Protecting the most vulnerable children from the impact of coronavirus: An agenda for action

Preventing a child rights crisis

Girl Studying
23 April 2020

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is an unprecedented global crisis. UNICEF is working closely with the Government of Jordan and our partners to keep children and their families safe.

Without urgent action, this health crisis risks becoming a child-rights crisis.

Without urgent action, this health crisis risks becoming a child-rights crisis. Disruptions to society have a heavy impact on children and youth: on their safety, their well-being, their future. Working together, we can ensure the most vulnerable children – including refugees, children living with disabilities and girls at risk of violence – are kept healthy, safe and learning.

Our response to the coronavirus disease must build a better future for every child.


1. Keep children healthy

National efforts to bolster the health systems and improve hygiene for the most vulnerable communities is helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Jordan – this includes the urgent procurement of health supplies, including PPE to protect frontline workers. A national communication campaign with the Ministry of Health, WHO and partners is providing verified information to reassure and empower parents to keep their children safe.

As necessary measures taken to slow the spread show positive results, the resumption of critical health services for children, including immunization and birth registration, will be essential for their well-being. Our response to COVID-19 must be one that strengthens health systems for the long run. 


2. Reach vulnerable children with water, sanitation and hygiene

Protecting our communities through proper handwashing and hygiene practices has never been more important. But for many children, basic water and hygiene facilities remain out of reach. Refugees living in camps, children living in tented settlements and families living in water-scarce communities are most at risk.

Since the emergence of COVID-19 as a global pandemic, UNICEF and partners have scaled up hygiene awareness, distributions of soap, community engagement activities and provision of safe water in Jordan’s most vulnerable communities.

As temperatures rise over the coming months, these communities will face a double threat of disease and water scarcity. Ensuring the country is climate and water resilient has never been more critical and will require redoubled efforts to conserve and protect this precious resource.

A UNICEF staff member hands soap to a person through a hatch
UNICEF staff distribute soap to families in Za'atari Refugee Camp as part of the COVID-19 response

3. Keep children and young people learning

UNICEF is concerned about the secondary impacts of the pandemic and related control measures on children and young people and is working closely with the Ministry of Education and partners to keep children and young people learning, no matter who or where they are.

This includes the narrow window children under 5 years have for Early Childhood Development and the increased likelihood that vulnerable children will not return to school. Girls and children with disabilities are disproportionately affected.

In addition to supporting the Ministry of Education’s online and TV learning, UNICEF is exploring low-tech and no-tech solutions to bridge the digital divide: helping to close learning gaps, enabling pathways back to school for the most vulnerable children and ensuring that young people remain hopeful through access to meaningful engagement and training opportunities.

Girls and children with disabilities are disproportionately affected.

4. Support families at risk of falling through the cracks

The socio-economic impact of COVID-19 will be felt hardest by the most vulnerable children. The consequences of COVID-19 response measures risk plunging families who already live under the poverty line further into hardship

As vulnerable families start to feel the increased economic pressures, the Government of Jordan is responding with strengthened, shock-responsive national social protection systems and policies. UNICEF and partners are supporting these efforts with technical expertise.

Under the national response, and to ensure vulnerable families, including refugees, can cover their basic needs, UNICEF has scaled up our cash transfer progamme Hajati to 30,000 children – to ensure vulnerable families, including refugees, can cover their basic needs and don’t fall deeper into poverty.


5. Protect children from violence, exploitation and abuse

As communities are disrupted, children already at risk of violence, exploitation and abuse will find themselves even more vulnerable. 

Social and economic turmoil will heighten girls’ risk of early marriage, pregnancy and gender-based violence. With isolation, children facing violence in the home or online will be farther from help. And the stress and stigma of illness and financial strain will exacerbate volatile family and community situations. 

We must prevent this pandemic from turning into a crisis of child protection. UNICEF continues our support to the Family Protection Department and other partners to: support children who temporarily separated from their parents and foster families; continue the work of the specialized unit combating child online exploitation; provide psychosocial support to children; and ensure continuity of services and care for women and children affected by violence at home, while preparing for a surge in those seeking shelter and protection as curfew eases.


6. No child left behind

In everything we do, our focus is on minimizing the impact on children most at risk, including those living in refugee camps and disadvantaged neighbourhoods, as well as vulnerable groups, including girls and children with disabilities.

To date, no case of COVID-19 has been detected in refugee communities in Jordan. UNICEF continues to deliver and scale up critical, life-saving services - including the provision of water, sanitation and healthcare in camps and in host communities - to keep children safe and protected.


A mother helps her daughter with her schoolbag while her other children wait in the door

"Hajati has been a lifeline for our family, especially during these hard times." 

Al-Adra'a, mother of 6

UNICEF has issued an urgent funding appeal of US$ 17.4 million to support the Government of Jordan with urgent priority response interventions for children and women this year. We are concerned about the potential negative impact of COVID-19 on overall funding and our ability to deliver for children. We are grateful to our donors for uniting with us to protecting vulnerable children and their families during this crisis and sustaining the development gains made in recent years.