A range of vulnerable out-of-reach communities (VOC) living in informal tented settlements (ITS) are found throughout Jordan, which include a majority of Syrian refugees5 . Those living in these settlements either choose to do so, moving within the country to access services or livelihoods opportunities6 , or live in them out of necessity, often unable to afford rent and shelter in more established urban areas7 . The informal nature of these settlements means that access to shelter8 , food9 , water, sanitation, health, education and other essential services is not officially established and often intermittent, making the communities a highly vulnerable population group. Further, VOC populations often fall outside relief response targeting communities staying in formally managed camps and within host communities.
In 2020, around half (55%) of the VOC population were under the age of 1814. Among households (HH) with school-aged children, 57% reported that no child was attending formal education, either as they lacked the funds to afford related costs (47%), or due to the distance or lack of transportation (25%), HH’s frequent relocation (22%) or child labour (18%). HH also had difficulties to meet food needs16, accessing health- and maternal care, as well as accessing water (20%) and having shelter- and WASH-related needs.
To address these needs, UNICEF Jordan focuses on the most vulnerable children, in policy engagement and advocacy as well as in programme management and service delivery. Their approach is vulnerability-based and aims to reach all vulnerable and marginalized children(age 0-18) in the country, regardless of status, ability or nationality. This approach includes six priority sectors, namely Education, Social Inclusion, WASH, Child protection, Youth Programmes and Health & Nutrition20. Education represents one third of the budget, followed by one fourth of the budget being spent on social inclusion programmes and nearly one fifth of the budget (19%) spent on WASH services and supplies. For the ITS populations, UNICEF focuses on the provision of Makani centers where children and adolescents can learn and thrive since 2018.
UNICEF also provides transportation to school, WASH services and supplies, educational kits, as well as COVID -19 related cash assistance, and more recently mobile clinics. At Makani centres, children and young people are supported by enhancing their learning outcomes through the provision of uncertified structured learning support services (literacy and numeracy), and skills-based services that aim to improve self-management skills, cognitive skills, social skills and joint action skills, as well as by providing structured and community-based child protection services and skills-building programmes.
Makani centres also promotes early childhood development interventions and parent and child education programmes, as well as further child protection activities, such as community awareness sessions and building child protection community committees and serving as a base for referrals. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF has conducted campaigns that introduced handwashing demonstrations and social distancing, distributed emergency hygiene supplies, provided technical and financial support for the Ministry of Education and provided materials and devices to support distance learning of vulnerable children without access to connectivity.
A multi-sectoral rapid needs assessment by UNICEF, UNHCR and WFP conducted in April provides a preliminary understanding of the impact of COVID-19 and associated governmental measures such as transportation restrictions, on VOC. The resulting main challenges were found to be reduced access to food, due to travel restrictions and increased food prices, increased spending of limited savings to meet basic needs, challenges of VOC in accessing health facilities and essential medicine, and challenges in ITS to access safe drinking water and improved sanitation during the curfew.
Furthermore, VOC reported challenges for the continuity of education, due to limited internet connectivity and difficulties in accessing government online learning strategies and protection issues, such as 17% of respondents in ITS reporting to have used emotional or physical violence against children.
The situation for VOC might have changed considerably since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, potentially affecting the sectors of education, livelihoods, WASH and health as well as both the needs of communities and the provision of support by humanitarian organizations.