New DRC report on COVID-19 Response Details the Challenges of an Extraordinary Difficult Year for Refugees and Displaced Persons

As we mark one year since WHO declared COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic, DRC has published “Global COVID-19 Response Final Report” analysing how the virus and related impacts had severe effects on already very vulnerable refugees and displaced persons.

2020 will be a year remembered by most as the COVID-19 pandemic and government-imposed restrictions worldwide meant significant disruption to the global economy, to social life and to everyone’s daily lives.  However, a new report by DRC based on evidence from surveys of more than 12,000 displacement-affected persons across DRC’s country operations show how vulnerable or marginalised people were disproportionately affected.

While refugees and displaced people face circumstances that leave them vulnerable to initial health risks related to COVID-19, data showed how its secondary impacts was a particularly hard blow to this population.  Data from Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Niger, and Nigeria shows that refugee/IDP households were more prone to losing their employment opportunities, had fewer savings, and were at higher risk of eviction compared to host communities. The impact of COVID-19 on livelihoods is nothing less than disastrous, as access to employment and thereby ability to pay rent and buy food severely decreased. In Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Somalia, survey data from early in the crisis showed a drop of more than 50 percentage points among refugees and displaced persons having a member of the family employed. 

DRC Global COVID-19 Response 2020

DRC’s COVID-19 related programming reached over 4.8 million displacement-affected people during 2020, in 34 countries around the world.

Over USD 54 million/EUR 45 million has been given to date in COVID-19 specific grants to DRC’s operations across the globe, while DRC was able to reprogramme an additional USD 25 million/EUR 20 million of existing grants for COVID-19 responses.

Source: DRC Global COVID-19 Response

Refugee camps and settlements pose a particular challenge because of often overcrowded facilities, insufficient availability of protective equipment and an inadequate number of health staff. To curb the pandemic many camps experiences closures, preventing residents from leaving and entering, depriving them of livelihood and other opportunities available outside of the camps and making it close to impossible to provide for themselves.

However, the impacts of the pandemic were felt most severely within the sphere of protection. Incidents of gender-based violence, including domestic violence, and child labour surged, while also mmovement restrictions, rumors and stigma, and wider human rights violations increasingly impacted people affected by displacement. At the same time acccess to international protection including asylum also been significantly reduced.

Swift adaptation to operational challenges

The pandemic and related restrictions caused significant operational challenges for humanitarian actors such as DRC at the very moment when their interventions were most needed.

In the face of closing borders, uncertain protocols, and increasingly restricted access to vulnerable populations – not to mention the primary health risks of the pandemic itself – DRC had to adapt to find new ways to meet new needs, almost overnight.

Therefore, while DRC responded across all sectors it works in, the significantly increased needs related to protection and economic recovery support were met with proportionate responses. 

DRC’s activities related to economic recovery assistance reached more than eight times the initial target globally, while our protection programmes reached six times more people. And we were able to assist more than five times as many people as originally planned with basic needs responses, including food, hygiene packages etc.

Recommendations going forward

Dealing with the pandemic going forward, DRC advocates that:

  • Access to asylum and other forms of international protection is upheld and the principle of non-refoulement respected.
  • Human rights-based protection-sensitive response is maintained focusing on those most at risk of being left behind.
  • Affected populations must be included in both national response and recovery plans as well as vaccination schemes.
  • Protection and economic recovery activities continue and must be scaled up.
  • Donor governments must match funding levels to the needs of crisis- and displacement affected people and maintain flexibility.

A global crisis requires global responses. Governments should ensure that health and non-health responses strengthen and do not undermine global collaboration and solidarity.

About the report

The Global COVID-19 Response Final Report spans the period between May and December 2020.

The report looks at DRC’s response in the context of its global appeal for a total of USD 75 million to address the impact of COVID-19, launched in April 2020.

Providing both data and analysis the report offers a complete overview of DRC’s COVID-19 response during the 2020 global appeal including further insights into how DRC’s response evolved during the pandemic and lessons learned from our crisis response.

Find the report here: Global COVID-19 Response Final Report