The UN Secretary-General’s policy brief on the impact of COVID-19 on the Arab region highlights the likely devastating effects of the pandemic. The economy could contract by over 5% and one quarter of the population may end up in poverty. Some communities will be especially hard hit, including women, migrants and the more than 62 million people already in need of humanitarian assistance prior to COVID-19. Those caught in armed conflict face particular challenges.
The brief also highlights that the response to the pandemic is an opportunity to address long-standing conflicts and structural weaknesses, and recommends four sets of priorities.
The policy brief underlines the importance of continued international support to countries in the region to successfully weather this crisis and build back better. UNFPA engages in these priorities at regional and country level through the various socio-economic frameworks that are being developed and rolled out.
In the immediate term, preventing the spread of COVID-19 through public health measures and providing support in the context of the country preparedness response plans remains a priority as the strain on health systems is increasingly apparent, the socio-economic situation is plummeting and more countries are facing unprecedented food insecurity exacerbated by COVID-19, e.g. Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia.
Major challenges in mitigating the pandemic include inadequate risk communications and community engagement; limited national capacities to isolate, quarantine and trace; and limited adherence to social and physical distancing.