COVID-19 Impacts 10 Million Vulnerable People In West, Central Africa, IOM Says

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There are at least 10 million vulnerable people who are impacted by COVID-19 in West and Central Africa. Photo: IOM/Mohamed Diabaté.
Around 10 million migrants and other mobile populations in West and Central Africa are significantly affected by COVID-19 pandemic.

The obviously worried International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is calling on its partners and the donor community to support its $54,158,500 Regional Preparedness and Response Plan to strengthen resilience among the affected populations.

With the severe mobility, health and socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis reverberating across West and Central Africa, rapid, targeted action is needed to prevent further spread of the pandemic.

Given the region’s fragile health systems, such action is crucial to mitigate the crisis’ impact on migrants, displaced persons, refugees and other vulnerable populations.

IOM acting Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Sophie Nonnenmacher, says “the COVID-19 pandemic is a public health crisis that has hit all countries without discrimination.

“However, many countries in the region were already facing substantial challenges before the outbreak, including growing security challenges, inter-communal tensions and violent extremism.”

The socio-economic and mobility impacts of COVID-19 have piled new burdens upon already fragile economies, reducing – and often eliminating – incomes, lowering economic growth, and decreasing remittances relied upon by millions.

Continuing, Nonnenmacher said, “over six million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the region are almost exclusively reliant on humanitarian aid, which has also been impacted by restrictions on mobility.

“IDPs who had previously been able to earn wages through the informal local labour market – and supplement aid they received – are now unable to, given restrictions on entry and exit from many IDP camps throughout the region.”

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, IOM has helped more than 6,000 migrants stranded because of border closures safely return home in partnership with regional governments and through the COVID-19 Emergency Fund under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration.

IOM also has partnered with community leaders—including migrant associations—to raise awareness on COVID-19 preventive measures and for solidarity, reaching hundreds of thousands of people across the region.

IOM Senior Regional Advisor for Sub-Saharan Africa, Aissata Kane, says “we must remember that COVID-19 adds another layer of complexity to an already fragile situation in a region characterised by multiple vulnerabilities, namely limited basic social services and social protection schemes, low-income economies, large informal sectors and limited livelihood options, climate change, land degradation and water scarcity.”

Read the IOM Regional Preparedness and Response Plan for West and Central Africa here.

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