5 Realities For Refugees Living Through COVID-19

COVID-19 has endangered the lives of millions around the world, but few communities are more strained by its impact than refugees. Learn more about five issues threatening refugees in the time of coronavirus, as well as how you can help.


1. 80% of refugees live in middle-to-low income countries that have very limited health care systems.

On March 25, 2020, The New York Times reported “An ‘Apocalyptic’ Coronavirus Surge at an N.Y.C. Hospital.” As one of the most developed cities in the world, the overwhelming strain on hospitals in cities like New York made me wonder about health care access in Ukhia, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, home to Kutupalong refugee camp, or the world’s largest refugee camp, home to more than 800 thousand refugees. Though Bangladesh is making strides to improve its infrastructure, it is still third on the United Nations’ list of Least Developed Countries. These facts force us all to ask the question, how will refugees receive adequate health care, when countries with highly developed health care systems continually struggle to provide that same care throughout the COVID-19 crisis for its populations?
Source: The United Nations

2. Typical accommodations in refugee camps make practicing social distancing or quarantining nearly impossible.

In the Kutupalong refugee camp, more than 800 thousand refugees live in “a patchwork of 34 refugee camps…” For those us of complaining about the inconvenience of social distancing, this fact should be sobering. Asia Director for the nonprofit CARE, Deepmala Mahla, says, “The measures which all health experts globally are putting forward are social distancing and isolation, which are simply not an option.”

But not all refugees live in camps. Lebanon hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees per capita but has no government-established camps. Instead, many of the more than 1.5 million refugees in Lebanon live in crowded, poorly-outfitted, residential buildings or rural settlements.
Source: NPR

3. Already-vulnerable refugees are facing even steeper challenges brought on by COVID-19.

Access to commodities like food and clean water is a common struggle faced by many refugees in camps and other informal settlements. But with the emphasis on regular handwashing to prevent the spread of the virus, clean water is even harder to come by. Additionally, the lack of testing capabilities as well as critical supplies like soap, masks, and even accurate information on how to protect themselves and their loved ones from infection, puts refugees at an even higher risk. A nonprofit leader at GlobalGiving partner, Jafra Foundation for Relief and Youth Development puts it this way:

“For refugees, the virus has not only exacerbated existing vulnerabilities, but it has also created new ones.”

Many governments have also issued restrictions on movement to prevent the virus’s spread. Unfortunately, these restrictions have not only negatively impacted the livelihoods of refugees, but also inhibited their ability to return to register sites they depend on to receive monthly food rations.
Source: Nonprofit Leader at Jafra Foundation for Relief and Youth Development

4. Local and refugee-led organizations need support to fill in the gaps created by international aid.

Restrictions on movement have made it increasingly difficult for refugees to receive aid from international organizations, and some governments have also limited and/or re-directed refugee aid during COVID-19. To “fill the gap”, refugee-led organizations are working hard to provide critical information about the virus to their communities as well as distributing much-needed supplies like food and soap.
Source: The New Humanitarian

5. GlobalGiving has made emergency grants to support nonprofits in refugee and migrant communities throughout COVID-19.

Disaster specialists at GlobalGiving recognize that this incredibly challenging time warrants a special response—so, with help from our donors’ generosity, we made a round of emergency grants to 10 organizations in the GlobalGiving Syrian Refugee Relief Fund. Despite the new challenges COVID-19 is bringing, our nonprofit partners are proving their ability to pivot their programming and rise to the occasion of listening to and serving refugee communities. Of course, as COVID-19 spreads, it will be increasingly difficult for refugee-led organizations to serve their communities without outside support—thankfully, that’s where you come in.
Source: GlobalGiving Syrian Refugee Relief Fund

In honor of World Refugee Day on June 20, donate to local, community-led nonprofits that are working to meet the needs of refugees around the world.


Featured Photo: Support Rohingya refugee women by ActionAid USA

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