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UNRWA outlines extensive efforts to continue vital services to Palestine refugees during virus outbreak

By JT - Mar 26,2020 - Last updated at Mar 26,2020

UNRWA Sanitation laborers sterilise and clean waste collecting points in the camps to preserve the health and safety of the Palestine refugee community in Jordan (Photo courtesy of UNRWA)

AMMAN — The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Jordan has implemented a set of measures in Palestine refugee camps to ensure that COVID-19 does not spread among the refugee population in light of its pandemic growth around the world.

In an UNRWA statement recently shared with The Jordan Times, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Jordan Mohammad Adar said: "The health of Palestine refugees is our most precious priority and despite the difficult circumstances facing the world in general and the agency in particular, we are working endlessly to provide the vital needs of Palestine refugees throughout these challenges”.

"The agency has taken all precautionary measures for the health and lives of Palestine refugees and has conducted the necessary training for its staff since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, and it will not spare any efforts to fight the virus and protect the Palestine refugees not only in Jordan but also in the agency's five fields of operation," Adar added.

Accordingly, since the beginning of the global coronavirus crisis, UNRWA has implemented awareness-raising sessions for refugees and thorough training for its medical and educational staff in its health centres and at its schools inside and outside the camps in addition to the students and staff in the vocational training centres, the Faculty of Educational Sciences and the Faculty of Educational Sciences and Arts to extend responsiveness and education about the virus, according ot the statement.

Related awareness posters following the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines and recommendations were disseminated at all installations early on as well as a number of awareness posts, videos and messages circulated daily throughout all UNRWA social media platforms.

Upon closing all schools in Jordan, including UNRWA schools, as a necessary precaution, the agency immediately implemented remote-learning techniques for all Palestine refugee students attending UNRWA schools, vocational training centres and its Faculty of Educational Sciences and Arts in order to protect them from the virus and ensure that education will carry on as smoothly as possible, with UNRWA teachers working hard to provide the necessary e-lessons and follow-ups in accordance with the Ministry of Education in Jordan, the statement said.

Furthermore, UNRWA “proactively” developed educational material and encouraged students as well to use the already available self-learning material for its four main subjects, prepared for emergency situations.

The agency also began the sanitisation of the waste-collection points in the camps on a daily basis and started to distribute sanitisers, cleaning detergents and facemasks to sanitation labourers and to all medical staff working in the field to ensure their safety and that of those around them. Adding to that, a daily sanitisation of all agency installations — from medical centres to educational facilities, such as schools and colleges, and all UNRWA institutions — is being implemented.

Despite the curfew imposed by the government of Jordan, sanitation staff members continue their daily work inside the 10 official camps, sustaining the level of cleanliness and environmental health, the statement said.

Before the nationwide curfew to tackle the spread of the virus was imposed by the government of Jordan, the agency continued to provide the health services at its 25 health centres distributed around the Kingdom, to guarantee that all refugees without any exception received the services they needed with the assurance that all public safety measures which protect medical staff and patients were heavily applied.

Currently, UNRWA is working on obtaining all the necessary approvals and permits for its medical staff from the government of Jordan to ensure the continuity of health services for refugees in emergencies and the essential distribution of medication.

Agency medical officers were provided with the WHO-adopted case definition to classify the cases encountered in the health centres accordingly. If any suspected cases of COVID-19 are detected, they will be referred to the designated hospitals determined by the government of Jordan for the needed examination and quarantine, as this is the procedure followed in the country.

Government hotlines to answer any inquiries about COVID-19 were communicated to all refugee camps in Jordan to increase their awareness, in addition to the establishment of a designated Facebook page to keep all refugees and their communities updated. Furthermore, UNRWA social workers are also answering all inquiries from refugees and providing them with mental support throughout the curfew, the statement said.

Additionally, in regards to the cash payments received by refugees, including Palestine refugees from Syria (PRS), the agency is now studying the possible ways of distributing the cash assistance given the closure of banks due to the curfew.

UNRWA is closely coordinating with other UN agencies to ensure PRS in King Abdullah Park have access to basic needs (food and non-food items including hygiene kits), sufficient provision of healthcare, waste, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services and education services.

UNRWA senior management staff have conducted field visits to assess PRS needs during the current COVID-19 crisis on the ground to better understand the needs and to address challenges.

Through its partnership with the Jordan Hashemite Aid Society, UNRWA has ensured that practitioners are available at the King Abdullah Park clinic during weekends and is looking to increase the night shift to be able to assess all possible suspected COVID-19 cases to take immediate needed action, the statement noted.

The agency has been sending awareness SMSs that encourage PRS to take all precautionary measures to protect themselves against COVID-19. Moreover, SMSs targetting PRS with school-aged children have included ways to access educational TV channels and the website created by the Ministry of Education in Jordan.

Social Workers are in daily contact with PRS via phone, providing awareness on COVID-19 and also highlighting the importance of using the educational platform. In addition to that, social workers are also reporting challenges that PRS are facing during this period related to different sectors (health, education, protection, registration and relief), the statement said.

To preserve the health of UNRWA staff and work-continuity, the agency has implemented the “work-from-home” system to avoid physical interaction, keeping people safe from the virus and making sure that the work-cycle keeps moving to sustain the provision of services to Palestine refugees during these challenging times, according to the statement.

Jordan hosts more than two million registered Palestine refugees, the highest number of all of the UNRWA fields. There are 10 recognised Palestine refugee camps throughout the country, accommodating nearly 400,000 people.

The agency also extends its health, education, social and other services to nearly 17,000 Palestine refugees from Syria who have fled the conflict and who, for the most part, are believed to suffer from abject poverty and a precarious legal status.

UNRWA urgently needs $14 million to prepare and respond to the COVID-19 outbreak over an initial three-month period. The Flash Appeal that the Agency launched outlines the immediate priorities and financial requirements for health and other services related to the pandemic in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. This Flash Appeal is in addition to the regular UNRWA Programme Budget needs, according to the statement.

Amidst the current global crisis and in response to the continuing critical needs of Palestine refugees and in alignment with WHO and UN Preparedness and Response plans, UNRWA has developed and activated an agency-wide COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan and a comprehensive briefing update on the virus, along with a daily situational report, the statement said.

 

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