Economic side effects of COVID worse for some than actual virus, warns UN

Jimmy Nsubuga
·2 min read
Refugees look on from the Eleonas camp during a demonstration by solidarity groups calling for enrolment of all the refugee children to public schools and equal rights to education.in Athens on February 14, 2021. - Amid the lockdown in the country which affects the refugee camps, only some 5000 refugee children from 31,000 living in Greece attend schools or online education, according to KEERFA (Movement United Against Racism). (Photo by LOUISA GOULIAMAKI / AFP) (Photo by LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Refugees look on from the Eleonas camp in Athens. (Getty)

The economic side effects of COVID-19 have been worse for some poorer people than the actual virus, a United Nations official has said.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi warned refugees, displaced and stateless people had lost opportunities to make money to survive due to lockdowns around the world.

“Where I think the impact has been quite dramatic and we see it in many parts of the world. Has been more on the economic side. On the side-effects of COVID and lockdowns,” he said during a live Q and A session on Wednesday organised by the World Health Organization.

“Because communities like those that are refugees, displaced, stateless people. They’re often depending on the type of employment that is the first one to disappear in lockdowns.

“Very short term jobs, precarious jobs and the impact that we see widespread around the world on the economic side is particularly felt in these communities.”

ZAATARI CAMP, JORDAN - FEBRUARY 16: Syrian refugees receive free Jordanian government COVID-19 vaccines with a UNHCR facilitating process at the first worldwide Covid-19 vaccination centre in a refugees camp on February 16, 2021 in Mafraq, Jordan. Zaatari, which was created in 2012 as Syrians fled their country's civil war, is the largest such camp for Syrian refugees. Life continues normally in the camp that hosts 78,000 Syrians with a total to-date 35 active corona cases and a total of 2000 cases. 250 random and selective PCR tests continue to be taken on a daily basis in the camp that marked 6 deaths of elderly people as all strict measures taken in the country are executed as well in the camp. (Photo by Jordan Pix/ Getty Images)
Syrian refugees receive free Jordanian government COVID-19 vaccines. (Getty)

The panel, which included Executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies Programme Dr Mike Ryan and Health Emergency Officer WHO Teresa Zakaria, also discussed the effect of COVID on developing nations.

They agreed existing weaknesses in those countries had been amplified by the virus, and the pandemic had shown cracks and defects that already existed.

The panel urged European nations to do more by taking in extra refugees as they only hosted a few hundred of them each, but other poorer countries were taking in millions.

They also stressed the importance of vaccinating all health workers and vulnerable people worldwide to defeat COVID-19.

The WHO’s global vaccine-sharing scheme COVAX delivered its first shots on Wednesday as the race to inoculate the world's poorest people and tame the pandemic accelerates.

Watch: Jordan sets up refugee vaccination centre

Almost a year after the WHO described the novel coronavirus as a global pandemic, a flight carrying 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India landed in Ghana's capital Accra.

Local representatives of the WHO and the UN's children's agency UNICEF described the vaccines' arrival as a "momentous" step.

Read more:

'Forcing tired pupils to have longer school days wouldn't work', say teaching experts

Greece 'may open borders to vaccinated British tourists from May’

The roll-out in Ghana is a milestone for COVAX, which is trying to narrow a politically sensitive gap between the millions being vaccinated in wealthier countries and the comparatively few who have received shots in less developed parts of the world.

It plans to deliver nearly 2 billion doses this year, including 1.8 billion to poorer countries at no cost to their governments, and to cover up to 20% of countries' populations. 

But it will not be sufficient for nations to reach herd immunity and effectively contain the spread of the virus.