The COVID-19 is a global pandemic affecting the global community, reaching 209 countries and territories with more than 2 million confirmed cases and over 150,000 deaths. The world is in a state of lockdown to contain the spread of the virus while the people are exercising social distancing to minimize the risk of transmission.
The pandemic is having severe negative impacts on the global economy as it is disrupting global supply chains, trade and investment. In a study, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) envisages that there will be a USD 220 billion revenue reduction in developing countries and recession will last for months or even years. There is significant impact on education, politics, agriculture, science and technology, development activities, medical supplies, entertainment world, tourism, transportation, retail sector humanitarian response and employment services. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will thus be affected.
Amongst all, displaced people and host communities all over the world are at heightened risk as the coronavirus pandemic spreads. The pandemic is having a severe impact on asylum seekers, refugees and internally displaced people’s abilities to work and generate income. Today, there are about 65 million displaced populations surviving under the international assistance and generous support of the host countries and host communities, mostly in developing and middle-income countries with volatile security, political instability and weaker health system.
The living condition of the displaced population is mostly in overcrowded camps and settlements resulting in poor hygiene and sanitation facilities and limited medical supplies. The conditions of social distancing, camp or settlement-based quarantine and restriction on mobility are complicated in camp. This increases the vulnerability of the displaced population and host communities to the transmission of the virus.
The displaced population is already vulnerable but a person with specific needs (living with a disability, chronic diseases, adolescent, elderly, unaccompanied and separated children, GBV survivors and single women) are more critical in response to COVID-19. This situation creates psychological disorder resulting in the increase of criminal activity, gender-based violence and conflict in camp, settlements and host communities.
United Nations has launched Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) COVID-19 which aims to enable us to fight the virus in the developing and low-income countries and address the fundamentals of the vulnerable population including children, women, refugees, internally displaced people and persons with disabilities and elderly/ chronic disease. The HRP focuses on the three strategic priorities: contain the spread of the virus and decrease mortality and morbidity; decrease deterioration of human assets, rights, social cohesion and livelihoods and protect, assist and advocate refugee, internally displaced people, migrants and host communities particularly vulnerable to a pandemic. The hope of solidarity is vital to combat the COVID-19 pandemic ensuring the needs and protection of those who were forced to flee their home due to conflict, war and persecution.
Not all displaced people and host communities are vulnerable in the same way as the pandemic. They have different needs, live in a range of camp and settlement types, and face varying degrees of access to services and opportunities. Thus, it is important to address barriers to access to services and opportunities for the person with specific needs. At this stage, prevention and inclusion must be ensured in the response for displaced people and host communities. Based on past experience, focusing on female workers as key agents for community-level engagement and communication is critical in COVID-19 response.
Pokharel, Master in Human and Natural Resource Studies from Kathmandu University.