Active COVID-19 (C19) cases are reported in 31 of 32 countries where Protection Clusters coordinate protection response. The true number of cases is likely higher than the official one due to weak reporting systems, deliberate control of figures, lack of testing facilities, the cost of testing, and COVID-related stigma. The complex, changing circumstances of the C19 pandemic pose ongoing challenges to assuring protection and assistance for affected communities.
In 2020, COVID-19 is a crisis within crises, with major needs driven by conflict, violence, climate change. Now there are stark warnings that the secondary impacts of C19 could double the number of people facing hunger globally and substantially increase poverty. These crises combined are leaving many people with only bad options: adverse survival strategies.
The Global Protection Cluster (GPC) is concerned by increasing reports of communities adopting adverse coping strategies as the socio-economic impact of C19 hits hard. In this reporting period, almost all operations indicated a combination of economic decline, lockdown measures, and loss of livelihoods or income from remittances as exhausting individual and family resources, exacerbating immediate assistance needs, and creating conditions for exploitation and abuse to thrive. Transactional sex, early marriage, child recruitment and trafficking in persons were reported across operations. Governments are increasingly under pressure to ease lockdown, particularly to enable people to work, despite no signal that C19 transmission rates are falling or contained.
The Protection Cluster reports of deteriorating protection conditions come at the same time as the IMF’s World Economic Outlook (June 2020) announces that the C19 pandemic is having a more negative impact on economic activity in the first half of 2020 than anticipated, and the recovery is projected to be more gradual than previously forecast. A shift in the overall C19 response, from a focus on immediate health needs, to wider socio-economic survival, is now critical to halt adoption of adverse coping strategies, and the related violations these can entail. More than ever, protection action – alongside livelihood and other humanitarian, peace and development aid – is needed to reduce risks and prevent suffering.