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UNDP/UNHCR 3RP Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan, in Response to the Syria Crisis: Covid-19 Response (April 2020)

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OVID-19 is having a profound impact on all 3RP countries – Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt – and is likely to have far-reaching health and socio-economic impacts in the medium term. These countries collectively host over 5.5 million registered Syrian refugees, as well as additional refugees, asylum-seekers and other vulnerable groups of many nationalities.

Impact of COVID-19

COVID-19 is having a profound impact on all 3RP countries – Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt – and is likely to have far-reaching health and socio-economic impacts in the medium term. These countries collectively host over 5.5 million registered Syrian refugees, as well as additional refugees, asylum-seekers and other vulnerable groups of many nationalities. Impact of COVID-19 In the face of a growing pandemic, host governments have adopted necessary public health measures to limit the spread of the virus among the population, including refugees and vulnerable host communities alike. Preliminary assessments and evidences on C OVID-impacts point to several worrisome trends emerging across 3RP countries.

The COVID -19 crisis is exacerbating vulnerabilities among both refugee and host communities. While poverty and unemployment rates for Syrian refugees were already high prior to the onset of COVID-19, Syrian refugees face even greater challenges in earning a livelihood, covering basic needs such as shelter or food and accessing key services such as healthcare. As the vast majority of refugees live in urban or peri- urban environments, often in densely populated areas or shelters, social distancing and/or limiting outdoor activities are extremely difficult to implement. Against such a backdrop, protection risks, such as sexual and gender-based violence, child labour, and exploitation, are heightened, while the use of negative coping mechanisms may rise.

Likewise, for host communities, business closures and other measures have significantly reduced income and livelihoods opportunities for vulnerable men and women, who now face higher risks of unemployment, underemployment and impoverishment. Many, particularly informal workers, are not covered by social security or other safety nets, which makes it increasingly difficult for them to meet their needs. Women are particularly affected, bearing increased domestic and care burdens and facing increased risks of domestic violence. Access to quality health services beyond the scope of COVID-19 is also becoming a challenge.

Essential services across the region continue to be impacted. National health systems are the main points of access for primary healthcare for Syrian refugees who are generally either eligible to receive healthcare on the same basis as nationals or able to have access to a range of subsidized primary healthcare services. Yet, the combination of pre-existing strains on the systems and the COVID-19 impact means systems are overburdened. The same phenomena can be seen with other infrastructure, such as municipal water and sanitation services, upon which entire communities rely, refugees and host communities alike, adding to vulnerabilities.

Meanwhile, closures of schools and educational institutions have also left many vulnerable children and young people without access to quality education. Disruptions in economic activities and supply chains for key goods and services due to lockdowns are also negatively impacting government revenues, making the delivery of public services even more challenging.

In some countries, the prevailing conditions, as well as potential misinformation and misperceptions about COVID-19, mean there is also an increased risk of tensions between host and refugee communities.