#UNHCR; #Refugees; #Covi19Pandemic; #climateCange; #Treatment; #displacedPeople; #IOM; #WHO
New York/Canadian-Media: We are writing to you on behalf of the millions around the world struggling to survive the COVID-19 pandemic far from home. Some have been forced to flee wars, conflict, persecution and human rights violations. Others are on the move to escape socioeconomic hardship or the consequences of climate change.
COVID-19 vaccines in cold storage. Image credit: © UNHCR/Jose Cendon
As strangers far from home, many are at risk of exclusion or neglect. Owing to their living situation, many face barriers accessing vaccinations, testing, treatment, care, and even reliable information.
It is a stark reality that some of the world’s poorest countries shoulder the greatest responsibility for supporting displaced people and other people on the move. They need a reliable and adequate supply of vaccines and other critical supplies to stabilize their fragile and over-burdened health systems, to help save the lives of their citizens, migrants, as well as refugees and other displaced people they host.
Yet the current vaccine equity gap between wealthier and low resource countries demonstrates a disregard for the lives of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. For every 100 people in high-income countries, 133 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, while in low-income countries, only 4 doses per 100 people have been administered.
Vaccine inequity is costing lives every day, and continues to place everyone at risk. History and science make it clear: coordinated action with equitable access to public health resources is the only way to face down a global public health scourge like COVID-19. We need a strong, collective push to save lives, reduce suffering and ensure a sustainable global recovery.
And while vaccines are a very powerful tool, they’re not the only tool. Tests are needed to know where the virus is, treatments including dexamethasone and medical oxygen are needed to save lives, and tailored public health measures are needed to prevent transmission.
As the leaders of the world’s largest economies, you have the power and responsibility to help stem the pandemic by expanding access to vaccines and other tools for the people and places where these are in shortest supply.
We welcome the fact that this weekend’s summit in Rome will call for “courage and ambition” to tackle some of the greatest challenges of our time, and specifically the need to recover from the pandemic and overcome inequality. We collectively call on you, G20 leaders, to commit to:
#UNHCR; #Refugees; #MentalHealth
New York/Canadian-Media: Ahead of World Mental Health Day on 10 October, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is calling on the international community to boost quality mental health support for refugees, internally displaced and stateless people.
Syrian refugee Falak Selo (right) talks to her mother and sister in Akre camp, northern Iraq, where she provides mental health support to other refugees (26 January, 2020). © UNHCR/Seivan MSalim
“COVID-19 has taken a devastating toll on people forced to flee,” said Sajjad Malik, Director of UNHCR’s Division of Resilience and Solutions. “The long, protracted nature of the pandemic and its deleterious health, economic and social impacts are exacerbating the stress and anxiety felt by many of those displaced. As livelihoods and fragile social support systems crumble, they need help more than ever to cope through the crisis and rebuild their lives.”
UNHCR teams are reporting increased numbers of people seeking help for anxiety and depression. In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, psychologists at refugee camps reported a sharp rise in counseling sessions – both in-person and remotely. In Peru, in the first seven months of this year, there was a 100 per cent increase in calls and referrals to mental health and psychosocial support services, when compared to the same period last year.
Before the pandemic, access to mental health care was already limited. The COVID-19 lockdowns put services under greater strain. UNHCR and partners maintained services for those who were most in need through adapted community outreach and provision of essential medication. In 2021, normal service provision is progressively being restored. With increasing needs, however, access to quality mental health care remains a challenge.
“Bouncing back to the pre-pandemic situation is not enough. Stronger efforts are needed to ensure that refugees, internally displaced and stateless people can access mental health and psychosocial support services on an equal footing as nationals,” added Malik. “Given the increased needs, we reiterate our call to the international community for more support to sustain and strengthen these life-saving activities.”
UNHCR has continuously been advocating for states to integrate mental health services into primary healthcare, which should be made universally accessible.
Since the start of the pandemic, UNHCR has provided mental health and psychosocial support services to more than 850,000 people forced to flee. It has also been working to train first line responders, integrate mental health and psychosocial wellbeing into refugee education programs, and assist people with severe or complex mental health conditions.