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UNHCR Global COVID-19 Emergency Response, 24 April 2020

News and Press Release
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■ As of 22 April, according to WHO, more than 200 countries and territories have confirmed COVID-19 infections, including many fragile states. Thus far, no serious outbreak in a refugee or internally displaced people high-density camp/settlement has been reported.

■ To date, a total of 6.4 million masks, 850,000 gowns, 3,600 oxygen concentrators and 640 ventilators have been procured by UNHCR and delivered to 25 high priority countries to support UNHCR’s and partners’ COVID-19 response in these countries.

■ IASC System-Wide Scale-Up Protocols have been adapted to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic through a light approach responding to the particularities of the COVID-19 emergency.

■ In a joint statement, UNHCR and UNICEF highlighted the needs of forcibly displaced children, who, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, are at risk of being exposed to protection and health risks as well as being out of school for a prolonged period.

■ UNHCR issued a press release drawing attention to the heightened risk of gender-based violence for displaced and stateless women in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Global Overview

UNHCR is advocating for a balanced approach aimed at preventing and containing the COVID-19 outbreak through public health activities, while at the same time taking into account the long-term consequences and secondary impacts of the health crisis that could particularly affect vulnerable groups such as refugees, internally displaced persons and stateless populations. COVID-19 is claiming lives and changing communities around the world, but the virus also poses heightened protection risks to women and girls who are forced to flee their homes. Before COVID-19, it is estimated that one in three women had already experienced physical or sexual abuse. The global health crisis will exacerbate this situation. The global policies of confinement, lockdown and quarantine in response to the pandemic have resulted in restricted movement, reduced interaction between communities, service closures and deteriorating socio-economic conditions. These factors significantly increase the risks of intimate partner violence, with refugees, internally displaced and stateless persons among the most vulnerable.

Globally, UNHCR programmes for women and girls subjected to gender-based violence are being adapted, wherever possible. Some programs are being managed remotely by social workers with the support of trained community volunteer networks. Alongside such support, UNHCR is also distributing emergency cash assistance to support survivors and women-at-risk. Action is also being coordinated across the humanitarian sector to ensure the risks of sexual and gender-based violence are mitigated throughout all sectoral interventions, including but not limited to the emergency health response.

All demographic groups face challenges and risks in this pandemic. Referring to a recently published report that highlights the impact of COVID-19 on children, the Secretary-General appealed to families and leaders around the world to protect children. UNHCR and UNICEF have joined the SecretaryGeneral’s appeal and issued a joint statement highlighting the needs of forcibly displaced children in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, who are at risk of being exposed to protection and health risks as well as being out of school for a prolonged period.