COVID-19 Cases Confirmed in Za’atari and Azraq Refugee Camps

Statement from Dominik Bartsch, UNHCR Representative in Jordan, on the spread of coronavirus to refugee camps

Hand sanitation and the distribution of protective gloves is mandatory for all refugees as they enter the WFP run supermarket in Azraq Camp

Hand sanitation and the distribution of protective gloves is mandatory for all refugees as they enter the WFP run supermarket in Azraq Camp

Ever since the onset of coronavirus in Jordan, the spread of cases in refugee campwas an eventuality we had been preparing for. An eventuality we hoped would not happen, but nonetheless, one we are ready for. 

To date, five refugees from Za’atari and Azraq refugee camps have been confirmed as positive. The Ministry of Health is conducting thousands of tests and has trained medical staff in the camp in this regard. 

Through our established protocol all refugees who are confirmed positive will be transported to the Dead Sea Isolation Area. Contact tracing will take place and their friends and families asked to self-isolate.  

At UNHCR, we have built quarantine and self-isolation areas in Za’atari and Azraq camps specifically for this purpose. Right now, families who were in contact with the individuals who tested positive this week are being housed at these sites. 

Testing and treatment centers have also been established in both camps. If refugees have symptoms, we urge them to approach these centers or contact our hotlines for advice. Should cases rise, clinics run with NGO partners such as IMC and MSF are ready to jump into action. 

Our cooperation with the Ministry of Health and Syrian Refugee Affairs Directorate (SRAD) has been crucial during this time. We are incredibly grateful that refugees continue to be included within national health systems here in Jordan.  

The developments this week have obviously been a worrying situation for all, but especially for refugees living in the camps. Crowded spaces and cramped living conditions make social distancing difficult. We are encouraged by the fact that refugees are doing all they can to minimize the risk of transmission.  

UNHCR, together with partners, is here to support Government efforts. Masks and hygiene items are being distributed, shelter repairs carried out to make isolating at home more comfortable and food delivered directly to refugee homes. Movement in and out of the camps has been limited while testing continues, and only essential humanitarian staff are allowed access.  

“We are especially grateful to those donors who have already provided flexible funds to enable UNHCR to prepare for this time. Fighting this pandemic requires vigilance from us all. No effort must be spared to avoid more cases among one of the most vulnerable populations in Jordan.”