Protection in the time of COVID-19
As COVID-19 overwhelms the world including Yemen, displaced families continue to bear the brunt of the combined effects of the pandemic and the conflict. The impact of COVID-19 in Yemen is compounded by dilapidated health services, also because of the conflict; lack or loss of employment opportunities; increasing anxiety, fear and general frustration within households. Women, children and individuals with specific needs, such as persons with disabilities, are particularly affected because of discriminatory social norms, poverty, physical barriers in accessing services and social isolation resulting in neglect, isolation and negative coping strategies.
So far this year, more than 21,000 families have been displaced by the conflict and 74,000 families have been affected by the heavy rain and floods, severely undermining their resilience and selfsufficiency. For those identified as vulnerable through UNHCR’s and its partners’ monitoring and assessments, a range of protection services including psychological first aid and counselling, legal assistance and other support to persons with specific needs are offered through eight community centres across the country and mobile teams. All activities had adapted to the COVID-19 measures, including adopting a remote modality.
Challenges related to the reduction of physical mobility and of face-to-face activities due to COVID-19 slowed down household-level protection assessments. As a compensatory measure, the capacity of protection hotlines was increased to allow for communication and counselling without direct physical contact. Individual protection counselling remained limited to urgent or specific cases. Legal counselling, psychosocial support, services for people with specific needs and emergency cash assistance delivered through community centres were also slowed down but never totally interrupted to provide adequate services to the most vulnerable. Currently, UNHCR partners are resuming their direct work in the field and in community centres, with guidance for partners to observe COVID preventive measures such as protective equipment and social distancing.
Based on an analysis of the current situation, available data and the ongoing reduction of financial resources, UNHCR is developing IDP Protection Strategy that prioritized protection assessments and analysis, particularly in situations of new displacement; cash assistance to the most vulnerable families; referrals to community centres for specialised protection services and to other services; advocacy with parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations and protect civilians, including through the Protection Cluster. Limited availability of resource impacts the scale of some services while investment is needed to strengthen the capacity of local partners, particularly in case management, and of the Community-based protection Networks, for a positive impact on the quality of protection services.