OSLO, Norway- With the 2013 Nobel Prizes distributed, the winners are presumably commencing the spending of their winnings. This year’s award totaled 48 million Swedish kronor (SEK), over US$7.5 million, split equally among six prizes. Since its original value in 1901 of 8,197,058 SEK adjusted to 2012 value (about $1,295,077), the prize amount has fluctuated. According to the table provided on the Nobel Prize website, the winnings per prize reached their lowest percentage of the original amount in 1919 at 2,274,570 SEK (about $359,366). The highest percentage was in 2001 when the winnings topped 11.75 million SEK (about $1.8 million), 144 percent of the original amount.
Most of the time Nobel Prize winnings are used to pay off mortgages, buy houses, pay for education, or saved and invested. However, in an article by Time, less typical uses were cited. The British scientist Richard Roberts used his 1993 prize to install a croquet lawn in his front yard. Albert Einstein gave his prize to his ex-wife and two sons. Others, such as Al Gore and Marie Curie, put their money into the work that led to their winning; Al Gore invested his in the Alliance for Climate Protection, while Marie Curie used her two prize earnings to continue research. A few elected to invest in or create new causes. The neuroscientist Paul Greengard used his 2000 winnings to set up a new award for individuals working to offset the bias against women in science, named the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize. In 1999, Gunter Globel dedicated his prize money to restoring the city of Dresden, Germany, the destruction of which he witnessed growing up during World War II.
What then could the most current winnings buy? More specifically, what sort of dent could they make in the current Syrian refugee crisis?
First, the facts: over four million people are internally displaced; over two million people are registered with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees and living in the neighboring countries; roughly 70 percent of refugees live outside official refugee camps; and an average of 600,000 Syrians flee the country each day. Needs run the gambit from clean water, shelter, clothes and health care to conflict resolution, child services, and employment.
As a result of the need, the UN appealed for $5 billion in humanitarian aid, the largest appeal in history. The largest portions are as follows: $2.9 billion for the Syrian Regional Response Plan, $1.4 billion for aid inside Syria, and $449 million and $380 million, respectively, to Lebanon and Jordan, which have thus far absorbed 30 percent and 29 percent, respectively, of Syrian refugees. While the $7.5 million from the Nobel Prize may seem insignificant in light of the UN appeal, individual countries’ needs are much more comparable. Below are five areas of need in which the Nobel Prize winnings could have an impact. Remember: the prize is just over $7.5 million.
At the Za’atri Camp in Jordan, demands on energy supplies have created the need for a separate power supply, whose construction and delivery costs are estimated at $14 million. There are also two artesian wells in the camp that cost $339,000 in capital expenditure and $122,000 to function each month.
One of the most urgent issues facing camp administration is providing clean water. The addition of Syrian refugees has put so much pressure on the drinking water and wastewater infrastructure that both are at risk of pollution and being severely depleted. Given the limited amount of water in Jordan, the government is requesting $91.1 million to assist in creating a sustainable supply of unpolluted water. Plus, the cost of getting drinking water to the Rajehi camp is $280,000 per year.
The influx of school-aged children has led Jordan’s Ministry of Education to designate ten schools to be expanded, and another sixteen schools to be built. The expansion is estimated to cost $3.8 billion, with the new constructions to cost $26.2 million. Furthermore, the approximate cost per student in primary school is $877 and in secondary school, $1,195.
In the final three months of 2012, almost 15,000 Syrians in Jordan received medical treatment in hospitals and over 27,000 were treated in health centers. The government has requested aid to expand an existing hospital and add a health center, costing an estimated $3.7 million combined.
Although most Syrians in Jordan reside in refugee camps, tens of thousands are estimated to live in other areas, particularly in Mafraq and Irbid. Municipal services like cleaning, road maintenance, and street lights are under more pressure requiring more attention. These services are projected to cost about $9.8 million.
Though these costs are hardly the full amount requested by Jordan, they are even further from the costs requested by the region at large. It is also important to remember that Nobel Prize winners are not under any obligation to use their winnings in a certain manner.
– Katey Baker-Smith