Um Hassan, Syrian refugee and the female shawish - or settlement supervisor - of a Syrian refugee camp, number 022 with a population of 165 people, speaks during an interview in Akkar, Lebanon, 20 April 2021 | Photo: EPA/WAEL HAMZEH
Um Hassan, Syrian refugee and the female shawish - or settlement supervisor - of a Syrian refugee camp, number 022 with a population of 165 people, speaks during an interview in Akkar, Lebanon, 20 April 2021 | Photo: EPA/WAEL HAMZEH

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has called for more global attention and funding support to counter the impact of COVID-19 on forcibly displaced people worldwide.

The COVID-19 emergency tops the list of UNHCR's 10 most underfunded situations in 2021, the organization said on September 17. Only one third of the budgeted requirements of 924 million dollars has been received, "leaving a yawning gap in UNHCR's ability to protect the most vulnerable from the fallout of the pandemic", the agency noted.

Given the situation, the UN agency called for more global attention and funding support to counter the impact of COVID-19 on forcibly displaced people around the world.

Vaccine inequity affects many countries hosting refugees

"Despite progress in many locations where UNHCR is working, we continue to see new cases and people continue to die," the agency quoted UNHCR's Chief of Public Health Section Ann Burton as saying in a statement.

"While safe and effective vaccines can relieve pressures on health systems and save lives, vaccine inequity continues to hit the hardest in many refugee-hosting states. We know that 86% of refugees are hosted in developing countries. However, some 80% of all vaccine doses have been given in high- and upper middle-income countries."

"At the same time low-income countries hosting the bulk of the world's refugees have the least resilient health systems and are struggling to cope with the needs of their own populations - before we add the extra needs posed by hosting refugees. As UNHCR, we reiterate our call on states to share excess doses with COVAX in a timely way, to address the global vaccine inequity and avoid prolonging the pandemic," the statement added.

'There is still time'

"Until now, we have been very encouraged by the overwhelming response of hosting states in including refugees in the vaccine roll-out and urge them to continue to do so. However, we have seen that many barriers to vaccine access remain, UNHCR stands ready to support states to overcome some of these barriers -- provided we have the means to do so -- for example, by creating information materials in refugee languages suitable for low literacy levels," stressed Burton.

"The pandemic hurts forcibly displaced and stateless people in ways that reach far beyond the risk posed by the virus itself. And the failure to adequately fund the response only deepens their plight."

"On health grounds alone, the sheer number of forcibly displaced people, who constitute 1% of the world's population, indicates the failing to integrate them into the global pandemic would be reckless. But it is not too late. We are thankful to donors who have already pledged or provided funding to cover COVID-19 needs and call on others to help us channel funds to where they are most urgently in need," concluded the UN official.

 

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