Mercy Corps Conducts Rapid Needs Assessment in Za’atari and Azraq Refugee Camps

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In April 2021, Mercy Corps conducted a Rapid Needs Assessment (RNA) in Za’atari and Azraq refugee camps, with the aim of assessing the COVID‑19 impact on the mental health and psychosocial needs of the camps’ residents. The assessment targeted 229 Syrian refugees in both camps belonging to different age and gender groups, to gather a representative sample of the residents’ opinions, experiences, and needs.

The results of the assessment highlighted that caregivers in both camps are confident in their information about COVID‑19; however, children in both camps (41% of girls and 19% of boys) require more information and need more guidance around trusted information sources. Even when having enough information about COVID‑19, caregivers and children alike still have fears about the virus (48% of study respondents). This may be attributed to the amount of knowledge they have obtained around the severity of this pandemic.

Regarding psychosocial and mental health wellbeing, caregivers, especially women, reported experiencing a negative impact on them as a result of COVID‑19. 46% (56 out of 121) of the caregivers in both camps reported feeling so afraid that nothing could calm them down as a result of the stress they experienced in the two weeks preceding the assessment. Furthermore, 39% (47 out of 121) of the caregivers reported that they were angry to the level they felt out of control in the two weeks preceding the assessment.

As for family relations, there is consensus from all age groups on the negative impact of the pandemic on family relationships, since 58% (132 out of 229) of the survey respondents reported that these relations have been negatively affected as a result of COVID‑19 continuing. The increased violence is one of the important factors that has been raised by the respondents, especially by girls (46%), as well as boys (33%). Other elements like increased depression and tension were also highlighted as main factors which negatively affected family relations.

Importantly, the findings revealed that the majority of the survey respondents (68%) did not participate in any educational, recreational or cultural activities during COVID‑19. This could explain why so many of them have faced challenges within their household. Findings revealed that 58% of boys’ respondents and 54% of girls were interested in being involved in vocational and technical activities. 50% of the women caregivers were interested in educational interventions, psychosocial support, and computer and technology awareness sessions. 45% of men caregivers were interested in educational intervention and computer sciences in particular.

In conclusion, the study corroborated the need for humanitarian assistance for the refugees in both camps as an essential response to the COVID‑19 crisis, which has impacted every aspect of their lives. Certain elements should be taken into consideration before starting to address any of their needs, such as awareness of the importance of the COVID‑19 vaccines, which will be essential to helping people in both camps get back to their “normal” life. The main recommendations emerged from the assessment are:

  1. Designing comprehensive livelihood programs/interventions will be key in supporting the families recover from the COVID‑19 negative economic effects that directly affected family relations. This should include providing vocational and technical training, on-job-trainings, and linking to jobs. Supporting the establishment of home-based businesses in both camps could be a way to ensure that vulnerable groups are also reached.
  2. PSS and Mental Health support services should be provided to match the high demand of the residents in both camps, especially parents/caregivers. The provision of these services should align with the re-opening of safe spaces, while specialized online PSS assistance should also be ensured.
  3. Providing ICT literacy and basic computer skills for parents/caregivers could help them support their children in their online education.