Global Humanitarian Impact of COVID-19
United Church of Christ – Wider Church Ministries
Humanitarian Development Team
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Daily Briefing
Barbara T. Baylor, MPH – Temporary Health Liaison
Global Humanitarian Impact of COVID-19
As COVID-19 continues to spread quickly around the world, humanitarian organizations are struggling to provide much needed financial and social services as budgets dwindle. Organizations are shuttered and forced to furlough or fire staff as they contend with their own financial woes. In addition, they must think about the safety of their workers, volunteers and clients.
According to The New Humanitarian, key services have been scaled back or suspended. Health access has plummeted, particularly for women and girls. Other disease outbreaks are emerging. And more people are facing food insecurity as economies tumble. The rapidly evolving outbreak is pushing aid groups to plan for new responses in communities already facing long-running crises, and forcing a re-think of how the sector operates when resources are stretched.
Today’s brief will provide a snapshot from The New Humanitarian of how COVID-19 has disrupted humanitarian aid efforts around the globe and what is being watched.
1. Funding: Humanitarian price tag soars
The cost of responding to COVID-19’s humanitarian impacts is rising. On May 6, the United Nations announced a $6.7 billion appeal, updating the original, half-funded $2 billion appeal launched in March. The new tally adds billions on top of humanitarian response plans budgeted at more than $28 billion before the pandemic. These pre-COVID-19 responses were only 13 percent funded as of early May, according to the United Nations. Beyond the immediate humanitarian impacts, the cost of helping the world’s most vulnerable to weather COVID-19’s socio-economic repercussions could total $90 billion, according to United Nations estimates. (7 May)
2. Attacks on healthcare: Workers face rising violence
Violence against frontline health staff working on COVID-19 has risen dramatically since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak to be a pandemic in March, according to Insecurity Insight, a Geneva-based group tracking threats in crisis areas. The group has recorded more than 265 violent incidents related to COVID-19.
3. Infectious diseases: Outbreaks emerge as millions miss vaccinations
There are early signs of what postponed vaccination programs may bring. Afghanistan is reporting polio infections in provinces that haven’t seen cases for two decades, according to the United Nations. Illnesses from other vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and cholera are also expected to rise in the coming weeks as COVID-19 restrictions derail immunization campaigns.
4. Non-communicable diseases: Severe disruptions to treatment
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted treatment for cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and other non-communicable diseases across the globe, according to a World Health organization survey published June 1. Half of 155 countries polled in May reported disruptions to treatment for diabetes and hypertension. Low-income countries are the hardest hit.
5. Justice: COVID-19 erodes women’s legal access
Women are feeling the legal impact of COVID-19 – particularly in areas already facing humanitarian emergencies. Lockdown restrictions have meant bigger lag times in getting divorces, restraining orders, and childcare agreements, according to a report published by the Washington-based Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security.
6. Aid: Oxfam phasing out 18 country offices
With finances “seriously impacted” by the COVID-19 pandemic, Oxfam, the global movement of people working to end the injustice of poverty, said it would phase out 18 of its country offices due to the financial impact of COVID-19.
7. Food: COVID-19 could double the number of acutely hungry people
According to projections from the United Nations World Food Program, the number of acutely hungry people worldwide could nearly double from 135 million to 265 million as a result of COVID-19 unless swift action is taken. Many countries facing severe food crises don’t have the resources to stage large-scale COVID-19 responses on top of protecting livelihoods and family income, according to an annual report on global food insecurity drafted before the pandemic. (23 April)
8. Education: Frontline NGOs say girls most affected by school closures
Education nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) fear school closures caused by COVID-19 are raising the risk of violence and child marriage and increasing school leaving among girls, reports a survey by the Washington-based Centre for Global Development. More than two thirds of NGOs surveyed said girls were disproportionately affected.
9. Economy: Shutdowns squeeze global remittances
Money sent home to developing countries by relatives working abroad far exceeds global aid flows, providing income that can help during crises. These remittances were estimated at $554 billion in 2019. But as migrant workers are laid off in economies hit by COVID-19 shutdowns, global remittances could plummet by one-fifth, or $110 billion this year.
10. Protective equipment: Shipping channels (and prices) take flight
It will cost aid groups $280 million to store and ship vital protective supplies and to transport humanitarian workers and other personnel, according to the WHO and WFP. Each month, COVID-19 responses around the world will need at least 100 million masks and gloves, 25 million respirators, and 2.5 million diagnostic tests, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. Costs of supplies have skyrocketed. In Uganda, for example, a pack of 50 disposable masks, once $2, now sells for $40, according to the NGO BRAC. This is not sustainable.
Despite the depth of human suffering that we see every day, we are uplifted by the signs of human solidarity, resilience, and resistance exhibited during this pandemic. With closed borders, physical distancing, and the stark and swift rise in numbers of people affected by COVID-19, we see our partners persevere and continue their inspiring work. Despite risks and restrictions, they move us to respond with like perseverance and compassion. – Global Ministries Area Executives Report