A Covid-19 information session taking place for displaced communities in Western Afghanistan

Coronavirus will decimate refugee communities if we don’t act now

Published 16. Mar 2020
Statement from Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council:

“As world leaders brace for the worst within their borders, they must not abandon those living outside them. We must turbocharge our humanity and stand in international solidarity with refugees and displaced people during this time of widespread uncertainty.

Millions of conflict-affected people are living in cramped refugee and displacement sites with desperately poor hygiene and sanitation facilities. When the virus hits overcrowded settlements in places like Iran, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Greece, the consequences will be devastating. We must act now.

There will also be carnage when the virus reaches parts of Syria, Yemen and Venezuela where hospitals have been demolished and health systems have collapsed.

Contingency planning for all countries must include vulnerable communities inside their borders. There must be flexibility from donors so that humanitarian organisations can scale up water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, improve the health response and take other necessary actions to help avoid a catastrophe.

We are now stepping up our work to provide sanitation and hygiene facilities and information in Afghanistan and Iran, but more is needed to ensure the most vulnerable are protected. In Iran, we are deeply concerned about the millions of Afghan refugees living in areas with extremely poor hygiene facilities and limited access to services. The country needs greater support.

Coronavirus doesn’t discriminate or play politics, and neither should the world when it comes to supporting those most at risk of contracting the illness. We must stay and deliver and not turn our backs on people living in countries that need the most support during these extraordinarily challenging times.”