Close to Contagion

22 May 2020

The impact of COVID-19 on displaced and refugee girls and women.

Currently, as COVID-19 spreads across the world, an unprecedented 76.7 million people are living as refugees, or have been displaced inside their countries. 

Some 131 of the countries affected by COVID-19 have sizeable refugee populations and more than 80% of refugees are hosted in low- and middle-income countries including Uganda, Sudan, Pakistan and Turkey, with health systems that are ill-equipped to manage significant outbreaks.

Refugee and IDP camps are mostly chronically overcrowded and measures to avoid community transmission of the virus, such as physical distancing and frequent handwashing, are difficult to implement. The absence of basic amenities, such as clean running water and soap, insufficient medical personnel, and poor access to health information, let alone access to masks, will make avoiding infection virtually impossible.

Also, in many host countries, refugees’ entitlement to healthcare and social protection systems are restricted or non-existent, which increases their vulnerability even further.


The concern about an outbreak of COVID-19 in the camps cannot be overstated. The pandemic has consequences for everyone, but some groups are particularly vulnerable. Evidence shows that the impact of COVID-19 on girls and women – on their health, safety and opportunities for education and decent jobs – is making already difficult lives increasingly unendurable.

This report investigates the effects on girls’ and young women’s education, livelihoods, violence and sexual and reproductive health and rights. 

In addition, findings from consultations with adolescent girls and young women, show that, despite the challenges they face, adolescent girls demonstrate resilience, entrepreneurial skills, a desire to help others, optimism for the future.

Included are recommendations for response plans that relate to the needs of displaced and refugee girls and young women. 

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Education, Emergencies, Protection from violence, Sexual and reproductive health and rights, Skills and work, COVID-19, Education in emergencies, Water and sanitation