rate is expected to slow as the labor force expands. The 1997 census placed the ratio of women in the work force at 14.2 percent, up from 7.7 percent in 1979. Jordan's labor force is well trained and highly skilled, making it a valuable asset to the country and to the region. Traditionally, Jordan has been an exporter of skilled labor to other Arab countries, especially to the Gulf states, and remittances from Jordanians working in the Gulf have been a major source of income for the country.
Comparative statistics demonstrate how strongly Jordan has stuck to its goal of human development. Balanced economic growth during the 1950s, '60s and '70s resulted in significant improvements in the average Jordanian's quality of life. Life expectancy increased from 50 years in 1965 to 68 years in 1996, and infant mortality has declined by 60 percent just since 1981. School enrollment is currently one of the highest among developing countries, reaching 95 percent and 66 percent for primary and secondary schooling respectively. Furthermore, almost 99 percent of the countrys population today has access to electricity and safe water. Although Jordan is not well-endowed with natural resources, it has compensated for this deficit by focusing on the human aspect of development. Through improvements in the quality of life for its citizens, Jordan now has a labor force prepared for the demands of the twenty-first century.