How COVID-19 Has Affected Refugees

Mohamed Malim

Throughout the United States, the past 4 months have been filled with non-stop conversation surrounding the current COVID-19 pandemic. Cures have been suggested and dismissed, masks have been mandated, stay-at-home orders have been proclaimed, product shortages have caused hardships for families, jobs have been lost, and the list continues to go on. 

While Americans are doing their best to deal with the effects of this pandemic, there’s an entire world outside of their four walls that is also trying to figure out a new normal. However, many of these places are attempting to do so with very limited resources.

refugees and the covid-19 pandemic

Compared to the rest of the world, the United States holds an increased advantage in addressing the current struggles of the pandemic than many other countries do. Credit Suisse reports that the USA currently controls about 30% of the world’s wealth while the combined areas of Latin America and Africa account for just less than 4% of the world’s wealth. With these areas having such limited financial resources to combat the spread of COVID-19, it’s no wonder that this pandemic can rattle entire economic systems.

Within many of these countries, the refugee population is experiencing an even higher risk of contracting this virus because of a lack of quality medical systems to address their sickness. Living in densely populated areas with limited access to sanitation and hygiene facilities, along with lacking proper medical services, was difficult before the pandemic. So, how are some of the most vulnerable people in all of the world being affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic?

Worsening Situations For Refugees

Largely forgotten from the news cycles and regular COVID-19 updates, refugees continue to be one of the most at-risk people groups in the world. From fleeing conflict in their homeland, to traveling to a neighboring country because of a current drought, to seeking food in another city because of crop damage from locust infestations, these individuals have faced it all. 

Refugees and the coronavirus pandemic

Now in the face of a crippling pandemic, their situation has found a way to worsen. With refugee camps not being able to allow for social distancing because of their densely-populated living conditions, this can allow for COVID-19 hot spots to be created. 

In Bangladesh, there are 860,000 Rohingya refugees facing a potentially dangerous situation across several different refugee camps because of situations noted above. These individuals do not have reliable access to global news events, but as they eventually hear of the severity of this virus, fear enters the minds of many. To build trust with the refugee community regarding treatment and information about the virus, volunteer health workers work hard to bring trustworthy information to each camp’s residents. 

While the work of the health workers is extremely valuable in educating the Rohingya refugees, there still remains the issues of densely populated areas, an overloaded medical system and a large number of refugees having pre-existing health conditions.

Continued Hardship For Refugees

Along with the situation in Bangladesh, those in Darfur are experiencing similar events. Because of intense fighting along the Chad/Sudan border, refugees located in Darfur are facing incredible danger. Not only do the camp’s residents have to worry about nearby fighting and violence, but they are also having to deal with a wartorn medical system. While the COVID-19 situation is wreaking havoc throughout the world, this area is one in desperate need of assistance. 

Official numbers from a June 2020 report state that there have been 433 deaths and 6,879 infections in Darfur, but there is indication that the numbers could be much higher. Within the area, there have been a number of reports of unexplained deaths, suffocating and extreme exhaustion occurring, especially to individuals who are 60 years or older. 

Because of the years of violence in the region, accessibility to healthcare services has become an increased challenge. Now because of the extremely limited medical personnel, facilities and personal protective gear, there is only so much that can be done to treat the COVID-19 cases in Darfur’s refugee camps. 

Economic Difficulties During COVID-19

While there are many suffering physically from the effects of COVID-19, many others are experiencing extreme economic difficulties as their means of income have vanished. For Syrian refugees already struggling to survive while living in extreme poverty, things have only gotten worse. As the pandemic has affected jobs across the entire globe, it has also affected those in Syrian refugee camps. The UNHCR noted that only 35% of Syrian refugees surveyed said they returned to their job after their local COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.

As with Syria, Uganda is feeling the immense burden COVID-19 is placing on its residents. While America may have been concerned about having enough toilet paper, paper towels and new clothing to wear, those in Uganda are still reeling from the lack of basic essentials such as accessible food and water.

Refugee camps struggling during the coronavirus pandemic


World Food Programme (WFP) noted the pandemic has caused a decline in rations for more than 1.4 million refugees in Uganda - a country that is ranked third in hosting refugees. As a result, the WFP country director noted there could be an increase in violence, among many other things, in order to provide food for families in desperate need.

Importance Of Supporting Refugees

With no clear end of the pandemic in sight, supporting refugees during this time is an important responsibility to adopt. Whether you simply learn more about the difficulty refugee camps are experiencing now, share updates about current events on social media, or take action by donating to trustworthy organizations who are working with refugees, make sure to do your part!

Here at Epimonia, our goal is to spread hope and love through providing support for refugees in the United States. For every bracelet sold, we donate 50% of the profits to organizations that best support refugees in need. If you’re looking to support refugees and sport an accessory for a cause, check out our merchandise today!

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