- New analysis from the International Rescue Committee (IRC) estimates the “cost of living” for refugees and vulnerable populations in COVID-hit countries like Yemen, Afghanistan, and Somalia.
- In conflict-affected countries, a cash boost of $1.7 billion is needed to limit the threat of hunger brought on by COVID-19, with $760 million specific to vulnerable people in high refugee-hosting developing countries.
- IRC is calling for donors, the private sector, international financial institutions and G20 countries to mobilize to provide humanitarian cash payments to individuals in need.
- As richer countries experiment with cash payments and Universal Basic Income amidst economic crises, cash transfers in fragile and conflict-affected states are proven to secure better outcomes in nutrition, health, education, safety, and livelihoods.
The world is experiencing the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and the contractions in economic activity in response to COVID-19 are having a disproportionate impact on hunger in conflict-affected states. According to a new analysis from the International Rescue Committee (IRC), $1.7 billion in additional cash funding is required in 2020 to limit the number of people going hungry in countries affected by fragility, conflict, and displacement. Of this, developing countries hosting the highest refugee populations need an immediate cash boost of $760 million to ensure the most vulnerable can meet their basic needs for the next six months.
The global economic crisis spurred by COVID-19 is expected to lead to the equivalent of 195 million jobs lost worldwide – with women in the informal sector hit hardest. People living in countries impacted by conflict and crisis prior to the pandemic, who only have access to limited health and welfare systems, will struggle with additional hunger and prolonged economic hardship. While the countries they live within will not be able to adequately respond or find the resources needed to protect their vulnerable populations.
The new report titled “The Cost of Living,” finds that even in a best-case scenario outlook for economic recovery, contractions in Gross Domestic Products will stagnate the already limited progress made towards eliminating hunger. This will place millions of lives at risk and push people already on the brink deeper into hardship, brutally halting their hope of recovery from conflict and crisis.
David Miliband, IRC President and CEO, said, “COVID-19 has exposed a tragic vacuum in global leadership when it comes to strategic and immediate help for the world’s most vulnerable amidst a pandemic. Rebuilding and reopening require economies that work for everyone. We cannot afford to delay or depend on fragile countries with limited resources and capacity to respond. Nor can we expect developing countries already shouldering the disproportionate responsibility of hosting refugees to be resourced and equipped to meet the drastically expanded need. Government donors have been too slow getting financial resources to the frontlines of the COVID crisis. The IRC is calling on donors, the private sector, international financial institutions, and G20 countries to mobilize this additional, immediate funding and resource long-term, economic recovery.”
In addition to enduring hardships in meeting their basic needs, refugees are also more likely to continue to remain locked out of the formal economy and lose jobs in the informal economy as host communities face rising rates of unemployment and economic uncertainty. The economic impacts of COVID-19 for women in particular are expected to be significant, as a disproportionate number of women work in the informal sector and continue to bear the brunt of increased childcare and household work.
Refugees are often left out of government and social protection programs as well. An assessment by the IRC finds that the degree to which social safety nets have been expanded since the onset of COVID-19 within the top ten hosting countries varies. While all ten of the countries are providing or plan to provide some form of social protection in response to COVID-19, only four out of 10 are currently enacting measures specific to the labour market. The report finds that there are practical and regulatory barriers to humanitarian populations accessing social protections, such as citizenship or registration requirements.
With increasing numbers of people in urgent need of basic supplies and jobs, the IRC is working to fill the immediate monetary gaps further widened by COVID-19, delivering 25% of its humanitarian assistance through cash. Lump sum cash distributions are fast and efficient, decrease in-person contact through remote, digital delivery, allow people to purchase what is most needed for themselves and their families, contribute to local economies, and more. With additional funding, the IRC and its partner organizations can reach more of the most vulnerable, preventing food insecurity and permanent damage to livelihoods.