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Data reveals impact of COVID-19 on livelihoods and futures

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By UNHCR staff  |  02 February 2021

The devastating impact of COVID-19 on refugees, the internally displaced and the stateless is laid bare by global data showing the pandemic’s effects on jobs, incomes, food security and more.


In a data visualization project entitled ‘Livelihoods, food and futures: COVID-19 and the displaced,’ UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, collated statistics from numerous sources to shed more light on the effects of the pandemic on poor and vulnerable people, including refugees.

The storymap – the third in a series examining how displaced communities have been affected by the coronavirus – illustrates the drastic falls in levels of employment and income since the onset of the pandemic. It also explores how families are coping to meet basic needs, in many cases forced to cut corners because of shrinking household budgets.

But job losses and evaporating incomes could not just be measured in purely economic terms, said Raouf Mazou, Assistant High Commissioner for Operations at the UN Refugee Agency. “The ‘side effects’ of these financial crises are pernicious and devastating – on education, mental and physical health, food security, gender-based violence, community relationships and beyond,” he said.

“The ‘side effects’ of these financial crises are pernicious and devastating.”

As a result of the pandemic, vulnerable households, including those among displaced communities, are resorting to negative ways of coping such as cutting meals, increasing debts, selling assets or cutting short their children’s education.

And with incomes drying up and food systems disrupted by COVID-19, the scale and impact of food insecurity is expected to increase. The World Food Programme estimates that 270 million people may have fallen into acute food insecurity at the end of 2020.

Displaced populations are generally more vulnerable to food insecurity and malnutrition. They often rely on food assistance and are more likely to have abandoned their jobs, possessions and social networks to find safety, often settling in displacement sites or urban areas with limited access to basic services.

Overall, said Mazou, the international community would have to find fair and global solutions to what was a global challenge. To this end, he added, it would be vital to work towards the longer-term inclusion of the poorest in society, including the displaced, in formal systems.

“COVID-19 has shown us is that exclusion kills,” he said. “No one is safe until everyone is safe.”


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