Effect of COVID-19 on Refugee Camps and their Livelihoods
Author: Abhay Singh, Lucknow University
The COVID-19 pandemic has spread rapidly and widely; the volume of cases worldwide has now surpassed ten million.Several governments reacted with an escalating spectrum of strategies including extensiveindustry and border closures. While some countries are cautiously starting up to emerge from their lockdowns, some form of containment regulations are likely to continue in place in several countries for the future months.
Today around 80 million people have been forcibly displaced around the world which is around 1 of the total world population. Most of these people live in developing countries where they struggle for the necessities, combating a global pandemic is a hard task for them. According to the findings of the International Rescue Committee,34 conflict-affected and unstable countries could see up to 1 billion COVID-19 infections and 3.2 million deaths.
Refugees face big and unique challenges which make them more vulnerable to infections. They usually live in a crowded area, with lack of clean water all this makes social distancing impossible. The high population density, limited sanitation facilities, lack of water and limited healthcare facilities can create optimum conditions for the spread of virus. COVID -19 is a health-crisis, socio-economic crisis and protection crisis for refuges.Refugees’ invisibility will only serve to augment their economic precarity in the face of COVID-19. Before the pandemic, efforts to stimulate the monetary inclusion of refugees were advancing, gradually. The consequences of COVID-19 endanger the advancement attained so far.
Impacts of COVID-19 Across Major Refugee Countries
- At a camp in Syria, an area where more than 1 million people have been displaced, families suffer from restrained living conditions, absent healthcare systems, and absence of access to clean water.
- Observinga rise in testing, 32 new COVID-19 cases were recorded in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, which is home to 745,000 Rohingya. Circumstances inside these densely inhabited camps have led specialiststo warn that the absence of sanitation will generate the “perfect storm” for infection transmission. While the world’s largest refugee camps have yet to announce large-scale existence of the infection – likely due to an absence of testing, strict lockdowns, and the isolated nature of refugee camps – the virus has now been observed in many refugee camps around the world. At least 15 Syrian refugees in one Lebanese town have tested positive for COVID-19, spurringworries that it could spread more among 2 million refugees living in the country. Camps in Bangladesh, Syria, and OCED countries like Germany are also observing case numbers start to soar.
- Greek island of Lesbos, more than 240 people tested positive for coronavirus after a fire demolished the congested Moira camp and compelled relocation to the interim Kara Tepe facility.
- As several countries are struggling with a second explosion, Bill Frelick, the director of Human Rights Watch’s refugee and migrant rights division, highlighted the consequences of the virus further spreading in refugee camps: “If the disease gets introduced into [more refugee] camps, it would be a tinderbox.” The luck case rates we have so far seen are “just a lucky break.”
The pandemic has also affected resettlement programs, with 168 countries fully or partly shutting their boundaries at the elevation of the crisis. Of these 168 countries, approximately 90 made no anomaly for those seeking protection, and some have kicked asylum speakers back to their countries of origin.
- As an outcome, refugee resettlement is at a two-decade low. UNHCR recently reported that the volume of refugees resettled in safe countries during 2020 is on course to be the lowest in almost two decades. 15,425 refugees were resettled between January and September of this year compared to over 50,000 during the same period last year.
- This comes as we are seeing both new and exacerbated refugee crises in Africa, South and Central America, and the Middle East. Global COVID-19 surges only complicate the restarting of these programs.
While refugees have so far escaped increased rates of virus and death, the pandemic has had an enormousconsequence on their lives. The global financial recession has led to crucial cuts to humanitarian allocation for refugee camps, which has led to food scarcities and restrictedjob opportunities for displaced people. In fact, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) estimates that more than three quarters of displaced and conflict-affected people have missedearnings since the beginning of the pandemic.
The spread of COVID-19 is already impeding the aid community’s capacity to deal with the demands of refugees, and awareness and resources in the world’s contributor capitals are still greatly consumed with the domestic consequence of the infection, putting additional pressure on NGOs.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has launched a global $255 million plea for its crucial push to reduce the consequence of COVID-19 explosions within refugee populations, as part of a wider UN Global Humanitarian Response Plan. Yet the United Nations has postponed all travel for refugee resettlement, leaving thousands with no option to congested camps.