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Challenging Child Neglect: Displaced and Conflict-affected Children in Palestine and Jordan

This project interrogates child neglect from a systemic perspective, focusing on displaced and conflict-affected children in Palestine and Jordan.

About the Project

A summary of the project and research questions

Globally, humanitarian agencies with a mandate for child protection act to prevent harm to children in settings of armed conflict and displacement. Tragically, despite their best efforts, protection work is often unequal to the threats that children and caregivers face. As a sub-field of humanitarian work, child protection has focussed on the development of technical competence under the guidance of experts in the fields of health, psychology and social work. This project acknowledges the immense strides taken to professionalise the field while also recognising that a technocratic approach on its own is too narrow and attends insufficiently to issues of power. This research entails inquiry into the functioning of the humanitarian system and its impact on child protection efforts with a particular focus on neglect. We take this system to be constituted by a range of actors: humanitarian agencies, donors and host government authorities as well as children, caregivers and communities.

Overall Question
How do people from communities in settings of long-term conflict or displacement seek to provide care that ensures children’s safety and wellbeing, and how does neglect within the wider humanitarian system support or hinder their efforts?

Project Research Questions
RQ1: What are the norms of ‘adequate care’ as understood by children and adults and how does the humanitarian system help to ensure that these norms are realised, or not?

RQ2: How do families and communities seek to ensure that children enjoy care sufficient to protect them from harms due to displacement and / or conflict?

RQ3: How do humanitarian professionals and donors understand neglect within the humanitarian system?


The project's work in Jordan

Children playing together in Jerash, Jordan

In Jordan the project has focussed on four displaced populations: Syrian, Sudanese, Iraqi and Somali. For more than 70 years Jordan has been a place of sanctuary and one of the world’s leading refugee-hosting countries, regionally and globally. In recent times, UNHCR has reported registering an estimated 660,000 Syrians, close to 70,000 Iraqis, 14,500 Yemenis, around 6,000 Sudanese, and 750 Somalis in the country. There are also smaller numbers of Eritreans and Ethiopians many of whom arrived in Jordan as migrant workers and married a registered refugee gaining derivative refugee status at UNHCR. Many would-be refugees await registration.

Approximately 115,000 Syrians live in two refugee camps, Azraq and Zaatari. The residents of these camps are served by numerous humanitarian organisations that, between them, address the basic needs of children, providing primary health services and schooling. Our project did not focus on the encamped refugees in Jordan but on those who are living in Amman and its suburbs.

Child Protection efforts involve several humanitarian organisations – UN, international and local. The focus is broadly similar with considerable efforts over several years to develop a case management approach in which technical competence and standardisation are viewed as vital elements of success. The issues that have typically been the focus of CP efforts include early marriage, child labour / begging, and domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

Palestine (The Gaza Strip)

The Project's Work in Palestine

A group of friends walking together

Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip were the target population for this project The total population of those who fled from lands that are now part of the recognised State of Israel and their descendants number 1.4 million of a total population of roughly 2.1 million. All are living in a context of on-going and often massive political violence.

The distinction between ‘refugees’ and ‘Gazans’ matters in terms of sources of support. The former has historically received aid and basic services through UNRWA. Major funding cuts to this agency, particularly but not exclusively under the Trump presidency, often put such support at risk. Meanwhile, the 'Gazan’ population has historically relied primarily upon assistance from the Palestinian governing authorities which, for complex political and economic reasons, have proven unequal to the task. Both the refugee and local populations have been subject to periods of intense military violence, with the displacement camps experiencing the heaviest attacks. The war of 2021 was the fifth that the residents of Gaza experienced in the last 15 years. Since then, the population have been living on the brink of a further major outbreak of hostilities.

As elsewhere in Palestine, Child Protection efforts have historically entailed a strong focus upon psychosocial programming. As in Jordan, recent years have also witnessed great efforts to create a system of case management. The focus on harm arising from political violence has been spasmodic and has mostly concentrated on response to harm rather than prevention. This partly reflects the state of the CP field globally and the scant attention paid to prevention in general. But it also speaks to the influence of powerful political players, including western donor nations, the Palestinian Authority, and the Government of Israel.

Further details about the project

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