Afghanistan + 14 more

UNHCR Asia and the Pacific COVID-19 External Update (13 May 2020)

Situation Report
Originally published
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9.2 million Persons of concern Refugees and Asylum
4.4 million seekers
2.9 million Internally displaced persons
83,930 Returnees
2.3 million Stateless persons


On 12 May, UNHCR and the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) of Pakistan, in collaboration with the Pakistan Post Office Department, launched an emergency cash assistance initiative to support the most vulnerable refugee families in Pakistan in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This cash support is similar to the Federal Government’s Ehsaas cash programme, where vulnerable families receive Rs.12,000 (approximately USD 75) to cover a four-month period. UNHCR will initially target 36,000 refugee families, which will be expanded to include more families in need once additional donor support is secured.

In Bangladesh, following last week’s report of the transfer to Bhasan Char (an island in the Bay of Bengal) of 29 individuals, the Government has indicated that additional boat arrivals, as well as any refugees found outside the camps, will also be transferred to the island. UNHCR has sought clarification from authorities on the matter. Highlights by country

South-West Asia


• While implementing activities to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, humanitarian actors in Afghanistan continue to respond to other ongoing and emerging humanitarian needs. Conflict and natural disasters across the country continue to displace thousands of families, compounding pre-existing vulnerabilities and making them potentially more susceptible to exposure to and transmission of COVID-19.

Islamic Republic of Iran

• As of 3 May, UNHCR partially resumed voluntary repatriation from the Islamic Republic of Iran to Afghanistan, which was temporarily suspended in March to limit the risks to refugees and staff. Returns are only taking place from Dogharoun, and preventative health and hygiene measures are in place. • In the first quarter of 2020, 233 refugees returned to Afghanistan through UNHCR’s return programme – 36% lower than in the same period in 2019 – with many reporting fear of COVID-19 spread and loss of livelihood as their main reason to return. Additionally, since January, around 200,000 undocumented Afghans have returned without UNHCR support.


• UNHCR conducted field visits to refugee villages and interacted with female Outreach Volunteers, community mobilizers and gender support groups to improve outreach and communication on COVID- 19 preventive measures, including addressing social stigma and psychosocial support. The Office also conducted a virtual training on the updated emergency referral pathway and guidelines for remote SGBV case management developed by UNHCR Peshawar for partners providing specialized services to child protection cases, SGBV survivors and persons with specific needs.

Central Asia


• On 25 April, UNHCR and partners launched online tutoring for refugee children to support with homework and additional language classes. Tutors are university students with good academic performance from refugee communities.


• Approximately 90% of cash-based interventions (CBI) are distributed via electronic bank transfers. Three months of CBI is being provided to vulnerable persons of concern (POC) including those affected by the COVID situation. In addition, some 26 refugee families and 36 stateless/undocumented families have received humanitarian assistance from the Kazakhstan Red Crescent Society that is being provided to vulnerable citizens.


• UNHCR will provide two-months of CBI support to 190 vulnerable refugee families. Uzbekistan • Three months of CBI was distributed in cash to all refugees as a response to the COVID-19 situation.