Refugees and the Impact of Covid-19

by Mae-Line Provoost

Over the past year, COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the refugee community. The 79.5 million refugees displaced from their homes worldwide, were amongst the most vulnerable communities during the pandemic. The low accessibility of COVID tests has made it hard to estimate the approximate number of refugees who contracted COVID-19. Furthermore, developing countries have faced extreme challenges throughout the pandemic, as they were forced to handle more socio-economic and educational consequences. Developing countries are currently the home of 85 percent of the refugees in the world and this has made it hard for these countries to financially sustain the health of refugee communities. As a result, the lack of financial aid towards the refugee community has made it extremely challenging for refugees to access proper healthcare and supervision.

The effect of COVID-19 on the physical health of refugees:

A large number of refugees usually live in urban areas with higher rates of poverty. These urban areas do not often include proper healthcare systems for refugees. In addition, the way they are constructed does not allow people to properly social distance. Furthermore, the lack of hygiene products such as soap and the low availability of masks make refugees more vulnerable to COVID-19. It is also important to note that the accessibility to health care services or the purchase of surgical masks is financially expensive. Lastly, many refugees who currently reside in Lebanon do not have access to the healthcare provided in the country as they do not have the required identification. The issue is that many refugees do not have passports, or any modes of identification to benefit from proper medical care.

Although the COVID-19 crisis mainly affected the physical health of refugees, it has also had a huge impact on the following factors:

Mental Health:

  • The refugee community has already undergone many tragic events throughout their journey which played a huge role in their mental health. However, with COVID-19, refugees faced more mental hardships and stress due to their fear of catching COVID-19 and losing some of their family members.
  • Secondly, national lockdowns undergone by many countries have caused many refugees to develop feelings of loneliness which sometimes leads to more severe mental health issues.

“The need to support mental health assistance for displaced populations was critical before the pandemic but now we are dealing with an emergency and a picture of widespread despair.” — UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi

Economic Impacts:

  • Events such as national lockdowns have negatively impacted the annual income of refugees.
  • On a daily basis, refugees have relatively low revenue which means that lockdowns and the shut down of small businesses only worsened their financial situations as many refugees were deprived from their jobs.
  • The small income of refugees during the coronavirus pandemic was also a contributing factor to the lack of access to proper health systems.


United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 2021. UNHCR — Refugees and the impact of COVID-19. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 04 June 2021].

USGLC. 2021. COVID-19 Brief: Impact on Conflict & Refugees — USGLC. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 04 June 2021].



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