UNICEF likely to reduce services in Jordan as funding falls short

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AMMAN — With funding to UNICEF Jordan dropping in 2017 and its 2018 budget being only 20 per cent covered, the UN agency warned of the possibility of suspending or even halting some of its programmes if the “worrying” trend of drop in aid continues, according to UNICEF Jordan Representative Robert Jenkins.

Vulnerable children will be negatively affected if the trend continues and already rising rates of child labour and early marriages among children will continue to grow as families are going through tough economic conditions, Jenkins said in a recent interview with The Jordan Times.

UNICEF Jordan’s budget for 2018 is roughly $200 million across all sectors of water, education, sanitation, health and social protection and reaching all vulnerable children. The agency is only 20 per cent funded for 2018, the UN official said.

There is a 25-per cent reduction in the agency’s 2018 budget from 2017 levels and funding received in 2017 was roughly 30 per cent less when compared with 2016, he said.

“There is a worrying trend of a decrease in funding to UNICEF and if this trend continues, we need to make some difficult choices in prioritising and that is incredibly challenging, recognising the continued pressure in the country including the economic pressure and the continuing large refugees population and the limited natural resources including water,” he said.

“It is absolutely critical that we maintain the level and scope of our programmes or in the end children will be negatively affected…That is what is keeping me up at night and we are trying to do all we can to continue to engage with our key donor and the international community and stress on the need to sustain assistance to Jordan, specifically that we are building measurable results and very successful programmes,” he added.

If the downtrend in funding continues, it could lead to suspending some programmes, he said.

“It could mean reducing the scale and scope of some programmes and fewer [children] reached and it could mean also stopping some programmes… If we remain at 75 per cent unfunded, one can imagine how the impact will be on our programmes in all areas,” Jenkins added.

Acknowledging the “great efforts and support” by the government and Jordanians and the support extended by the donor countries to the Kingdom, he said the Jordanian community and authorities have been generous in openness and providing all they can.

Warning of the risk of global attention being shifted to other key humanitarian crises including in Bangladesh and Africa, he said UNCIEF Jordan will continue to engage donor countries, while stressing on the need for sustaining aid as “the continued vulnerabilities remain among the population in Jordan”.

“Rates of early marriage are increasing and more among the refugee population and child labour is also rising,” he said.

“If support is not continued at the level it has been, we will see families having to increasingly make negative coping mechanisms like child labour and early marriage…We are concerned that if we are unable to continue engagement with the vulnerable communities at the same levels these trends will continue,” Jenkins added.

However, he described 2017 as a “strong year full of achievements for UNICEF”.

“We worked very closely with the government of Jordan and all key ministries that deal with children in various sectors of health, education and water, among others,” he said.

The number of Syrian children who are enrolled in schools in 2017 is 130,000 including in camps and host communities. The number of Syrian children enrolled in the catch-up and dropout programmes in 2017 reached 5,600 and the number of Syrian children enrolled in KG2 is more than 3,000, according to Jenkins.

“As funding drops, our constructive and productive areas of interventions and programmes such as increasing access to kindergartens, professionalising teachers and improving social development system and social workers are likely the areas that need to be compromised.

“We are in a challenging era and it is important to recognise that there will be direct negative impact on vulnerable children across all nationalities,” he said.

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