Beirut, 19 June 2020 – Ahead of World Refugee Day on 20 June, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is increasingly concerned that migrants, refugees and internally displaced people are falling through the cracks. All people, regardless of their status, should be provided humanitarian assistance.
“We know that migrants, refugees and internally displaced people are amongst the most vulnerable people in the region, and amongst that group especially women and children,” said Dr. Hossam Elsharkawi, head of the IFRC for the Middle East North Africa region. “They are particularly at risk for health complications and violence, their temporary accommodation can be crowded, often with inadequate sanitation and shelter or little access to medical care and good nutrition”.
Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies across the region are working directly with authorities and international agencies to ensure that refugees, migrants and internally displaced people are included as part of all COVID-19 response operations.
“Our Red Cross and Red Crescent teams on the ground are also seeing an increase in stigmatization towards displaced people”, said Elsharkawi. “We know that stigma as well as misinformation could prevent potentially infected people from seeking care – and this needs to be taken just as seriously as the virus itself.”
Discrimination, language barriers and legal status can prevent people from accessing life-saving prevention and health information, and Red Cross and Red Crescent teams across the region are ensuring that people on the move can access information to keep themselves and their families safe – no matter their reading ability, dialect or country of origin.
- In Libya, the Libyan Red Crescent has done awareness campaigns targeting internally displaced people and migrants outside detention centres. They have also recently set up humanitarian service points to provide basic information to migrants and internally displaced people, distribute food and other basic necessities, as well support restoring family links activities.
- In Egypt, more than 200 migrant volunteers have been engaged in the response to provide support in local languages.
- In Iraq, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society has reached more than 50,000 people on the move and more than 6,000 Syrian refugees with health awareness sessions across 50 camps.
- In Jordan, the Jordan Red Crescent Society is targeting host communities as well as Syrian refugees with critical prevention messaging as well as distributing food baskets.
- In Tunisia, the Tunisian Red Crescent has been sharing COVID-19 health and hygiene information in migrant centres.
“We know that many displaced people depend on humanitarian assistance for survival, and during this crisis we must continue to look for alternate and innovative ways to deliver assistance, in conditions that protect the health of both displaced people as well as staff and volunteers involved,” said Elsharkawi. “They must not be forgotten.”
IFRC calls on all actors to ensure that migrants, internally displaced people and refugees are actively involved and considered in all response activities. They must have access to information about COVID-19 in a language they can understand as well as prevention measures and access to medical treatment in case of infection. The specific needs of women and children, the elderly and chronically ill, as well as those with disabilities among the displaced must also be addressed.
World Refugee Day is marked on 20 June each year to celebrate the courage and resilience of the tens of millions of people forced to flee their homes due to war or persecution.
In Beirut: Rana Sidani Cassou, Head of Communications for Middle East North Africa, +961 71 80 27 79, email@example.com
Nicole Robicheau, Communications and media coordinator for COVID-19 Response, + 1 514 663 0252, RRComms.MENA@ifrc.org
IFRC is the world’s largest humanitarian network, comprising 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies working to save lives and promote dignity around the world.