Child Protection in Gaza & Jordan: Understanding and addressing neglect through a systemic approach

Project: Research council

Project Details


Globally, humanitarian agencies with a mandate for child protection act to prevent harm to children in settings of armed conflict and displacement. Tragically, despite their best efforts, protection work is often unequal to the threats that children and caregivers face. The consequences are conveyed through the media with depressing regularity: children become 'collateral damage' and young refugees languish in camps or urban slums with insufficient basic support.
As a sub-field of humanitarianism, child protection has focussed on the development of technical competence under the guidance of health, psychology and social work experts. This project acknowledges the immense strides taken to professionalise the field while also recognising that a technocratic approach on its own is too narrow and attends insufficiently to issues of power. The proposed project pursues a multidisciplinary inquiry into the functioning of the humanitarian system and its impact on child protection efforts. We take this system to be constituted by a range of actors: humanitarian agencies, donors and host government authorities as well as children, caregivers and communities.
A central theme of the research is neglect because globally, child neglect is the most prevalent cause of child maltreatment. Yet, neglect has only just become a focus of concern for child protection organisations in humanitarian settings, which primarily understands it as a failure of caregiving. We will relocate neglect within the humanitarian system in order to understand the consequences for children and caregivers of the workings of power within that system. From this perspective, neglect may take the form, for example, of a lack of attention to particular groups of children or the voices of young people and their caregivers regarding their protection needs. Donor priorities or local politics are two elements within the system that may contribute to the experience of neglect. We are aware that some caregivers fail to give children the care that they are capable of providing. However, we also recognise that there are structural factors that systematically undermine caregivers' ability to meet their duties of care. Thus, we focus on how the humanitarian system supports or undermines the capacity of caregivers to protect and care for their children.
The research entails three case studies in two locations. In Jordan we shall look at the situation of Syrians and Iraqis, two displaced populations with significant commonalities. Both have generally enjoyed support from humanitarian agencies to varying extent at different times. The second Jordanian study will focus on Somalis and Sudanese, distinguishable from the aforementioned groups by culture, 'race', and due to less recognition by the state and support from humanitarians. In Gaza we will explore the experience and views of original inhabitants and those who settled as refugees, attending to differences in the support these two groups receive.
Employing participatory research methods, social network analysis, family biographies and key informant interviews, we will explore norms of care, the role of humanitarian agencies in assisting caregivers to meet such expectations, and the consequences for children when norms are not realised. The core multidisciplinary research team will be joined by 36 'peer researchers' from the study communities and 9 early career social workers. Thus, the project will build capacity throughout its implementation.
The envisaged outputs and dissemination strategy target policymakers within the global child protection field, locally-based agencies, civil servants and parliamentarians in donor nations, general publics, and the research communities themselves. Our overarching goal is to expand thinking and deepen understanding of neglect and child protection in humanitarian contexts and to advance an approach that strives to uphold core humanitarian principles of universality and independence.
Effective start/end date1/10/2031/12/22

Collaborative partners

  • University of Bath (lead)
  • Collatoral Repair Project
  • German Jordanian University
  • Proteknon Foundation for Innovation & Learning
  • Sawiyan
  • Tamar Institute
  • Seenaryo


  • Arts and Humanities Research Council


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