Across the region, concerns have been raised about the ability of UNHCR’s persons of concern to afford books, uniforms, and other materials once school recommences, due to the socio-economic impact of COVID and loss of family income. UNHCR operations in Asia and the Pacific are assessing ways to enable sustained access to education for refugee and IDP children who may not have access to online learning.
The impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of UNHCR’s persons of concern in the Asia-Pacific region is a growing concern. In several countries, remote systems have been put in place to respond to the mental health concerns of refugees and asylum-seekers. In Malaysia, a mental health support helpline has been established through UNHCR’s local partner. The helpline is operated by clinical psychologists and offers 45-minute sessions in Burmese, English, Malay, Persian, Rohingya, and Urdu. Similarly, in Sri Lanka, counselling sessions and psychosocial therapy have been made available via skype and telephone.
In the Islamic Republic of Iran, UNHCR has implemented simplified CBI targeting criteria for cash-based interventions (CBI), focusing on refugee households with members who contracted COVID-19, those at specific risk (people with underlying conditions, the elderly) and those with immediate income loss combined with specific protection vulnerabilities. UNHCR continues to seek ways to expand CBI in Asia and the Pacific.