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COVID-19: Impact On Critical Mobility Plan For Urban Refugees

Currently, different countries have staged Covid-19 unlocking processes. It is good news for millions of people around world. Now, global tension about pandemic is slowly easing. Although, the challenge is not over yet. Many urban refugees are forced move due to conflict, persecution, and poverty. In one of the stories, Robert Hakiza among other refugees fled from DRC (Democratic Republic Of Congo) around 12 years ago. Now he stays in Kampala with his family. Being aware of challenges and obstacles affecting urban refugees, he co-founded YARID (Young African Refugees For Integral Development). Back in 2007, his organization offered classes on language, vocational training, and other services to all refugees. Now Hakiza is founding member of Global Refugee-led network. In his experience, against general idea of displacement that is considered dis empowering act, in fact, it is particularly safe and could help in building better livelihood.

Impact Of COVID-19 On Mobility

Today, much of world is facing same issues. And, same measure has been used for containment. For example, border closure, lock down, physical distancing, and restricted access to local as well as international transportation. The very coping mechanism used by refugees includes overcoming challenges. Presently, COVID-19 outspread has halted movement of people, money, and goods. It has also impacted to adaptive mechanisms nearly eliminating them. So, given normal circumstances, refugees health, economic and social activities all depend on social networks. These social networks include faith-based groups, women’s groups, and other community networks. All these social networks have been impacted and created socio-economic vulnerabilities.

Immobilized People, Money And Goods

Communities in Global North, as well as countries like Uganda, South Africa, and Kenya, took a large hit by lock downs. People here are experiencing job losses and illnesses. All remittance has been immobilized. Moreover, what was left is rapidly diminishing. All cross-border trade is used to secure food and livelihood. In Beitbridge border post (one of busiest border post) current global situation (Covid-19) has impacted all livelihood strategies. Most of female informal traders are facing massive setbacks.

YARID Response To COVID-19

Across second largest continent, although response packages are mentioned on papers but reality is far from it. In other words, access to relief package in African countries requires national identification. Therefore, all urban refugees are facing deep insecurity in food and income. With no official assistance for urban refugees, YARID stepped into action and provided refugees food and other essentials. For example, Flour, soap, beans, sugar, and oil for cooking. As of now, YARID has reached to +200 households, all identified by community network. Such actions often bridge unique challenges faced by refugees to temporary solutions. Still funding and capital remains a serious barrier.

Moving Onwards

In YARID experience, government, development bodies, civil society, and organizations should not exclude refugees from plans. Also, they should not exclude refugees from contributing and implementing responses to current global panic situations. Following is basic list of recommendation to be taken under consideration especially by government:

  1. First one first includes refugees in response package and ensuring that required to receive relief also include refugees.
  2. Development bodies and government must collaborate with organizations entrusted by refugees.
  3. Government bodies must be supported in the implementation of screening and quarantining considering public health risks.
  4. Government must consider unintended consequences of border closure. Such action may drive more people to engage in irregular movement, including smuggling.
  5. Lastly, increasing safety nets to refugees to cover basic food, water, and shelter needs.

Wrapping Up

Today there is a growing trend of refugees populating settling in urban areas instead rural campsites. Crowded cities and urban environments are quickly becoming hindrance for refugees to acquire basic needs and livelihood. Now it is time to shift perspective of refugees burden felt by host communities. Many previous researches have shown than self-reliant refugees could benefit host economy.

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