For UNRWA, child protection is defined as preventing and responding to violence, exploitation, abuse, and neglect against Palestine refugee children, and encouraging their well-being and development.
Child protection is central to the service provision of UNRWA in the areas of health, education, and relief and social services. With over 30,000 staff, the Agency has direct contact with thousands of children every day through nurses, doctors, teachers, social workers and others who enrich the lives of Palestine refugee children. The Agency recognizes its responsibility to safeguard the children it serves in its programmes, and the need to provide child-sensitive service and programme delivery.
Palestine refugee children face acute challenges because of armed conflict in Syria, the impact of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory, including the Gaza blockade and repeated hostilities and the protracted nature of their displacement. The need for a cross-sectoral, Agency-wide commitment to the protection of children has never been more needed.
UNRWA has recognized that strengthening its child protection work is an imperative. In 2016, the Agency adopted the UNRWA Child Protection Framework which reaffirms the Agency’s commitment to child protection and lays out the Agency’s approach to provision of services in this area.
Children may face protection risks at home, at school or in the community. All children should grow up free from violence, and through its programme and service delivery, the Agency aims to ensure that Palestine refugee children have access to basic social services and grow up in a safe environment. This comprehensive approach, including community engagement and a child-centric approach, is the key to the Agency’s child protection activities, as is prevention.
According to the Agency’s Child Protection Framework, UNRWA child protection work is defined across three main pillars: advocacy, provision of child-sensitive services to children and safeguarding the children we serve.
UNRWA regularly advocates for the respect of Palestine refugee children’s rights and raises awareness with relevant authorities and other duty bearers. In accordance with the Agency’s advocacy priority of protecting the right to education, in 2016, UNRWA issued the report Schools on the Front Line that documented the impact of armed conflict and violence in recent years on Agency schools and education services. This report demonstrated how quality education supports physical and psychosocial protection that can sustain and save lives while providing a sense of routine, stability, structure and hope.
UNRWA child-sensitive services are those in which children’s needs are properly considered and addressed to ensure the accessibility and quality of these services. UNRWA works to ensure that all its services are attentive to children’s needs, putting in place the necessary systems and protocols to adequately serve Palestine refugee children. Additionally, UNRWA is working to scale up child protection specific services and programmes such as the inter-sectoral Family and Child Protection project and the Schools on the Frontline initiative in the West Bank, the Child and Family Protection project in Jordan and the pilot project to prevent child labour in the community in Gaza.
For UNRWA, safeguarding children means ensuring that the Agency itself protects and respects the children entrusted to its care. The Agency’s staff play a very valuable role in delivering programmes and services, and this daily contact with children and their families – whether in schools, health clinics or visits to their homes – is very important in supporting children’s health and well-being. UNRWA is scaling up the implementation of safeguarding policies by building the capacity of field staff to ensure they are able to protect children and prevent violence, abuse and exploitation.
*Last updated: March 2018