Giving Compass’ Take:
• Shelly Culbertson and Gary Edson expose the compounded risks of homelessness, unemployment, and disease plaguing refugees in urban areas during coronavirus.
• Why do refugees in urban areas often fall through the cracks of a broken support system? How can we learn from coronavirus to strengthen our refugee response? What can we do today to support refugees suffering from the pandemic?
At a time when the pandemic is forcing people to stay at home and practice social-distancing, that is not possible for one of the most vulnerable populations—the world’s seventy-one million refugees, internally displaced persons, and asylum seekers. Having escaped conflict and persecution, they now risk illness and death from the coronavirus. But the crisis could provide an opportunity to reform a broken system for the benefit of refugees and host countries alike.
The word refugee has become synonymous with images of Syrians, Afghanis, Sudanese, Central Americans, and other groups huddled in makeshift camps that have become way stations between the homes they left behind and the safe havens they hope one day to find. Supported by the UN system and international nongovernmental organizations, these camps pose a heightened risk for the coronavirus, with a density of living conditions and lack of water and sanitation that makes social distancing and adequate hygiene impossible.
But the 61 percent of refugees who live in urban areas are also at risk, precisely because their situation is so fundamentally different from those in the camps. Refugees often work on the lowest rungs of the employment ladder, informally, below minimum wage, and without access to a social safety net if they lose their jobs.
Social-distancing measures during the coronavirus pandemic mean that many of these refugees can no longer work. This has put them in a dire situation because of food insecurity and the need to pay for rent and other expenses. Worse, when they cannot work, they resort to negative coping mechanisms, including reducing the quantity or quality of food, forgoing health care, selling personal goods, relying on child labor for additional family income, or having daughters enter into early marriage.
Read the full article about refugees in urban areas by Shelly Culbertson and Gary Edson at RAND Corporation.
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