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Why millions of IDPs are especially vulnerable to COVID-19

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All are vulnerable, but tens of millions of internally displaced people – often in crowded conditions and without access to water and sanitation, healthcare and government support – are especially so.

The world’s interconnectedness and its vulnerability are front and centre of our lives right now, in the face of the global spread of Coronavirus, Covid-19. Despite the physical distance that separates us, we are in fact coming together.

And yet the most vulnerable people in the world – not least many of its 40+ million internally displaced people (IDPs) – simply cannot ‘self-isolate’, enjoy the levels of water and sanitation, and respond to illness in the way that billions in their own homes can.

Whether IDPs have been forced to flee their homes by conflict or violence or disaster, they are all the more vulnerable because so many of them struggle daily to access proper health and sanitation.

So our thoughts at IDMC, as always, are with the internally displaced.

We collate and then ‘triangulate’ our data from many sources, and often that data takes weeks or months to be generated. Thus far, we are picking up sporadic news of some reported incidents of internal displacement caused by Coronavirus, as households and educational establishments may be evacuated. More obviously, we are picking up reported incidents of sickness amongst IDPs themselves, for instance in Iraq. We are also trying to follow especially vulnerable IDP situations, for instance in Burkina Faso, Syria, Venezuela and Palestine, and also instances of Government action to prevent the spread of Coronavirus amongst IDPs, as in Iraq.

We stand with and support our partners. The Norwegian Refugee Council reminds us of 10 things we need to know about displaced people and the Coronavirus. The UN system has mobilised. UNHCR alongside OHCHR stress the imperative of helping vulnerable people, and UNHCR is launching an appeal for its work to support Coronavirus preparedness, prevention, and response - for both refugees and IDPs. It can already show powerful examples of successful work in places like Kenya, Iraq, and Bangladesh. Our friends in OCHA and IOM and many agencies around the world are doing the same.

We will provide updates where we can. Please – partners, donors, press, and all who care for IDPs the world over in all their challenges – feel free to be in touch at info@idmc.ch.