Fragility is the single most striking cause of displacement around the world today. Even increasingly common drivers of flight like natural disasters and pandemics are only likely to cause mass cross-border movements if they affect fragile states. Today more than 70 million people are forcibly displaced. A full 86 percent of refugees today make their “temporary” home in middle- and low-income countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Ethiopia, and Pakistan.
As the international community lacks a global strategy for forcibly displaced people, institutional responses continued to remain weak and uneven in the times of a global pandemic. Displaced people and host communities all over the world are at heightened risk as the coronavirus pandemic spreads. The pandemic has only exacerbated the conditions for forcibly displaced people.
- Lowered Safety Net: Many refugees live in the margins of their new host countries. They have limited access to water, sanitation, healthcare and infrastructure. According to the 2018 World Refugee report, only about 40 percent of the world’s refugees live in camps, which means 60 percent of refugees actually live in often densely packed urban areas and informal settlements.The fact that many have nowhere to go for social distancing and isolation or even wash hands regularly, the living conditions made them especially vulnerable to contracting the virus.
- Confined Spaces: Focusing on displaced populations in Syria, Greece, and Bangladesh, the I.R.C. found that refugees will likely face extreme risk when the virus begins to spread. “The rapid spread of covid-19 on the Diamond Princess”—the cruise ship that was quarantined in the port of Yokohama, Japan—“showed how the virus thrives in confined spaces.” (Source)
- Limited Access to Healthcare: Most refugees do not have the ability to see a doctor or to address the physical and psychosocial effects of the trauma they have faced. The fact that limited access combined with a compromised immune system due to poor living standards, refugees are more susceptible to falling ill and dying due to a lack of proper health care.
There are many more reasons that cause tragic conditions for the most vulnerable. However, there’s not so many solutions or offerings at the moment. Even today the international community still lacks a global strategy to help the forcibly displaced rebuild their lives. And I am asking two simple yet neglected questions:
- How do we ensure the most vulnerable communities such as refugees are not being dropped off the national and international agenda amidst and aftermath the pandemic?
- What should national and international agencies do to help them build resilience and have a worthwhile life?