How a displacement crisis helped Jordan support its population during COVID-19
20 May 2020
© UNICEF JordanHygiene and cleaning kits distributed to Syrian refugees in Jordan in May 2020.
At the beginning of 2020, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan entered the tenth year of a humanitarian crisis, providing refuge to over 650,000 Syrian refugees. But in the spring, another crisis hit which threatened not only the fragile livelihoods of these refugees, but the wellbeing of every person in Jordan—COVID-19. Jordan has implemented a strict nationwide lockdown in response to the COVID-19 crisis. While the restrictive containment measures have controlled the pandemic, they put those who depend on daily jobs at risk of falling into deep poverty. To prevent this, the Government of Jordan decided to provide emergency cash to 200,000 Jordanian daily wage workers who have lost their income as part of its COVID-19 response.
Read how the Hajati cash transfer programme in Jordan was
quickly expanded to support Syrian refugees during COVID-19This response was not business as usual. Although the Government of Jordan and partners (like UNICEF) have provided cash to vulnerable people for years, these have not included “near poverty” informal workers. Furthermore, isolation policies and a strict curfew meant regular procedures for enrolling workers and paying cash transfers could not be used. With the experience and lessons learned from the Syria crisis, UNICEF worked with the Government of Jordan to develop alternative strategies to reach those most vulnerable.
UNICEF as a trusted partner on social protectionUNICEF is a well-established social protection partner in Jordan. In 2019, UNICEF supported the Ministry of Social Development in designing its National Social Protection Strategy. With other agencies, including the World Bank and the World Food Programme, UNICEF implemented a technical working group to support the strengthening and expansion of the National Aid Fund (NAF). Prior research, such as the National Geographic Vulnerability Analysis and forthcoming research by UNICEF Innocenti on the role of cash transfers in the lives of vulnerable families, helped UNICEF Jordan establish itself as a thought leader on social protection in the country. Information systems had been developed by UNICEF to provide the NAF with the needed data for planning, design, implementation and monitoring of programmes.
Routine immunization and newborn screening has resumed for children in Jordan following a temporary pause as part of COVID-19 prevention measures.
Reaching out remotelyThrough its Hajati cash transfer programme for vulnerable households, including Syrian refugees, UNICEF Jordan has built up extensive experience with RapidPro. Developed by UNICEF’s Office of Innovation, RapidPro can be used for two-way SMS and digital communication (e.g. WhatsApp, Viber, Messenger) to raise awareness, collect data, and monitor programme implementation. It is effective also in contexts with good cell-phone coverage, but limited use of smart phones. Forthcoming research by UNICEF Innocenti finds that communication through RapidPro is highly trusted in Jordan and recipients appreciate the opportunity to communicate directly with UNICEF. RapidPro proved to be essential to Jordan’s COVID-19 response. Using RapidPro , 200,000 new recipients of the emergency cash were reached quickly, remotely, and safely at no cost to recipients. RapidPro text messages confirmed the identification of the targeted recipients and determined whether they had an active mobile wallet. If needed, UNICEF provided instructions on how to open new mobile wallet without physically visiting a service provider. Through a constant exchange of data with the Central Bank of Jordan and mobile money companies, UNICEF monitored the rate at which mobile wallets were opened. RapidPro also enabled UNICEF and NAF to troubleshoot arising issues.
Flowchart illustrating the ID verification process conducted through SMS messages for the Hajati cash transfer programme.