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IOM COVID-19 Response - Progress Report February – August 2020

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In April 2020, IOM published its revised Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan (SPRP), building on the February iteration, to strengthen its response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The SPRP focuses on 140 affected countries in order to cover emerging health, humanitarian and socioeconomic needs, while ensuring that migrants and mobility considerations are included in the global, regional and national responses. Now in its eight month of the pandemic, and in response to the complex challenges created, IOM continues to adapt its approach to respond to evolving needs through its comprehensive preparedness and response plan by building on its extensive footprint and operational advantage. IOM’s work contributes to global efforts to halt further transmission of the disease, limits the humanitarian and socioeconomic effects of the pandemic, and supports affected communities to prepare for recovery. This progress reports aims to highlight key progress made by IOM from February to August 2020. Activities mentioned in this report serve as illustrative examples and do not aim at representing exhaustedly IOM's footprint and response in all countries.

SITUATION UPDATE

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, over 27 million confirmed cases and 894,241 deaths have been reported globally, as of 9 September, with confirmed cases reported in over 200 countries, territories or areas (source: WHO). The daily increase in reported COVID-19 cases continues to impact countries globally, putting health, social and economic systems in countries under pressure.

The impact of the COVID-19 emergency on global health and mobility is historically unprecedented in size and scope. As of 1 September 2020, a total of 219 countries, territories or areas had issued 86,722 travel restrictions which have been put into effect by governments worldwide to contain and reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Containment policies and measures to restrict global human mobility, which are aimed at mitigating the spread of the virus and its consequences, have affected various population categories, including migrants, in diverse and complex ways. The COVID-19 mobility policies and measures – spanning from various travel restrictions and health requirements or measures to full border closures and nationwide and/or localized lockdowns – have, in some cases, created new challenges for migrants and other mobile populations while exacerbating existing vulnerabilities. The imposition of border closures and travel bans have left a significant number of migrants stranded, including seasonal workers, temporary residence holders, international students, migrants that who travelled for medical treatment abroad, beneficiaries of assisted voluntary return and reintegration, seafarers and many others.

Forcibly displaced and international and national migrant populations are among the most affected by the subsequent crisis. Loss of jobs and income, residence permits and resources have all impacted mobile populations, resulting in hundreds of thousands of stranded migrants globally, who may lack the discretionary income to fund their return journey home and are often in irregular situations, rendering them more vulnerable to exploitation, including trafficking in persons. Out of desperation, they might also be likelier to take up unsafe employment or accommodations, increasing their exposure to COVID-19. The disease has also intensified stigma, xenophobia and discrimination against migrants and other vulnerable populations in many settings, due to perceived linkages with the origin or transmission of the virus. Movement restrictions imposed at national and local levels have also limited the continuation of livelihood activities, leading to a drop in global remittances further affecting remittances-dependent households in their countries of origins, eroding coping capacities. Forcibly displaced populations already face dire situations, such as in protracted conflicts, living with limited access to social, health and protection services. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in crowded shelters and camp-like settings, often with inadequate sanitation and health-care facilities, also face increasing risks as COVID-19 cases continue to emerge.

Weak health systems and high health-care costs pose challenges in ensuring access to care for COVID-19 and for other health conditions neglected during the pandemic.
The immediate and longer-term gaps in response mechanisms are resulting in heightened protection risks for affected communities and vulnerable populations.
Barriers in accessing hard-to-reach populations include difficulties maintaining supply chains, increased demand and movement restrictions.

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