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UNHCR Asia and the Pacific COVID-19 External Update (28 October 2020)

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Highlights by country

South-West Asia


  • The socio-economic impact of COVID-19 in Afghanistan is dramatic, with food insecurity levels now similar to those seen during the 2018 drought according to OCHA. An estimated 14.7 million people were experiencing acute food insecurity from August to October 2020. Looking forward, it is estimated that 17 million people will be in crisis or emergency food insecurity from November 2020 to March 2021, 5.5 million of whom are at ‘emergency’ level food insecurity (IPC 4). According to WFP’s market monitoring, the average wheat flour price increased by 9% between 14 March – 14 October, while the cost of pulses, sugar, cooking oil and rice increased by between 18-25%. The price increases were accompanied by a declining purchasing power among casual labourers and pastoralists (7% and 11%, respectively, compared to 14 March).

  • A proposal to secure USD 300,000 from the 5th Reserve Allocation for the cash for protection programme – a new activity introduced as part of UNHCR’s COVID-19 response – has been approved by the Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan. Through this funding from the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund, UNHCR will reach around 1,400 vulnerable households through its cash for protection programme. UNHCR and partners are currently carrying out the verification of vulnerable households, following which the distribution of a one-time cash grant of USD 195 per household will take place.

Islamic Republic of Iran

  • Refugees who were without an income during the pandemic have resorted to borrowing money from relatives and friends and have now accumulated considerable debt. Consequently, they are compelled to resort to negative coping mechanisms, such as selling household items and taking children out of school. Through its hotlines, UNHCR continues to receive calls from refugees who have been laid off by employers due to the economic slowdown, and now are unable to find another source of income.


  • UNHCR began the renewal process of asylum-seeker certificates and refugee cards for the registered population residing in Islamabad, Punjab, Sindh and Pakistan Administered Kashmir. Distribution is in progress, engaging only one member of concerned families to receive the documentation on behalf of all, thus ensuring compliance with COVID-19 protocols for social distancing. UNHCR is planning to start the refugee cards’ renewal process for other areas in Pakistan.