Jul 14, 2020

UPDATE: Rapidly Rising COVID-19 Cases and Massive Lack of Humanitarian Funding in Iraq

Dr. Mona with Amsha Hussein Mendo, Son/ Iraq
Dr. Mona with Amsha Hussein Mendo, Son/ Iraq

With more than 62,000 infections and over 2,500 related deaths[i], Covid-19 is pushing vulnerable communities in Iraq on the brink of survival. Highly vulnerable communities, including 1.4 million internally displaced people, are most at risk, warns CARE International.

In a recently conducted survey among more than 1,400 people in Northern Iraq[ii], CARE found out that 74% of the interviewed needed to reduce their meals, 66% were forced to buy less of essential supplies such as soap while 61% stated that making further debt was the only way to cope with the current economic situation since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

With humanitarian funding for COVID-19 falling short of an alarming rate of 87% for Iraq[iii], CARE urges donors to step up their financial support to manage the current health emergency while ensuring essential supplies reach those in need.

“Despite on-going violence and movement restrictions, we heard of families who have been displaced for years now going back to their home towns in Sinjar – places where they have nothing left and experienced horrific violence and trauma – because COVID-19 and related lockdown makes their lives unbearable in camps and other displacement settlements,” says Wendy Barron, Country Director of CARE International in Iraq. According to UN OCHA, in the month of June 2020, COVID-19 related movement restrictions and on-going hostilities hindered the access to an estimated more than 172,000 people in need of humanitarian aid[iv].

“We recently talked to a young mother living in a camp for internally displaced people who despite dealing with trauma and cancer for years, had been running a successful small restaurant supporting her family to meet their basic needs,” explains Barron. “But coronavirus restrictions forced her to close her business. Since then she doesn’t know how to feed her family or pay for her urgently needed doctor’s appointments.”  

As the economic situation in Iraq has remarkably worsened since the outbreak of the coronavirus, with poverty rates expected to double from 20% to 40% in 2020[v], CARE is especially concerned about the situation of women and girls. “Women face difficulties accessing healthcare because of stigma around COVID-19, they are more vulnerable to violence in their own homes and on top of it are highly economically disadvantaged, often carrying out insecure or informal work and have therefore less access to and control over meeting their daily needs,” adds Barron.

In addition to providing essential services like clean drinking water and hygiene items to prevent a further outbreak of COVID-19, CARE and partner organizations are playing a crucial role in camps for internally displaced people and host communities across Northern Iraq by providing business opportunities and psychosocial support, in particular to women and girls.

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Jul 6, 2020

UPDATE: World Refugee Crises and COVID-19

Photo by Josh Estey/CARE
Photo by Josh Estey/CARE

World Refugee 2020 sees funding for refugee response plans at an all-time low. Despite the added threat of COVID-19 across all refugee hosting countries, international financial support is significantly lower than this time last year. 

The total amount required to respond to the 6 regional refugee response plans globally represents only 11% of what experts estimate as the volume of international arms trade per year, while the amount received as of June this year represents a mere 1% of that. 

“Now, more than ever, when global solidarity is the only solution to Covid-19, CARE calls on donors and States to share responsibility for the burden of hosting refugees.  Although the percentage has declined in the last two decades, Low Income Countries continue to host the majority of refugees, says Delphine Pinault, CARE International Humanitarian Policy Advocacy Coordinator.    

As of the middle of June 2020 a total of $1.12 billion has been received out of a required $10.86 billion (10.3%) to support joined up regional responses to some of the biggest refugee crises around the world.  “While we are seeing a pattern of needs and required funding increasing year on year, the percentage of funding actually received has dropped year on year” says Emma Naylor-Ngugi CARE Regional Director for East, Central and West Africa. 

Funding is critically needed to support refugee protection, self-reliance and innovation. Across the globe, from Jordan to Uganda to Ecuador, refugees are involved in wide range of self-initiated, small scale projects to help fight the COVID-19 outbreak. All this stands at risk of being lost if more and immediate funding is not committed to support refugee communities. 

Nirvana Shawky, CARE’s Regional Director for MENA says: Despite being amongst the most at risk of exploitation, violence, and poverty, we see women refugees making extraordinary contributions to the societies in which they live. On the front line of the COVID-19 response, experienced doctors and nurses are providing their services as volunteers, and community workers are raising awareness about the pandemic through phone services. Whether they are Syrian, Sudanese, Palestinian, Iraqi or Yemeni, we are inspired every day by refugees across the region showing resilience, overcoming challenges in their daily lives, and giving back to their hosting communities. 

The resourcefulness, self-reliance and proactive response by refugees to support their own communities and find solutions in the face of COVID-19 is mirrored across the globe. 

In East Central and Southern Africa, Naylor-Ngugi continues: Refugees in our region have adapted in incredible ways to fight the adverse effects of this pandemic. In Uganda for example, we have seen women start making masks and supporting the prevention of COVID-19 in their communities. But the stark reality is that this time next year, more gaps in life saving services will need to be filled by refugees themselves and the solidarity to their often very poor hosts, potentially exceeding their capacity to cope, because there is no money. 

While in Asia, Gareth Mace, CARE’s Deputy Regional Director- Program Quality, notes; “while many people may think of refugees as passive recipients of support or assistance, CARE knows well that this often does not fit the reality. In Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, we are working with and alongside Rohingya community volunteers – many of whom are women - who are taking the lead on important responsibilities like awareness raising on COVID-19 and ensuring social distancing during distributions.” 

Of the 6 current regional or joint refugee response plans, four are under 10funded, with the appeal for the Democratic Republic of Congo refugee crisis just over 3funded, despite being 6 months into the year. The South Sudan regional refugee response plan has received 5 times less funding than this time last year. These 6 response plans cover around 1/4 of the over 79.5 million people displaced at the end of 2019. 

Claudine Awute CARE Regional Director for West Africa says; “refugees have little choice but to live in camps or with host communities - it is not uncommon for 20 people or more having to share a space normally suitable for five. On top of this, they are being asked to take precautions to protect themselves against COVID-19. If they can't afford the bare minimum, and are forced to live in places where space is at a premium, how can they really protect themselves against this pandemic?" 

According to Tatiana Bertolucci, CARE Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean; “Venezuelan refugees have responded with resilience and amazing innovative thinking, contributing to their communities. Anibal comes to mind - a Venezuelan in Ecuador who despite the pandemic did not lose hope to train and become a barber. He speaks eagerly about his plans, and never lets the setbacks in life get to him. Like Anibal, let’s not forget the contribution to our society refugees bring and our duty to protect them.”

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Jul 1, 2020

UPDATE: Hunger spreading amid Covid and economic collapse

Nesreen and her children. IHSAN/CARE
Nesreen and her children. IHSAN/CARE

Syrians who have already endured almost a decade of war and displacement are now facing unprecedented levels of hunger leaving millions of people acutely vulnerable to Covid-19, international agencies warned today ahead of a key annual conference on the crisis.

Covid-19 restrictions, the collapse of the Syrian pound, and the displacement of millions of people have led to an unprecedented number of families in Syria who are no longer able to put food on the table or make enough money to afford basic necessities. A staggering 9.3 million Syrians are now going to sleep hungry and more than another 2 million are at risk of a similar fate – part of an overall rise of 42 percent in the number of Syrians facing food insecurity since last year.

Hosted by the EU and the UN on 30 June, the Brussels Conference aims to raise funds and agree on policy changes that will help Syrians inside the country and in the region. The agencies Oxfam, Humanity & Inclusion, CARE International, World Vision International, International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, and the Norwegian Refugee Council warn that unless funding and humanitarian access are increased, many Syrians, including those living as refugees in the region, will be pushed to the brink of starvation. Almost a decade of war has thrown Syrians into a spiral of despair and destitution that keeps worsening every year. International assistance is needed now more than ever.

In the northwest, a Turkey-Russia mediated ceasefire faces a bleak fate, with fighting and aerial bombardments reported since May. Home to over 4 million people, many of whom have been displaced multiple times, Idlib and northern Aleppo governorates face a potential catastrophe if there is a Covid-19 outbreak. Many live in squalid makeshift overcrowded camps or sleep out in the open. Water is scarce, and the health and civilian infrastructures are decimated. In recent weeks, a new wave of violence in southern Idlib has forced hundreds of families to pack up their few belongings and leave their homes and tents once again.

In the northeast, the first cases of Covid-19 were confirmed over a month ago, and with it concerns over a lack of preparedness remain high. Lack of Covid-19 testing capacity, chronically understocked health facilities, and the main water pumping station - servicing 460,000 people - regularly being out of commission, continue to be the daily reality. Like in the northwest, taking measures to prevent the spread of Coronavirus is especially difficult in the many overcrowded camps and informal settlements across the region.

In government-held areas, as in neighbouring countries hosting refugees, Syrians are facing the reality that the threat of Covid-19, the inability to work and the spiraling economic decline in the region is making their situation harder than ever.

International agencies are calling on global leaders to scale up financial support in comparison to previous years for Syrians in their country and those displaced in the region so that they can have a chance not only to survive, but to rebuild their lives in safety and dignity. We also call for the United Nations Security Council to renew the Syria cross-border resolution for northwest Syria for a period of 12 months and to re-authorize access to northeast Syria to ensure that vulnerable people are able to receive lifesaving assistance. More access to those in need is crucial right now so that the humanitarian community can support families as they struggle through the pandemic and the economic crisis that is sweeping across the country.

Americans can make a difference right now – there is no better time to give. Syrians are in urgent need of support from the international community, and increased funding will make the difference between life and death for hundreds of thousands of innocent children and families. Start helping Syrians today.

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