Costa Rica + 3 more

Assessing the Socioeconomic Impact of COVID-19 on Forcibly Displaced Populations: Thematic Brief No. 4: the case of Costa Rica, March 2022

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Key Insights

  • Costa Rica has experienced a deep economic downturn as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, yet continues to welcome those in need of international protection from around the region. Since 2017, the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and other persons of concern – mainly from Nicaragua, but also Venezuela and Cuba, among others – has increased considerably putting strain on national systems.

  • Data from two rounds of a phone survey conducted by UNHCR and IPA between March and August 2021 – comparable to a similar survey by the World Bank on nationals – provides insight on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the health, livelihoods and general vulnerability of these populations who are Persons of Concern (PoC) to UNHCR.

  • The survey finds that by August 2021 around one in five PoC households has experienced a COVID-19 diagnosis. In addition, 36% of respondents report having been vaccinated, and some 80% believe the vaccines are safe and effective.

  • The economic impact of the pandemic has been severe for PoC households, with nearly 3 in 4 respondents reporting lower family income in round 1 compared to pre-COVID times. Further, financial insecurity among PoC remains pronounced, with 70% of respondents saying they were forced to deplete assets or rely on others to meet daily needs and half reporting they have no bank or mobile savings accounts.

  • Food insecurity remains high – despite having fallen across survey rounds – with 61% of PoC respondents in round 2 reporting an adult skipping a meal in the last week compared to just 12% of nationals in the final round of the World Bank survey. The Nicaraguan population in particular faces high levels of food-related vulnerability as 4 in 10 Nicaraguan respondents report a child going hungry in the past 30 days.

  • Despite these prevalent needs, food- and cash-based support to PoC fell between March and August 2021. Similarly, requests for government support are less common in round 2, and about 40% of assistance requests are rejected.

  • The Venezuelan population are notably better off compared to Nicaraguan and Cuban households on nearly all measures, which likely reflects their pre-existing better socioeconomic profile and associated ability to integrate into Costa Rican society.