Pandemic aggravates plight of refugees - GulfToday

Pandemic aggravates plight of refugees


Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

The world community needs to do more to protect some 70 million forcibly displaced people, including refugees, migrants and internally displaced from COVID-19.

No country can fight the pandemic or manage migration alone, but together, we can contain the spread of the virus, buffer its impact on the most vulnerable and recover better for the benefit of all, as UN Secretary-General António Guterres points out.

COVID-19 is at first a health crisis and people on the move can be exposed to the virus in crowded conditions where health care, water and sanitation are often hard to find, and physical distancing is an impossible luxury.

The recent signing of an agreement by the World Health Organisation, WHO, and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, to strengthen and advance public health services for the millions of forcibly displaced people around the world is a step in the right direction.

The agreement updates and expands an existing 1997 agreement between the two organisations.

Around 26 million of these are refugees, 80 per cent of whom are sheltered in low and middle-income countries with weak health systems. Another 40 million internally displaced people also require assistance.

On another front, the consequences of coronavirus are taking a huge toll on the mental health of refugees, displaced and stateless people.

COVID-19 is not just a physical health crisis but it is now also triggering a mental health crisis.

While many refugees and internally displaced people are remarkably resilient and are able to move forward despite having experienced violence or persecution first-hand, their capacities to cope are now being stretched to the limit, as UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, points out. There are now reports of increasing mental health issues and needs among those displaced. Fear of infection, confinement and isolation measures, stigma, discrimination, loss of livelihoods and uncertainty about the future are all contributing factors.

Given the widespread socio-economic damage inflicted by the pandemic, UNHCR is particularly worried that for many refugees, the loss of daily wages and livelihoods is resulting in psychosocial hardship. Extremely concerning is that some are now reporting self-harm owing to these pressures.

For refugees who had also sought psychosocial support through community interaction, social gatherings or the observance of religious rituals, physical distancing measures and mobility restrictions also affect their ability to cope with emotional distress.

As UN officials point out, providing mental health support and care becomes more difficult during lock-down and restricted travel, staffing levels may be reduced, refugees are often unable to travel to reach care and many face-to-face group-based activities have been cancelled.

Benevolent UAE has been doing its best to extend help.

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI) Humanitarian Aid and Relief projects and programmes benefitted over 17 million people across the world with a total expenditure of Dhs262 million in 2019.

The MBRGI is continuing to provide high-tech offline educational solutions to Jordan’s refugee camps during its first mission amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of “Madrasa for 1,000 villages”, the MBRGI equipped about 400 students and 11 teachers at the Al Azraq Refugee camp and King Abdullah Park Refugee camp in Jordan with offline solutions to access over 5,000 high-tech science, mathematics and Arabic video lessons without the need for Internet access.

Improving and saving lives of millions of people forced to flee their homes is a moral responsibility for the rest of humanity.

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