‘Crippling’: ICRC says support vital as coronavirus hits incomes

Humanitarian group calls for action, saying pandemic could set in motion a vicious cycle of lost income and hunger.

Volunteers gesture as they direct an elderly woman at an ongoing distribution of food parcels
Volunteers distribute food parcels during a lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease in Lagos, Nigeria, on April 9, 2020 [File: Temilade Ade/ Reuters]

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has called for concerted action to protect livelihoods during the coronavirus pandemic, warning that failure to do so may foster a boom in aid-dependency in countries at conflict.

Citing new survey data from Nigeria, Libya, Iraq and Ukraine, the Red Cross said on Thursday the economic and food security impact of COVID-19 was massive and appeared likely to worsen over time.

“In countries at conflict, millions already live with little or no healthcare, food, water and electricity, as well as volatile prices and destroyed infrastructure. COVID-19’s impact could set in motion a vicious cycle of lost income, deepening poverty and hunger,” it said in a statement.

In Nigeria, 95 percent of people in a 313-person survey said their sources of income had suffered due to the pandemic.

In Iraq, 77 percent of 130 people interviewed said they had no savings to cope with the crisis, while 75 percent of 215 people surveyed in Ukraine reported an increase in the price of basic items.

In the Philippines, movement restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 further restricted farmers’ access to farms in conflict-affected areas such as Mindanao, the ICRC said.


Families that depend on remittances from relatives who have migrated overseas are also at risk, as income opportunities in wealthier countries deteriorate, it said. In Yemen, the Red Cross estimates that COVID-19 has resulted in a drop of as much as a 70 percent in remittances.

“COVID-19 is causing a tremendous financial shock for families, particularly in conflict zones. I fear that without coordinated action from governments and humanitarians, the long-term consequences will be crippling,” said Charlotte Bennborn, the head of ICRC’s economic security department.


The statement noted that the typical coping mechanism that families use to overcome lean times – asking for loans from neighbours or family, reducing purchases, or using savings – have been exhausted for many.

Governments and humanitarian actors must maintain or extend social protection programmes, with a focus on vulnerable groups, the ICRC said.

They must also reinforce existing humanitarian activities that are focused on food security and livelihoods, it added.

Globally, there are more than 6.4 million cases of coronavirus and nearly 386,000 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Source: Al Jazeera