KIU, Main Campus - The
United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned of hundreds of
thousands of urban refugees across the East, Horn and Great Lakes regions of
Africa resorting to desperate measures to survive as the economic impact of
COVID-19 continues to worsen.
The UN refugee agency says urban refugees are most seriously
affected and are unable to meet their most basic needs as the
government-imposed lockdowns and curfews aimed at preventing the spread of the
Coronavirus is restricting freedom of movement and ability to earn a living.
Charlie Yaxley, says that many urban refugees are at risk of exploitation and
falling into debt, and further warns that many may be forced to take desperate
measures to survive, such as engaging in transactional sex or child labour.
“Urban refugees are
facing job losses as businesses are forced to downsize or close due to COVID-19
restrictions. Many were daily wage workers or worked in the informal economy
and were already living hand-to-mouth before the pandemic struck. Many urban
refugees are also living in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions and are
particularly vulnerable to the spread of the virus,” said Yaxley.
Yaxley also says that
despite reports that thousands of refugees are crammed into squalid districts
with little access to clean water, making hand washing nearly impossible,
governments across the East, Horn and Great Lakes regions so far have included
refugees in COVID-19 response plans.
“Our call today is for
governments to also ensure that refugees are included in social safety nets. So
that they are able to access welfare support payments and able to
get assistance with meeting their basic needs. So, they are able to pay rent,
have shelters, so they are able to afford food,” he said.
The UNHCR reports
challenges of the rise in prices of food imports due to the pandemic, and the
swarms of locusts, especially in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, which are
ravaging crops and threatening to increase hunger and poverty.
Picture credit: VOA