The Stream

How are displaced people coping with coronavirus?

Millions of dispossessed people face sickness, economic hardship and marginalisation as COVID-19 pandemic continues.

On Tuesday, August 11 at 19:30 GMT:
Physical distancing, handwashing and the wearing of face masks have become a new normal as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues without any sign of respite. But the looming threat of COVID-19 outbreaks is none more acute than among communities of displaced people, particularly those living in overcrowded refugee camps and settlements.

Nearly 80 million people worldwide – 1 percent of the global population – are displaced from their homes due to the threat of conflict, violence or persecution, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says. While many refugees live among the general population, millions endure life in camps that provide only the bare essentials – and any major outbreak of disease threatens a catastrophic impact. Cases of COVID-19 have already been confirmed in refugee settlements from Kenya to Bangladesh.

Aid teams already near their capacity before the pandemic are now in a round-the-clock battle to both prevent and fight coronavirus outbreaks. The risk of COVID-19 has forced organisations to rethink what healthcare facilities they need on hand, while also reconsidering how aid is disbursed and how refugees interact with each other. Providing public health education and combating misinformation through radio, social media and Whatsapp is often as important as ensuring that soap, clean water and face masks remain plentiful.

Even when it is being held at bay, the mere threat of coronavirus is having a debilitating impact on dispossessed people. Families reliant on wages from jobs worked outside camps and settlements have been hit hard by tough exit and entry rules. UNHCR says 89 percent of displaced people in Iraq who responded to a recent survey said COVID-19 had affected their livelihood. Meanwhile, displaced people worry that they are seen unfairly as carriers of a disease that frightens the public imagination – and that coronavirus will only further marginalise them.

The Stream will look at how refugees in three different parts of the world are coping with the threat of coronavirus and ask what help they most desperately need. Join the conversation.

On this episode of The Stream, we are joined by:
Francesco Bert, @fr_bert
Senior External Relations Officer, UNHCR Jordan

Abdullahi Mire, @miire06
Journalist and activist

Dr Tariq H Cheema, @We_Are_Alight
Physician and Pakistan representative, Alight

Read more:
COVID-19 makes addressing internal displacement even more urgent – Al Jazeera
Refugees must be protected during the coronavirus pandemic – Al Jazeera