COVID-19 and the Other One Percent: An Agenda for the Forcibly Displaced Six Months into the Emergency

Lang, H.
Publication language
Date published
15 Jul 2020
COVID-19, Epidemics & pandemics, Forced displacement and migration, Internal Displacement, Refugee Camps, Livelihoods, Shelter and housing, Urban
Refugees International

Almost six months after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared an international public health emergency, COVID-19 cases globally total more than 13 million.  The epicenter has shifted from China and Europe to Latin America, even as the rates of infection in the United States once again spike. Fortunately, some of the world’s most vulnerable populations have so far been spared the worst of the pandemic. However, that is now changing, particularly for those forced from their homes by violence or natural disaster.

There are now more than 79 million refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people worldwide. Together, they make up almost one percent of the global population. The vast majority come from or reside in low-income countries where COVID-19 infection rates are growing fastest. Humanitarian aid agencies and host governments have been working hard to prevent outbreaks in these communities. But much of this vulnerable other “one percent” will have felt the impact of the pandemic long before the virus arrives.

In March, Refugees International laid out the main factors that make forcibly displaced people so vulnerable to the virus, along with recommendations for key measures to guide the response. Those recommendations have stood the test of time. Nonetheless, over the last three months, the virus has spread in both expected and unanticipated ways. Measures to contain that spread have had enormous and often unintended consequences, particularly for those in need of humanitarian assistance. Drawing on this experience, this brief identifies five key areas of priority to help guide ongoing and future efforts to protect highly vulnerable populations over the next stage of the pandemic.

Lang, H.