COVID-19 does not discriminate putting fragile communities including refugees, internally displaced people and migrants at heightened risk. Many of the over 70 million women, men and children who are forcibly displaced worldwide find themselves in places where health services are overstretched or inaccessible. They may be confined to camps and settlements or living in urban areas where overcrowding and poorly resourced sanitation increase the risk of exposure.
Although the number of reported and confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection among refugees remains low, urgent support is required to protect and assist them and their host communities. As part of its ongoing partnership with the UN Refugee Agency, ICC is supporting UNHCR calls for the private sector to advocate for continued access to protection and assistance for refugees and internally displaced people in these uncertain times. Only if forces are joined, can this crisis be overcome.
Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said: “COVID-19 is a test not only of our health-care systems and mechanisms for responding to infectious diseases but also of our ability to work together as a community of nations in the face of a common challenge. Refugees and internally displaced people must be an integral part of national systems and plans for tackling the virus. The private sector can play an important role in supporting this effort.”
UNHCR aims to ensure that the refugee and displaced communities are properly informed of pending health risks, are assisted and provided with hygienic and medical support, shelter, core relief items, learning opportunities and cash assistance to help mitigate the negative socio-economic impact of outbreak. It is also crucial to ensure that their rights are respected in these challenging circumstances. ICC is calling on its global business network to support this response.
ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO said: “Measures to tackle the global COVID-19 pandemic have to address the whole of society, including the most fragile parts of the population, if they are to be effective. The private sector has already shown incredible generosity and solidarity in stepping up to help mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in many areas. Helping refugees and the displaced is another area in which we can help make business work for everyone, everywhere.”
UNHCR is in particular need of urgent financial support to fund the multi-sectoral prevention measures outlined in its US$255 million appeal.
The agency is working to support governments in their response and aims to provide life-saving interventions across a number of sectors, including: procuring hygiene items, medical supplies and personal protective equipment; establishing emergency shelters and other quarantine arrangements; upgrading WASH and health services; training health workers; informing and engaging communities about risks and prevention in many languages and through multiple channels; ramping up cash assistance and ensuring continuation of education for those most in need.
Further details can be found on UNHCR’s Coronavirus Outbreak emergency page.
A detailed guidance package on how ICC members can support UNHCR through advocacy, employee engagement, in-kind and financial donations will be released soon.
To support directly, please visit the UNHCR’s donation page.