Downward Spiral: The Economic Impact of Covid-19 on Refugees and Displaced People

Gorevan, D.
Date published
21 Sep 2020
Research, reports and studies
COVID-19, Epidemics & pandemics, Forced displacement and migration, Internal Displacement, Refugee Camps, Health, Social protection
Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Uganda, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)

This report is based on a survey of 1,400 people affected by conflict and displacement in eight countries, and more detailed surveys and needs assessment in a total of 14 countries. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) research found that these communities have suffered widespread loss of income since the pandemic started. In NRC’s survey, 77 per cent responded that that they had lost a job or income from work, temporarily or permanently since March. The pandemic has also impacted other sources of income. Sixty-two per cent of respondents who had previously received remittances from family members abroad said they were receiving less than before the pandemic. As a result of these drops in income, 30 per cent said that they had to borrow more money now than before the pandemic. The loss of income, coupled with limited access to social safety nets, a drop in remittances, limited saving potential and increased debt, is having profound combined knock-on effects on these communities.

Refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) are among the most vulnerable people in the world and were already facing multiple crises before Covid-19. They have been forced to flee their homes, have limited access to work and education opportunities for their children, often the result of insecure legal status, and in some cases they are faced with continuing violence, or hazards such as locusts threatening their crops. The pandemic and governments’ responses to it have tipped many people into a downward spiral that will be difficult to reverse.

Even a fully-funded humanitarian response plan, or action by the World Bank and other international financial institutions, would not be able to meet the scale of the challenge. Quick and decisive action is required to stem the growing catastrophe that crisis-affected communities are facing. This will require political leadership and will, prioritising the lives and livelihoods of world’s conflict affected people in international and national economic responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Daniel Gorevan