UNHCR seeks sustained support for protection of world’s forcibly displaced by COVID-19


The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is seeking US$745 million as it races to prepare for and prevent outbreaks of COVID-19 among refugees and other displaced populations around the globe. This is an upward revision of the initial US$255 million sought in the earlier appeal for UNHCR on March 25.

The amount UNHCR is seeking is part of the revised UN Global Humanitarian Response Plan which overall is appealing for US$6.7 billion.

With coronavirus now present in every country, including those that host large refugee and displaced populations, the world’s 71 million refugees and forcibly displaced people are among the most exposed and vulnerable to the threat of the virus.

While no outbreaks have so far been reported in large refugee and IDP settlements, UNHCR is rapidly responding in 134 refugee-hosting countries that are reporting local transmission.

“The pandemic is inflicting deep wounds across the world, particularly for women and the elderly. For people who fled wars and persecution, the impact on their mostly hand-to-mouth existence and on their hosts has been devastating,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

“Together with our NGO partners, the UN is determined to stay the course and deliver for people forced to flee and their hosts, to ensure their inclusion in public health responses and access to social safety nets.”

As of today, the coronavirus has infected more than four million people globally, and claimed nearly 280,000 lives. As the disease is not expected to peak in the world’s poorest countries for another three to six months, UNHCR teams around the world are preparing fast – and bracing for the worst.

The evidence of deep and hard-hitting economic impact of the crisis on refugees is overwhelming.

Across the Middle East and Africa, hundreds of thousands of refugees have asked for urgent financial assistance to cover their daily essential needs since lockdowns and other public health measures came into force in many countries in March.

In Lebanon, which was facing an economic downturn even before the pandemic, over half of the refugees surveyed by UNHCR in late April reported having lost livelihoods such as daily labour. Among the refugees consulted, 70 per cent reported that they had to skip meals.

The impact on refugee women is profound, with almost all who were working saying they had seen their income source disrupted.

UNHCR is worried that the loss of daily wages and livelihoods can result in psycho-social hardship. In Jordan, partners report a significant rise in mental health and psycho-social consultations since March.

Groups at a particular risk of poverty and exploitation include female heads of households, unaccompanied and separated children, older people and LGBTI people. Their situation can be improved through emergency assistance, notably through emergency cash grants.

Over eighty per cent of the world’s refugees and nearly all of the world’s internally displaced people are hosted in low- to middle-income countries, some of them hit hard by conflict, hunger, poverty and disease.

Consequently, UNHCR is prioritizing preparedness and prevention measures to curb the threat of the pandemic.

The funds requested within UNHCR’s revised COVID-19 appeal are to cover UNHCR’s budgetary needs to respond to coronavirus until the end of the year. (Source: UNHCR)