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East African Refugees Suffer Escalated Impact From COVID-19

People in refugee camps face increased exposure to the virus and a lack of basic amenities

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Ishita Chakraborty
Ishita Chakraborty
A computer engineer who has a passion for writing, a hodophile, social activist, youth activist for PETA India, and a linguaphile. A journalist covering Social issues & United Nations initiatives for transcontinental times.

EAST AFRICA. According to research done by the World Food Programme, 2.7 million refugees in different countries have been experiencing a scarcity of food and cash resources. Countries like Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan, and Djibouti are believed to have been impacted the most. The food and cash transfers have been reduced drastically. This is happening due to the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. One notable side effect includes a reduction in vital funding from aid donors.

There is an absence of basic amenities

Michael Dunford, Eastern Africa Regional Director for the World Food Programme, is working hard for the refugee camps. He believes that refugees are more susceptible to the spread of COVID-19. This is because the camps are already crowded with weak or inadequate shelter and infrastructure. There is no access to health services, fresh drinking water, and sanitation.

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In addition to the pandemic, the refugees also face the danger of becoming malnourished. Women, the elderly, and children are at a higher risk. This also impacts their immune systems, increasing the chances of being infected by some deadly disease.

A South Sudanese refugee girl with a baby on her back carries a foam mattress to the communal tent where they sleep. Photo credit: AP Photo/Ben Curtis

Additional risks they face

The restrictions enacted by the pandemic is having a dangerous impact on children’s health. They now lack access to the nutritious meal that was being provided in their schools. Schools in different countries like Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Rwanda have been closed indefinitely.

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Due to the shortage of funding in these countries, the World Food Programme is unable to supply home rations to refugee children to keep them nourished.

Children in these countries are exposed to additional challenges like teen pregnancy, child marriage, sexual assault, and child labor. Women are at higher risk of gender-based violence, sexual abuse, lack of nourishment, and other problems. The United Nations food relief agency stated, “We have seen that people with disabilities are exposed to many maladies. Along with disabled people, unaccompanied or separated children are the foremost vulnerable.”

More financial help is required

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The dire nature of the pandemic has taken a serious toll on the refugee camps. Because of this, the World Food Programme is appealing to international financial institutions as well as traditional donors to give a generous amount of money to the relief effort.

Mr. Dunford has emphasized, “It is always seen that the poorest and the most disadvantaged countries suffer the most during these kinds of situations. Thus, the world needs to come together and help these countries.” Around $323 million is needed by the United Nations to help refugees within the East African region for the next six months. This amount is about 22 percent greater than the amount which was needed in 2019 during the same period.

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