Apr 30, 2021

How Refugees Are Living During COVID-19

While everyone around the world struggles to cope with the devastating impacts of COVID-19, the risks are heightened for the world’s approximately 71 million people who are forcibly displaced.

According to the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, 134 refugee-hosting countries are reporting local transmission of COVID-19. Refugee camps and settlements are typically overcrowded, and refugees commonly lack access to water and hygiene supplies and facilities, which may cause the virus to spread.

A CARE analysis shows that women in countries experiencing war, poverty and instability are at an even greater risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gender-based violence increases, and women are forced to eat less or last, among other issues. Despite these factors, less than 1% of global humanitarian funding is spent on sexual and gender-based violence prevention and response activities.

CARE, which centers women and girls in its humanitarian response, is continuing to provide services and emergency support to displaced populations around the world.

“There is no shortcut here” says Sofia Sprechmann Sineiro, Secretary General, CARE International. “If we don’t act fast, millions of highly vulnerable men, women and children in high-risk countries will be left to battle this pandemic alone.”

Due to political turmoil in Venezuela and the subsequent economic crisis, approximately 5 million refugees and migrants have fled Venezuela since 2016. In Ecuador, one of the countries worst hit by COVID-19 in the region, the situation is so dire that many migrants who initially fled to the country for safety and opportunity, are now leaving. Many are no longer able to work informally and face serious challenges without proper access to healthcare or other services due to their migratory status. Venezuela is experiencing one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with crumbling public services and widespread malnutrition due to food shortages.

In Ecuador, CARE is distributing cash, food, medicine and other supplies to marginalized groups including Venezuelan refugees and migrants, sex workers, and people living with HIV/AIDS.

A group of Venezuelan migrants gather in a shelter in Quito, Ecuador, while a child plays nearby with blocks. They have been in isolation together for more than three weeks and are waiting for Venezuela to lift its suspension of evacuation flights so that they can return home.


Children in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh, home to the world’s largest refugee camp, participate in a CARE workshop on coughing and sneeze etiquette.


Nearly one million Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh since 2017 after violence escalated in Myanmar, with most fleeing to Cox’s Bazaar.


The camps, which house approximately 855,000 refugees, and are nearly four times as dense as New York City and eight times that of Wuhan, China, making social distancing practically impossible.

Girls participate in a drawing session at the Women and Girls’ safe space in Cox’s Bazar refugee camp, Bangladesh, while maintaining social distance. The majority of refugees in Cox’s Bazar — approximately 459,000 — is children. About 51% are women and girls.

Deepmala Mahla, CARE’s Regional Director for Asia, explains the importance of interventions that support women and children: “The household burden is shared more by women and girls, so when people are not able to go out, the burden on the family to earn a livelihood is bigger. Who sacrifices the meal first? Women and girls.”

A health worker wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) provides treatment to a patient in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Health services are limited and there are no intensive care beds in the camp.

Conditions of the camp, including its density and a lack of access to water, soap, and other hygiene supplies, are particularly concerning during the coronavirus pandemic. Cox’s Bazar has been under a lockdown since March, but the virus was detected in the camps in May. As of June 15, there were 38 positive COVID-19 cases and two deaths in the camp.

As of June 11, Yemen counted 595 cases of COVID-19 and 137 deaths. After more than five years of brutal war, self-isolation, disease, displacement, movement restrictions, and loss of economic opportunity are all too familiar to Yemenis. An estimated 24 million people are currently in need of humanitarian assistance inside Yemen, and as COVID-19 threatens this especially vulnerable population, the country is simultaneously battling a cholera epidemic that counted more than 87,000 suspected cases in the first three months of 2020.


Women line up to have their temperature checked while maintaining social distance in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee complex. The camps in Dadaab are home to over 230,000 refugees.


During COVID-19, CARE has expanded its work in the camps to include teaching safe hygiene and sanitation practices, distributing soap, repairing broken water pipes and pumps, and constructing new bathrooms and handwashing stations.


The camps recorded their first positive coronavirus cases in May. Isolation facilities have been set up in the camps, but the UN refugee agency says they are not sufficient to provide adequate care in the event of an outbreak.

Refugees, carrying their few remaining possessions, wait in the transportation area of the Imvepi Refugee Settlement in Uganda in 2019.

Uganda, which is widely praised for its progressive policies on refugees, hosts refugees in settlements, rather than refugee camps, and provides refugees with plots of land for agricultural use in order to support self-reliance.

Currently Uganda has closed its borders, meaning refugees can no longer arrive in the country.

“We only hope that the borders will open for refugees as soon as possible, and we can screen and isolate them as a precaution. We also hope in the meantime that their human rights will be respected, and they will be treated with dignity. This is uncharted territory for us all,” says CARE Uganda’s country director Apollo Gabazira.

COVID-19 poses an unprecedented threat to the world’s most vulnerable people, including displaced women and girls.

See some of their stories and Fight With CARE by signing the petition to prioritize the most vulnerable in a global COVID-19 response.




Apr 30, 2021

Syria - a Decade into The Conflict

Amman, 24 February 2021 – Ten years into the crisis in Syria, many women report fear of instability, recurring violence, and displacement, coupled with a constant struggle to meet their families’ basic needs. In 2020, average food prices in Syria increased by 236%, making them more than 29 times higher than the five-year pre-crisis average. According to a new CARE report entitled, If We Don’t Work, We Don’t Eat: Syrian Women Face Mounting Food Insecurity a Decade into The Conflict,” Syrian women overwhelmingly report food insecurity as an urgent, pressing issue for their households, with many families resorting to negative strategies, including eating fewer or smaller meals to get by.

Today, the number of food insecure Syrians has nearly doubled from 6.3 million in 2015 to 12.4 million today. Food prices in Syria are the highest recorded since WFP began tracking in 2013. Prior to the conflict, the five year (2006—2010) national average price of the WFP reference food basket was 3,700 SYP (almost 7 USD); today’s food basket is thirtyfold and costs 111,676 SYP (over 210 USD).  Much of Syria’s critical infrastructure—such as schools, housing, water systems, and health facilities—has yet to be restored and more than 80% of the population lives below the poverty line.

As we arrive at the tragic 10-year mark of the conflict, Syrian women face their biggest challenges in securing food for their families. Instead of being on the path to recovery, the collapsing Syrian economy and soaring food prices have forced women to resort to selling belongings and cutting down on meals for their families to survive. At this crucial time, they need to be prioritized with emergency food assistance to protect them; they also require the means to make a living to lead dignified and independent lives,” says Nirvana Shawky, Regional Director for CARE in the Middle East and North Africa.

Hana, a 24-year-old displaced woman in Idlib, says, “My children are growing tolerably but my little boy is malnourished. One of the organizations came to the camp and measured him and they told me that he was malnourished and had a developmental delay. They prescribed him milk and some vitamins, but I don’t have the money to buy them.

Syrian women are increasingly taking on the role of sole breadwinner, bearing the full burden of providing for their families with limited livelihood opportunities. About 22% of Syrian households are now headed by women; up from only 4% prior to the conflict. Women report they are pushed into the “provider” role in a way that most had not previously experienced, due to a lack of job opportunities for men; death, loss, or incapacity of a male head of household; rising costs of living; and low wages. In addition to providing for their households, most women report also shouldering caregiving responsibilities for children, parents, disabled spouses, or other family members.

Muna, a 44-year-old female head of household from Al-Hassakeh, says, “I take care of my sick and elderly mother, in addition to my responsibility to raise sheep and take care of them, as they are my source of livelihood, do household work, secure food, and prepare it. One of my daily fears is the inability to provide bread, diesel, some foodstuffs, and most importantly, medicine, due to the lack of money sometimes.”

Ten years into this crisis, Syrian women continue to display tremendous strength and resilience. Though the role of breadwinner is new and unexpected for many, women have quickly adapted, are confident in their ability to lead and provide for their families, and are eager to do so. What they need now is both support and resources to lessen their dependency on aid and to access livelihoods to provide for themselves and their families. Given the opportunity to do so, they will continue to overcome the huge challenges of living in and around the ongoing conflict in Syria.

For More Information Contact:
Rachel Kent
CARE Senior Press Officer


Nov 9, 2020

UPDATE: Empowered Girls Lead the Way to Innovative and Impactful Solutions in the Midst of COVID-19


Adolescent girls are facing unprecedented challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including interruptions in essential services and an increased risk of experiencing negative health, education and psychosocial outcomes at a critical time in their lives. However, in communities from Colombia, to Niger, Malawi, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Somalia, girls are also coming up with innovative solutions to share life-saving information, continue learning, and shape the nature of prevention and response programs. 

Debbie Landis, CARE Senior Gender in Emergencies Policy Specialist says, “The COVID-19 pandemic places  a generation of young people – especially girls  in a particularly vulnerable situation, as their ability to access essential health, education, and protection services are limited, and the dynamics of the crisis create new risks to their safety and well-being.  As in the case of other crises, adolescent girls are often a ‘hidden’ group, with limited data available on their situation, and insufficient attention paid to their needs in response plans and in the priorities of donors.  

Despite these issues, we are seeing that when the voices of girls are amplified, and when girls are given opportunities for meaningful participation, they can shape the future in powerful ways,” adds Landis. 

Examples from CARE’s work around the world has shown that girls are vital to shaping the nature of the COVID-19 response from engaging in assessment, planning and accountability processes, to informing the design of prevention and response programs, to engaging in outreach and advocacy efforts with their peers and broader communities.  

Adolescent girls are also often best-placed to helshare information in new and innovative ways. In Niger, for example, girls supported by CARE are helping to spread essential information on available services for survivors of gender-based violence.  In other countries such as Mali and India, girls are leading in information sharing and peer support through WhatsApp groups, phone calls and text messaging.  

"I have come to realize that the restriction of mobility is the biggest issue that girls in my community face,” says Puja Gupta, a youth activist from Nepal. “This restriction results in girls getting confined into their houses, not getting the opportunity for education, facing gender-based discrimination and most likely getting married early. We believe that if we do not speak up for ourselves, no one else will. So, we have started to do something about it."  

Some further examples of the role played by adolescent girls in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic include: 

  • IBurundi, CARE organized a social innovation challenge for youth-led and civil society organizations to rapidly identify solutions to respond to the health and rights of vulnerable communities during COVID-19, especially in camps for refugees and internally displaced persons.  

  • In Bangladesh and Nepal, young girls in Tipping Point - a CARE-supported project have engaged in data collection efforts in hard-to-reach communities to build knowledge on the needs and experiences of adolescent girls during the pandemic. 

  • In Colombia, adolescent girls are working to promote continued access to essential health services.  In partnership with adolescent leaders, CARE is working to implement a community awareness campaign to provide information on adolescent health through murals, plays, social medial, and health fairs. 

Promoting the leadership and participation of girls has been an essential component of CARE’s work across all sectors, and this emphasis has only increased in importance since the start of the pandemic,” says Landis. “As the world faces an unprecedented challenge, these results remind us of the powerful potential of adolescent girls – and of the value of investing in them,” she adds.


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