It has been 18 months since COVID-19 changed the world as we know it. The pandemic has tested our resilience and our ability and capacity to adapt. It has disrupted health systems across the globe and plunged the world economy into deep contraction. But most of all, COVID-19 has tested our sense of unity and humanity. We have witnessed countless examples of solidarity, compassion, and selfless and altruistic attitudes and behaviours. But we have also seen inequalities increase and deepen; nationalism, protectionism, and discrimination worsen.
As high income countries continue to roll out intensive vaccination campaigns and contemplate a return to normality in the next few months, they are sitting on millions of surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses. More than 72% of all vaccine doses have been purchased by high- and upper-middle income countries, with just 3% of doses purchased by the poorest nations.
COVID-19 has affected us all, but it has not affected us all equally. The pandemic is a global public health crisis; however, it has broadened and exacerbated inequalities between and within countries. FDP – refugees and IDPs – are largely invisible in the ‘vaccine race’. Furthermore, 86% of FDP are hosted by lowand middle-income countries struggling to climb the vaccination ladder with weak and now overwhelmed health systems.
These countries are currently facing a double burden and responsibility – to cope with the effects of COVID-19 on both their own populations and on the populations they host. Yet the pandemic is affecting host communities and FDP in these countries differently, with the latter (including children and families) facing overlapping crises of both COVID-19 and displacement, and the pandemic acting as a ‘force multiplier’. This devastating impact is also a reflection of the longer-term lack of attention to these populations in the roll-out of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Until December 2019, there was no specific indicator on refugees in the SDGs, meaning that many FDP were largely invisible in governments’ SDGs’ progress narratives, setting this group of children and their families on an unequal footing with others even before COVID-19. This means that the challenge of ensuring they are not being left behind in national and global responses and recovery strategies to the pandemic is even greater. The aim of this report is to bring urgent attention to the devastating, yet largely unreported, impact of the pandemic on forcibly displaced children and their families, which is being amplified by their lack of access to COVID-19 vaccines.
This report uses findings from a new World Vision survey conducted across eight countries with different groups of refugees in Brazil, Colombia, the DRC, Jordan, Peru, Uganda, and Turkey, and with internally displaced Venezuelans.
The overall finding of the report is that FDP are being left behind in the roll-out of vaccines against COVID-19, even though complex vulnerability factors put them in a high risk category of infection and transmission. The report also considers the specific barriers that these populations face accessing COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostic equipment and medicines, as well as prevention, response, and support services that could help mitigate the direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic on the wellbeing of children and their families. For millions of displaced children, COVID-19 has worsened preexisting challenges, including poor access to food, shelter, and education. It has heightened health and protection risks, and led to an exponential rise in psychosocial distress.
While the results are indicative of the situation faced by the surveyed children and their families, the overarching experience of those we spoke to is likely to apply to many more FDP. The findings should therefore lead decision makers to adjust their policies to better meet the unique and specific needs of forcibly displaced children and their families in their COVID-19 responses. The report sets out recommendations from the refugees and IDPs we spoke to and recommendations from World Vision calling on donors, host governments, and the international community to explicitly include FDP in national and global responses to the pandemic and address the growing needs of children as a matter of urgency.