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UN Migration Ramps Up Coronavirus Response Worldwide

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By Jaya Ramachandran with IOM Press Release

GENEVA (IDN) – In the face of the number of rising new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has expanded the scope of its Global Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan (SPRP) to include far-reaching interventions that aim to mitigate the dire health and socio-economic impacts of the pandemic. A revised appeal was launched on April 15 for $499 million to support vital preparedness, response and recovery activities in over 140 countries.

The newly-launched SPRP – an update to the previous IOM appeal for $116.1 million – broadens the Organization’s approach to encompass COVID-19 mitigation efforts in humanitarian settings and numerous other contexts where people on the move are likely to be gravely affected by the pandemic’s impacts. These initiatives are being pursued collectively with all concerned governments, UN partners and the NGO community.

“IOM is calling for greater commitment from international donors that will allow us to better alleviate the dire effects that COVID-19 is having on some of the world’s most vulnerable communities,” said IOM’s Director General António Vitorino, while expressing gratitude for the contributions to date.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of April 15, more than 1.9 million cases and over 123,000 deaths have been reported worldwide. Declared a pandemic on March 11, the COVID-19 outbreak has also caused a sharp increase in movement restrictions both at international and local levels, including border closures and nation-wide quarantines. As of April 9, almost 46,000 restrictions on international travel have been enacted, according to IOM estimates.

As part of the UN’s global effort to tackle the health, social and economic consequences of the current crisis, IOM has been working with governments and partners to ensure that migrants, regardless of their legal status, returnees and forcibly displaced persons across the world are included in local, national and regional preparedness, response and recovery efforts. 

“When migrants and displaced communities are excluded from national response plans and services, particularly health care, everyone is at greater risk,” said Director General Vitorino.

“We also need to anticipate and prepare for the potentially dire economic consequences for migrants, host and source countries.”

Migrants will remain among the most vulnerable to loss of economic opportunities, eviction and homelessness, as well as stigmatization and exclusion from essential services. This will have a particularly drastic effect in countries where migrant workers contribute to poverty reduction, through remittances sent back home that allow their families to access basic services, medical care and education.

Millions of displaced and migrant populations living in camps and other overcrowded settings, many of whom are caught in conflict, are also highly vulnerable due to limited access to services and knowledge on how to protect themselves and their loved ones.

IOM’s revised plan, which remains aligned with the WHO’s COVID-19 plan and the COVID-19 UN-coordinated global humanitarian plan, focuses on four strategic priorities: (1) effective coordination and partnerships as well as mobility tracking; (2) preparedness and response measures for reduced morbidity and mortality; (3) efforts to ensure that affected people have access to basic services, commodities and protection; and (4) mitigation of the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19.

The Organization has been implementing measures since January. Thus far, IOM has:

  • Established treatment and isolation centres as well as handwashing stations in camps and camp-like settings;
  • Launched multilingual information campaigns and hotlines targeting migrants and displaced persons to prevent community transmission;
  • Trained government officials on surveillance in airports, sea ports and land border crossings;
  • Conducted mapping of human mobility trends and dynamics to inform preparedness plans and track information on stranded migrants;
  • Provided laboratory support for case detection;
  • Provided personal protective equipment and disinfection supplies at points of entry; and
  • Distribute humanitarian assistance to stranded migrants or quarantined returnees.

As the global co-lead on camp coordination and camp management (CCCM) in humanitarian responses, IOM provided assistance to 2.4 million people living in camps globally in 2019, and developed operational guidance for camp managers globally to anticipate the pandemic spreading to these vulnerable populations. The Organization also provided health services to 2.8 million people globally.

With more than 430 offices and 14,000 staff members across the world specialized in mobility-related aspects of health, community engagement, humanitarian response and labour, IOM is uniquely placed to respond to public health emergencies globally and help address the associated socio-economic consequences.

IOM’s Global Crisis Response Platform provides an overview of IOM’s plans and funding requirements to respond to the evolving needs and aspirations of those impacted by or at risk of crisis and displacement in 2020 and beyond. The Platform is regularly updated as crises evolve and new situations emerge. [IDN-InDepthNews – 16 April 2020]

Photo: IOM Libya staff assist migrants at a disembarkation point in Tripoli, Libya. Credit: IOM.

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