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HPC organized online seminar “Endangered Lives: Examining the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the health and wellbeing of refugee women in the Global South”
HPC organized online seminar “Endangered Lives: Examining the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the health and wellbeing of refugee women in the Global South”
Thursday, 10 June 2021

The Higher Population Council, in cooperation with the Global Refugee Health Research Network (University of Edinburgh) and the Protracted Crisis Research Center of the University of the West of Scotland, organized today, Thursday, a virtual symposium entitled “Lives Endangered: Examining the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Health and Well-being of Refugee Women in the Global South”, This seminar marks 2021 World Refugee Day.

The Secretary-General of the Higher Population Council, Dr Abla Amawi, stated that World Refugee Day was first celebrated on June 20, 2001, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. World Refugee Day is an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe. It falls each year on June 20 and celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution.

Amawi pointed out that the Coronavirus pandemic posed additional challenges to refugees in Jordan in various fields. Studies indicate that 20% of families with children were exposed to violence during the lockdown. Moreover, 33% of Syrian refugees indicated that there were challenges they faced in access to health centres. Additionally, about 35% of Syrians have permanently lost their jobs, compared to 17% of Jordanians; and, 52% of the informal sector workers do not have any kind of contracts, whether written or verbal.  Moreover, 21% of Syrian female workers before the crisis were permanently dismissed from their places of work.

She went on to add that the symposium provides a unique opportunity to explore the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and the resulting consequences for the lives of refugee women living in a protracted crisis in Jordan, Bangladesh and Uganda. Amawi noted that the symposium combines four short presentations aimed at highlighting the fragility of life in protracted crises, with a focus on adolescent reproductive health needs, as well as gender-based violence, critical illness, poverty, hunger and vulnerability in their lives.

The keynote speaker Ms Enshrah Ahmed, Head of Office, United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA, Jordan) delivered a speech on “Health and well-being of refugee women at the intersection of Covid-19” that reflected on the violence and fragility of life in refugee settings and the need for collective global action, coproduced with refugees for ensuring a better future for them. Dr Amawi as Chair helped to facilitate a rich and meaningful discussion.

During the symposium, the findings of two Global Challenges Research Funded studies that were undertaken by two researchers from Scotland in partnership with the Higher Population Council were launched. The first: "The Reproductive Health Project for Adolescent Refugees in the Camp - A Qualitative Needs Assessment at a National Level" undertaken by Dr George Palattiyil, Senior Lecturer at the School for Social and Political Sciences at the University of Edinburgh aimed at developing a deep understanding of the reproductive health risks and needs of adolescent refugees in Jordan in the context of forced displacement Identify the availability of services and obstacles to accessing sexual and reproductive health services, and develop policy recommendations to improve services for adolescent refugees. The most significant findings of the study showed that adolescent Syrian refugees living in Jordanian camps, especially males, lack awareness and therefore there is a weakness in making use of the available sexual and reproductive health services that they need. However, it seems that the reproductive health care for females in the refugee camp is relatively adequate, but there is generally a lack of knowledge and a low level of awareness on many topics related to sexual and reproductive health, in contrast to the youth interviewed who expressed a reluctance to seek information about sexual and reproductive health needs due to the absence of any problem or disease in sexual and reproductive health. The study recommended that there is an urgent need to provide and prepare national awareness programs on sexual and reproductive health for adolescents and young people that meet their needs and can be useful, and the importance of establishing national (multi-sectoral) coordination mechanisms and defining a national umbrella that works to unify national efforts and activate coordination between agencies working in this field. and develop specialized services for adolescents that are safe, friendly and of high quality.

The second research launched today was conducted by Dr Dina Sidhva, Lecturer in Social Work at the School of Education and Social Sciences, at the University of the West of Scotland along with researchers from HPC and academic partners from Yarmouk University: "Understanding and Reducing the Impact of Gender-Based Violence During the Coronavirus Pandemic - A Qualitative Study of Syrian Refugee Women and Girls in Jordan". This research aimed to develop an understanding of the increasing impact of sexual and gender-based violence on Syrian refugee women and girls in Jordan, during the CoVID-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown, to limit the impact on them through policy recommendations. The most significant findings of the study showed that Syrian women living in Jordan face a difficult social life, and suffer from the low provision of necessities of life due to lack of money, lack of labour market, and low wages. Domestic violence was clear according to the responses of the study participants, who indicated that the level of violence by husbands increased greatly since their move to Jordan. Most of the violence that women were exposed to was verbal, followed by physical violence, and only a few women faced sexual violence.  Verbal and physical violence has increased significantly during the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. The study recommended that despite the importance of direct intervention in cases of violence, by identifying victims of violence and providing safety measures to protect women who have been abused, it is of great importance to improve the general conditions of Syrian families and women and to enhance their livelihood to eliminate in advance the existing conditions that can stimulate the occurrence of Violence, and this is done through a comprehensive plan that includes all aspects of life, and there is an urgent need to address the threat of violence and its consequences for Syrian refugee women, and to support policies that protect their rights and take appropriate interventions against violence.