SEATTLE, Washington — South Korea and Jordan, a country in the Middle East, may have 5,092 miles of land and sea between them, but that has not stopped a nearly 60-year friendship between the two countries. As South Korea has risen out of poverty and become a leader within the developed world, it has used its growing economy to help its allies in need. South Korea has been a long time partner of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). With the current rise of COVID-19 in Jordan, South Korea is once again providing much-needed funding as it deals with the repercussions of the pandemic.
The Relationship Between South Korea and Jordan
An official relationship between the two countries was established in 1962. Trade relations between its construction companies have been in place since the 1970s and have expanded to Jordan importing more than $450 million of Korean goods in 2018. These business ties have become the foundation for the countries’ humanitarian efforts as well.
Since 2014, South Korea has donated more than $10 million toward projects that help support child protection services, educational programs and WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) in Jordanian neighborhoods and schools. UNICEF’s Makani Program also allowed for 150 children’s centers to be placed throughout the country as a way for these services to be allocated to more than 80,000 children.
Children’s Rights and COVID-19 in Jordan
Jordanian children, as well as children of the large Syrian refugee population, have faced many human rights abuse in recent years, and the spread of COVID-19 has only exacerbated them. In 2017, more than 10,000 marriages involved a wife less than 18 years of age, ultimately causing many girls to drop out of school. Since Jordan is one of the most water-scarce countries in the world, water is only available once a week in cities and every two weeks in rural areas. Moreover, proper sanitation stations are only available in one-third of schools.
UNICEF found that the most vulnerable children within refugee camps and rural areas, who live far from essential services, will be most impacted by the global virus. The pandemic makes it extremely difficult to maintain children’s’ rights efforts already in place, let alone try to curb the 981 COVID-19 cases. While the country has been able to slow the spread of the disease through strict lockdown measures, this has caused the fight for quality education, the ban on child marriages and clean water to be put on the way-side.
UNICEF Jordan appealed for global financial support to ensure the fight for children’s rights could continue, and on June 14, 2020, South Korea granted it. Additionally, South Korea, through the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), provided $11.1 million to help open three new schools in Irbid, Mafraq and Zarqa, Jordan.
UNICEF Jordan and KOICA
KOICA has partnered with UNICEF to assist in funding efforts to aid Jordan in their fight against COVID-19. The two humanitarian organizations are carrying out the Full Realization of Vulnerable Girls and Boys Rights to Health, Protection and Education in Jordan project that now includes COVID-19 relief.
This work will ensure that the pandemic does not significantly affect children’s health and education by providing soap and disinfectant in all schools through its WASH program. It will also mitigate the neglect of child protection services already in place that fights against early marriage, gender-based violence and child labor.
The relationship between Jordan and South Korea is a wonderful example of how global collaboration can help countries’ poverty rates, as well as health efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. International aid coming from a long-time ally emphasizes the humanitarian attitude that nations worldwide should strive to imitate. Due to the partnership between Jordan and South Korea, Jordanian and Syrian children will be provided with a better living situation in a time when critical assistance is needed. With Jorden’s COVID-19 prevention protocols and international aid from UNICEF and KOICA, the COVID-19 situation in Jordan will likely improve while also ensuring positive long-term effects on children’s’ lives.