The COVID-19 pandemic has had a highly negative impact on the living and working conditions of refugees and migrants reveals a new WHO study, launched yesterday on International Migrants Day.
More than 30,000 refugees and migrants from different regions around the world participated in the first ever survey to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their mental and physical health as well as their ability to work and support themselves. They were asked to grade the impact on a scale from 0 (nothing at all) to 10 (extreme). The average impact assessment reported was 7.5.
“Refugees and migrants live and work in often-harsh conditions with inadequate access to health, housing, water, sanitation and other basic services,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “It is vital for all countries to reduce barriers that prevent refugees and migrants from obtaining health care, and to include them in national health policies”
More than half the respondents across different parts of the world say that COVID-19 brought about greater level of depression, fear, anxiety and loneliness. One in five also talked about a deterioration of mental health and increased use of drug and alcohol.
Limited access to information due to language and cultural barriers, coupled with the marginalization of refugees and migrant communities, place them amongst the hardest to reach populations when information is disseminated.
Undocumented migrants are often excluded from national health programmes or social protection schemes that could facilitate access to health and social services. Many do not seek health care, including for COVID-19, due to financial constraints or fear of deportation.
The report underlines the need and importance of including refugees and migrants in inclusive policy responses to COVID-19. The aim is to draw of the findings of the survey to expand research and evidence gathering from across the world to better understand how the pandemic has created increasingly difficult living conditions for refugees and migrants.