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Enhanced Solidarity Critical as COVID-19 Spreads in World’s Most Vulnerable Communities

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Refugees preparing to be resettled from Lebanon to France undergo testing for COVID-19 prior to travel. © IOM/Muse Mohammed

Geneva -- Eight months from the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is calling on the international community to accelerate support for efforts to mitigate and combat the illness's impact on migrants, displaced persons and returnees worldwide.

The Organization's newly revised Global Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan (SPRP) requires USD 618 million to cover the health, humanitarian and socio-economic needs of millions of people in 140 countries.

"The impact of the COVID-19 emergency on global health and mobility is unprecedented in size and scope," said IOM's Director General, António Vitorino.

"As the disease continues to spread to some of the world's most vulnerable populations, IOM requires increased support to guarantee their access to life-saving health and other services, to ensure they are not left further behind in the global response to the pandemic," he added.

Key COVID-19 Achievements

In the last eight months since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, the International Organization for Migration has:

  • Reached more than 3.5 million people through awareness-raising campaigns on health and hygiene practices; protection concerns; stigmatization and mental health;

  • Assisted more than 225,000 people with mental health and psychosocial support in over 35 countries;

  • Delivered livelihood support to over 430,000 vulnerable persons in more than 40 countries;

  • Conducted more than six million COVID-19 health screenings for travellers in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone;

  • Procured and delivered personal protective equipment, clinical care and diagnostics equipment and relief Items to 10 countries;

  • Conducted baseline assessments at over 3,000 points of entry (airports, water ports and land border crossings) to support the enhancement of disease surveillance and effective preparedness and response efforts;

  • Supported COVID-19 testing capacity in over 20 countries, and deployed over 120 health staff to strengthen national capacities, in particular in Africa and Asia;

  • Conducted webinars for more than 1,200 staff in 134 countries on how to adapt operations in camp settings to mitigate the spread of the disease; and

  • Played a technical leadership role in 58 COVID-19 specific coordination gatherings and in 34 regional and national task forces and other coordination mechanisms on points of entry.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, over 27 million confirmed cases and over 900,000 deaths have been reported in more than 200 countries (10 September). The steady increase in reported COVID-19 cases continues to put pressure on health, social and economic systems.

Global mobility has come to a near standstill with travel restrictions, including border closures and air travel suspensions. As of 1 September, a total of 219 countries, territories, or areas had issued more than 86,700 travel restrictions to contain and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Movement restrictions have led to a loss of livelihoods for migrants -- leaving millions of people stranded worldwide. These stranded migrants now lack income to fund their return journeys. Many are vulnerable to exploitation and some have found themselves compelled into employment or accommodation with conditions that increase their exposure to COVID-19 and other diseases.

Consequently, countries have seen significant drops in global remittances which, for years, have played a key role in poverty reduction and achieving access to basic services, including health and education, in countries from where migrants depart.

"With the economic slow-down and recession, the forcibly displaced and migrant populations will remain among the most severely impacted by the knock-on effects of COVID-19, which for many can be as drastically severe as the disease itself," added Director General Vitorino.

Migrants living in dormitories and displaced persons living in crowded shelters and camps face increasing health risks as COVID-19 cases continue to emerge in their cramped living quarters, which often include inadequate sanitation, poor access to nutritional foods and limited access to health services such as testing.

COVID-19 has also greatly intensified stigma, xenophobia and discrimination against migrants and other vulnerable people as they are often wrongfully seen as disease carriers.

"IOM teams have continued to work in this challenging context to contribute to global efforts to halt further transmission of the disease, limit the humanitarian and socioeconomic effects of the pandemic, and support affected communities to prepare for longer-term recovery," added Director General Vitorino.

The Organization maintains its focus on four strategic priorities at the community, national and regional levels. These include: (1) effective coordination and partnerships as well as mobility tracking; (2) preparedness and response measures for reduced morbidity and mortality; (3) basic services, commodities and protection for affected people; and (4) mitigation of the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19.

So far, IOM has received USD 261.4 million in funding. The current plan aligns with the immediate humanitarian needs outlined in the UN's Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19 and remains aligned with the World Health Organization Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan.

IOM's Global Crisis Response Platform provides an overview of IOM's plans and funding requirements to respond to the evolving needs and aspirations of those impacted by or at risk of crisis and displacement in 2020 and beyond. The Platform is regularly updated as crises evolve, and new situations emerge.

For more information please contact:

Angela Wells, Department of Operations and Emergencies at IOM HQ, Tel: +41 79 403 5365, Email: awells@iom.int

Yasmina Guerda, Migration Health Division at IOM HQ, Tel: +41 79 363 17 99, Email: yguerda@iom.int

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