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The world is going through tough times for almost a year, due to Covid-19 pandemic.
The requirement of social isolation caused considerable damage on people both
psychologically and economically. The fear of death occupies people’s minds almost 24/7.
Education is interrupted in most of the countries. Considering these and other factors that
the outbreak of coronavirus has brought to people’s lives, it’s fair to say the whole world is
going through a psychological battle. However, there’s a group that is being affected from
the outbreak in the worst possible way: Refugees.
There are more than 70 million refugees all over the world. More than 85% of them
are located in poor countries. During the coronavirus outbreak, they’re having extra hard
times. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFCR)
mentions the situation as: “Pandemic is a catastrophe for vulnerable migrants.” Tiziana
Bonzon, who is Migration and Displacement Lead at the IFRC, says “It’s a health crisis for
many of us but it’s also a socio-economic crisis and protection crisis.”
Why is the global struggle of experiencing a pandemic harder for refugees? Firstly, in
densely crowded refugee camps social isolation is almost impossible. For instance, the
Moria Camp in Greece, which had a place for 3000 people, was hosting 13 000 refugees
until it burned down in the beginning of September. In Jordan, there are around 120 000
refugees and more than 5 coronavirus cases are reported in 2 refugee camps already.
Bangladesh holds more than 600 000 Rohingya refugees and according to the World Health
Organization (WHO), a covid-19 outbreak in the camp can exhaust the medical resources
and overwhelm camp hospitals in only 58 days. This would lead to other infectious diseases,
such as malaria. Second reason for the refugee’s comparadly negative experience of
pandemic is the lack of hygiene supplies in their living conditions. In most of the refugee
camps the water sources are limited and shared by many people. Also, washing facilities are
not even close to enough, especially under special hygiene requirements of a pandemic.
Thirdly, most of the refugees were living under fragile economic and social conditions even
before the outbreak. With the outbreak, their situation worsened. According to a research
Relief International made on 879 refugees in Turkey, 26% of them reported a deterioration in
their use of public services due to covid-19. 81% reported that they lost access to essential
needs. In this 81%, 59% lost their access to food, 37% to hygiene materials, and 5% to
water. Also, 87% of these 879 reported that at least one person from their family or
household lost their jobs because of the outbreak. Considering that most of these refugees
were suffering from poverty even before the pandemic, losing their jobs can put them in a
very hard economic position. Besides, in these people, only 53% of the 326 who had a
medication they regularly use, still have access to their medication. The rest stated that they
lost their access to their regular medication.
All these out together, it’s fair to say that there’s a serious problem sitting in front of
us and waiting to be solved. Of course, the refugee issue is a complex problem which
includes social, economic and political dynamics. Thus, it’s not possible to solve it in an easy
way. However, to seek a solution, we firstly need to be aware of the struggles they go
through. In these tough times that we’re globally experiencing, it’s very easy to forget others
while focusing our lives too much. Under these circumstances, refugees aren’t able to speak
for themselves, but we can and we should speak up for them.
This article is written by Beyza Kumanova