The CVT Jordan social work team manages many considerations for refugee clients in Amman. Today, as we face the COVID-19 pandemic, all those considerations have intensified. For example, the social workers have long grappled with ways to help clients who are referred to CVT Jordan for mental health care, but who don’t have enough food. Now, when agencies and people are subject to pandemic lockdowns and dramatic changes in service provision, more clients than ever face hunger, poverty and loss. The team has doubled its efforts in response to the new needs resulting from the crisis.
Ahmad Al-Shouly, social services manager, CVT Jordan, said, “Given this situation, all humanitarian organizations and entities have changed their modalities in providing services to refugees, shifting from direct to virtual implementation.” He noted that this includes a change to remote case management, helplines, legal aid and psychosocial support (PSS).
It is always difficult for refugees to make a living, but the pandemic “has pushed their socio-economic situation to the brink of disaster,” said Ahmad. The team hears many painful stories from clients. He said, “Beneficiaries have told us about their inability to secure food for their kids, having to resort to skipping meals and borrowing food from neighbors.” In addition, the team has encountered related issues of domestic violence which required referral by the team to legal aid centers and protection services. As always, these kinds of stressors can impede clients’ ability to access other services, so the team works to help each person understand what is available.
It is a time of challenge and difficulty, and the social work team is eager to help and very creative at finding solutions. Even under circumstances predating the pandemic, the needs of clients are complex. Because clients are a population of diverse urban refugees, service provision is not coordinated in the straightforward manner found in camp contexts. The social work team, including Hadeel Al-Mkhaimer and Esraa Janajreh, must at all times have current knowledge about the wide range of services for refugees, as well as be able to help individuals work within the system.
Hadeel noted that clients come to Jordan from very harsh conditions. “After they go through CVT psychosocial counseling and physiotherapy, they still have other problems and social stressors,” she said. “They have many priorities – basic needs, food clothing, infrastructure. We continue to support them so they are better able to sustain themselves with knowledge of how they can benefit from other services – medical, economical, legal, protection.”
Knowledge of other agencies’ services and processes is critical to the success of the social work team. Over the years, CVT Jordan has developed a well-earned reputation for making referrals that fit each agency’s type of care. Esraa said, “We know the organizations’ criteria for service – this is key to our assessment. We need to know if beneficiaries fit the services.” And it takes ongoing work to ensure this knowledge is current. Before the pandemic, the team made continuous visits to organizations to see if they changed their criteria, and now those check-ins must be done virtually.
The team quickly applied this knowledge to the changes brought about by the pandemic. “During this crisis we’re focusing on service agencies that have quick response,” Esraa said. “We are eager to gain any available resources to help and have been referring many for food parcels, especially during Ramadan.”
According to Ahmad, the department uses an approach known as the 4Ws: Who does What, Where and When. Early in the pandemic, this approach helped the team map out the services available for refugees, and let them quickly refer some of the most vulnerable cases to the relevant service providers, mainly for food security, emergency cash assistance, PSS and legal aid. The team began to reach out to beneficiaries daily by phone to see how they were doing and to show care and support. “It is also important to manage their expectations in these trying times,” Ahmad said. “I can say such calls by the social workers and colleagues, counselors and physiotherapists have contributed significantly to cooling off the tensions, fears and anxiety of the beneficiaries.”
The team also developed a strategy to share all COVID-related information from the government as well as WHO and the UN. This includes helplines that are available 24/7, and information on health, protection, domestic violence and detention, as well as community and grassroots assistance, especially food.
“The social workers have been plowing forward on multiple fronts to mitigate the suffering of the people in these difficult times,” Ahmad said. “Sometimes we find ourselves searching for a needle in haystack because of dwindling resources for the refugees, but significant results have been achieved with basic needs for beneficiaries, as well as in the field of protection and legal aid.”
Esraa said, “I had a client who violated the general pandemic restrictions. He was arrested by the police and detained at the station. He used his right to contact a lawyer and called me.” In a case like this, Esraa was able to contact an organization providing free legal consultation which she knew was quick to respond to detention cases.
“He is free now,” she said, “but he will have to pay a fine. I managed his expectation about the fine and advised him to contact UNHCR to see if they could provide him with the money or advise him about making a settlement with the government.” She added that the team is now receiving a huge numbers of calls daily with questions about COVID-19 policies.
The team always looks for creative solutions. In many cases, service agencies’ rules are different for refugees from differing countries, or agencies do not always provide full explanations for the kind of service they provide, or do not provide. Esraa said, “Clients say CVT services treat them with dignity. Clients feel we respect them as human beings.”
The pandemic is creating difficulties. “But,” Ahmad said, “as a team we are very happy and eager to make every possible effort to help our beneficiaries who are in dire need for our intervention and our care in these trying times. We all hope that things will be much better for all of us in the upcoming days and weeks.”
“When someone trusts us, you feel responsible for them,” Esraa said. “A client told me, ‘CVT is a second home.’”