Updates on ongoing research on the impact of COVID-19 in crisis-affected countries

April 1, 2020

Statement– As a humanitarian organization deployed, notably via its REACH initiative, in many vulnerable and crisis-affected countries, IMPACT is deeply concerned by the devastating impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the millions of affected people we seek to serve. Those who are already facing severe and extreme humanitarian needs risk being made even more vulnerable by the spread of the corona virus. Affected populations find themselves in places that are overcrowded and where public health and other services are already overstretched and have limited capacity. It is therefore of utmost importance to evaluate and monitor the situation of those who are already vulnerable in order to help communities prepare and respond to the ongoing spread of the virus.

While a range of measures have previously been taken by IMPACT to protect its IMPACT and REACH staff at country level, and to the best degree possible affected populations too, IMPACT is currently up-scaling its efforts in relation to COVID-19. The goal is to identify practical ways to inform the COVID-19 response in the 20+ countries in which we operate, wherever we can make a difference and wherever information might be required

In practical terms, IMPACT commits to:

  • Leveraging and adapting existing and ongoing research to monitor and inform the humanitarian community about the vulnerability caused by COVID-19 and its impact on affected populations through ad-hoc briefing and analysis products. Many research tools and methodologies for collecting information employed by REACH can be geared to inform the effects of COVID-19 on markets, on the humanitarian situation, and on population movements.
  • Exploring the feasibility of new COVID-19 dedicated activities in each of the countries it operates in depending on the context and the information needs of major aid actors seeking to respond.

All updates regarding our upcoming research, key findings, and everything in relation to our activities responding to COVID-19 will be accessible in a thread below this statement.

Stay tuned for regular updates and please feel free to contact us for any further information, questions, or requests at the following email address: emilie.poisson (at) impact-initiatives.org

01/04 – Burkina Faso – REACH informs response planning in prevention to the spread of COVID-19 in Centre-Nord, Nord, and Sahel regions

Version française téléchargeable ici: 01/04-UPDATE-Burkina.Faso.FR

Amid the current COVID-19 outbreak in Burkina, humanitarian actors are increasingly concerned about the impact the disease could have on those already severely impacted by the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Indeed, aid groups in Burkina Faso were already responding to a rapidly evolving displacement crisis and to widespread needs in hard-to-reach areas. This is getting harder still as coronavirus cases rise. As of 29 March, the country had recorded more than 246 cases – one of the highest number in sub-Saharan Africa.

The rapid spread of COVID-19 in several regions of Burkina Faso poses a risk of spread to areas affected by the humanitarian crisis. In order to support response planning in prevention of the COVID-19 virus, REACH undertook a synthesis of February 2020 data collected in localities in the Centre-Nord, Sahel and Nord regions (through a monthly monitoring of the situation set up in November 2019) that may be relevant to the humanitarian response.

01/04 – Libya – Assessing the impact of the emerging crisis on social cohesion and access

Libya is currently in its ninth year of instability and conflict, leaving governance structures and service provision, including healthcare, severely undermined and deteriorated. The country is also home to a large migrant and refugee population who face protection risks, such as discrimination and the denial of access to services.

The impact of the spread of COVID-19 in the country is likely to exacerbate protection risks across Libya, especially for population groups who are already vulnerable such as migrants, refugees, and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Libyan authorities reported eight official cases of the novel virus and have already imposed measures to help combat the spread of the disease, such as curfews, movement restrictions and the banning of all gatherings. Although these policies are designed to protect the population from the emerging health crisis, they will likely result in a worsening of the humanitarian situation in the country.

Against this backdrop, REACH is launching a Protection Monitoring assessment to track access to information, services and livelihoods among the population in Libya during the COVID-19 health crisis in order to identify any protection concerns or other needs. In the current situation, access to reliable information, public services and livelihood opportunities are essential for the well-being of the population. This assessment will monitor the rapidly evolving situation by looking at the impact of the pandemic on access as well as the effect the crisis is having on social cohesion. In particular, the assessment will focus on the barriers that vulnerable populations face by assessing the extent to which the impact of the crisis is exacerbating existing or new inequalities.

31/03 – Iraq – Mapping IDPs and returnees vulnerable to COVID-19

As of 25 March, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recorded 354 cases and 29 deaths due to COVID-19 in Iraq. This is in a country with approximately 1.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 6.7 million people already in need of humanitarian assistance.

Despite the end of outright conflict, insecurity, lack of social cohesion and livelihoods, and damaged or destroyed housing continue to hamper people’s ability to return home. Displaced people in and out of camp settings, as well as returnees who have not been able to return to their original homes, continue to depend on the provision of humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs. Camp services and infrastructure are strained to meet minimum standards for the people displaced in 135 existing camps, and resources are needed to provide for those living in informal settings.

To raise awareness, enable prevention, and support preparedness efforts, REACH has mapped populations vulnerable to COVID-19 among IDPs and returnees in Iraq. These include people age 65 and above and/or with a pre-existing health condition. REACH estimates that 27,500 in-camp IDPs, 97,600 out-of-camp IDPs and 312,300 returnees are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

For more detailed information, access the individual maps for IDPs in camps, out of camps and returnees here: https://www.impact-repository.org/document/reach/e306534c/REACH_IRQ_Map_COVID19_VulnerablePopulations_ByGroup_March2020_A4-1.pdf

31/03 – Afghanistan – Gearing data collection tools and methodologies to anticipate response and prepare highly vulnerable communities

About 9.4 million Afghans currently rely on humanitarian assistance. The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic into the country could seriously disrupt the delivery of aid to the nearly 10 million Afghans who need it.

The border regions are currently the main flashpoint for concern – both for containing the virus, as well as the broader impacts on humanitarian operations in a country facing conflict, natural hazards, and overarching food instability.

More than 62,000 Afghans – a record weekly total – crossed the border from Iran between 15-21 March, as Afghanistan’s western neighbor deals with one of the world’s most severe corona-virus outbreaks.

In this context, REACH is supporting the Inter-Cluster Coordination Team (ICCT) and the ECHO-funded Emergency Response Team in revising the HEAT: a key household emergency assessment tool used by humanitarian actors. The HEAT will be geared to include key COVID-19 relevant indicators and streamline collection of data to inform the response.

In addition, REACH is facilitating the launch of a partner-led Joint Market Monitoring Exercise, in coordination with the Cash and Voucher Working Group, to assess affordability and availability of essential goods and impact of the current crisis on market functionality.

Also, in further anticipation of the need to advocate for some of the most at-risk communities in Afghanistan, REACH is gearing up to provide information, through remote sensing and key informant interviews, on presumed-to-be highly vulnerable informal settlements.

More information on the coming assessments, such as key findings, analysis and links to the full reports, will be made available in this thread.

30/03 – Niger – Vulnerabilities in the Tillabéri region risk compounding COVID-19 proliferation

Since November 2019 REACH has been monitoring the humanitarian situation and the multi-sectoral needs of affected populations in 3 border area between Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali. The information collected, including from hard-to-reach areas, is used to inform aid workers about humanitarian needs, accessibility of services, and the dynamics linked to displacement.

In the Tillabéri region of Niger, information collected in February shows that this area harbors departments with significant vulnerabilities in the event of COVID-19 proliferation for several factors:

Food – Depending on the progress of the pandemic, and the potential for stricter measures to combat the spread of the virus, food markets may close. This represents a crucial risk in certain places where the purchase of food via markets constitutes the main source of food for the majority of the population.

Trade and access – 30% of assessed areas in the departments of Ouallam, Ayerou, Tillabéri, Tera and Filingue declared that trade was the main livelihood activity for the majority of the population. These localities will face repercussions on household food security as well as difficulties to access basic services such as health and education.

Health – 30% of assessed areas in the departments of Banibangou and Ayerou, as well as 15% in the departments of Filingue and Tillabéri have difficulty accessing health services within walking distance. These difficulties stem from the lack of health infrastructure and the prevailing insecurity in certain areas. This situation is concerning because potential patients are likely to have difficulty accessing nearby health services (which could worsen cases) while the health system would also be difficult to provide care in the event of COVID-19 proliferation.

Illnesses – Even more worrying, in a quarter of the localities assessed in the areas of Ouallam, Ayerou, Abala and Torodi, respiratory problems were the main health problem during the previous month. Therefore, special attention should be paid by health and government actors to these localities, respiratory problems being an aggravating factor of COVID-19 infection.

Hygiene – Access to water is problematic in the areas of Bankilaré, Abala, Gotheye and Ouallam (more than 30 minutes to reach and return from a water source in more than 40% of the localities assessed). This finding is worrying since the availability of water is essential for compliance with hygiene standards, essential for stopping the spread of the new coronavirus. In almost all of the localities assessed in each department, the majority of the population did not wash their hands with soap or ash. In addition, soap is one of the most unavailable non-food items in more than half of the localities assessed in each department. In this particular context of prevention against COVID-19, the distribution of household items necessary for prevention constitute a priority among the non-food items to be distributed.

Proximity – As demonstrated by multisectoral assessments in previous months, the accommodation of displaced persons (IDPs) by host communities causes overcrowding and promotes overcrowding. In the case of containment measures, this overcrowding of shelters in localities hosting IDPs could promote the spread of the disease and complicate the implementation of potential containment / isolation measures.

French version: 30/03.NER-update.FR.pdf.

For a closer look at the key findings and data sourced for analysis above, feel free to download excel fact-sheet (available only in french): https://www.impact-repository.org/document/reach/1f78a67b/REACH_NER_-Data_HSM-Prevention-COVID-19-Tillaberi_Fevrier-2020-1.xlsx

30/03 – Colombia – Evaluating the economic impact of COVID-19 for a better response

The 52 year armed conflict between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government officially ended with the signature of the peace accords in 2016, however, since 2018 violence has again been on the rise. Decades of violence and abuses by the National Liberation Army (ELN), FARC and its dissidents and other paramilitary groups has forced 8 million people to flee their homes since the mid-80s. In neighbouring Venezuela the deterioration of social, economic and political structures coupled with long-lasting hyperinflation and trade sanctions have significantly impacted the food security, nutrition and access to basic needs of Venezuelans, forcing near to 5 million to flee, including approximately 1.5m who have stayed in Colombia.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Colombian Ministry of Health and Social Protection declared a health emergency, adopting health measures to control the spread of the disease on 12 March. On 13 March, the border with Venezuela was ordered closed, and by the 24 March all sea, land and river borders were sealed and the arrival of all international flights was banned. Since the 25 March, the whole of Colombia entered an enforced quarantine.

With all official routes into the country blocked, migrants who attempt to cross into Colombia will be forced to do so through irregular migration pathways. These illegal crossing points are controlled by illegal armed militias, which will put already extremely vulnerable persons at considerable further risk of exploitation, violence and insecurity. The border closures will also affect Venezuelans who rely on back-and-forth movement across the border for medicine, medical supplies, and other necessities, as well as Venezuelans inside Colombia – especially those who are not registered, as many are living in cramped informal sites with limited access to WASH and health facilities – as well as Colombian host community or Colombian internally displaced.

To aid and support the COVID-19 humanitarian response in Colombia, REACH is currently supporting the following two assessments:

  • REACH is supporting the “Grupo Interagencial sobre Elujos Migratorios Mixtos” (GIFFM) to launch a remote rapid assessment for COVID-19 to better understand the multi-sectoral needs of Venezuelans in Colombia, as well as barriers to complying with COVID-19 preventative measures
  • In coordination with the Cash Working Group of Colombia, REACH is launching a rapid assessment is to understand and evaluate the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on the level of access and functionality of markets to supply basic needs related to food and hygiene products. The aim is to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to inform the humanitarian response during this health emergency.

All information products released on the situation in Colombia will be made available on our dedicated country page, as well as on the REACH Resource Centre. Make sure to check back on this thread for regular reporting.

30/03 – South Sudan – Monthly assessment of hard-to-reach areas geared to guide COVID-19 response

Five years of civil war in South Sudan has led to large-scale internal displacement and refugee outflow to neighbouring Sudan and Uganda, and has largely deteriorated food security conditions for the entire country. Over 3.6 million people are estimated to be displaced, including 1.4 million internally, and 2.2 million refugees. In addition, South Sudan is hosting nearly 300,000 refugees from Sudan, DRC, Ethiopia and CAR. Over 4.5 million South Sudanese are likely to face acute food insecurity in 2020, with more than 3.5 million in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and nearly 1 million in Emergency (IPC Phase 4).

Any outbreak of COVID-19 in South Sudan is expected to further limit food production and severely reduce access to humanitarian assistance and livelihood coping strategies. The deteriorated humanitarian situation will be compounded by low access to healthcare services, and a generally weakened national economy.

Since December 2015, REACH has been working in the country to inform humanitarian actors working outside formal settlement sites by assessing hard-to-reach areas. Data is collected on a monthly basis through interviews with approx. 1850 key informants that are then triangulated with focus group discussions.

Building on this monthly assessment, REACH will be adjusting the next round of data collection by adapting questionnaires to deliver key messages to KIs about COVID-19 and how to prevent its spread. The assessment will also collect information concerning the capacity of health facilities, and predicted behaviour change of affected populations, to guide humanitarian preparedness and community engagement strategies. Analysis will also continue to highlight areas which have a convergence of high needs and are therefore most susceptible to changes in humanitarian aid delivery.

All information products released on the situation in South Sudan will be made available on our dedicated country page, as well as on the REACH Resource Centre. Make sure to check back on this thread for regular reporting.