COVID-19 in Fragile Contexts: Reaching Breaking Point

Virtually no country has been spared by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, but some of them – including many fragile and conflict-affected – are hit particularly hard. This pandemic is creating an overwhelming burden on health systems and infrastructure. However, as we have seen with epidemics elsewhere, the secondary impacts on social and economic systems are already outweighing the direct health impacts, magnifying existing poverty and inequality and posing lasting challenges to resilience and peace.
Yet even before we began to see the devastating impact of COVID-19, only 18% of fragile and conflict-affected states were on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Myriad challenges including hunger, extreme weather events, violent conflicts, and poor governance were already holding those fragile places back. Now, those challenges make fragile contexts particularly vulnerable to the impacts of the pandemic. COVID-19 is not only affecting the health and economic well-being of communities, but amplifying existing drivers of fragility and violent conflict. It is for this reason that the social, political, economic and environmental impacts of COVID-19 will be especially devastating in those fragile places, with long-lasting and far-reaching repercussions.
In a country like Yemen, a widespread outbreak of COVID-19 on the scale seen in countries in East Asia, Europe, or the United States would be catastrophic for people already living through the worst man-made humanitarian crisis in the world. The Horn of Africa is facing the worst Desert Locust invasion in over 25 years, endangering the food security of millions. Lebanon is facing one crisis after another with wildfires, civil protests, and a growing economic and banking crisis.
Responding to the impacts of COVID-19 in fragile and conflict-affected states is intrinsically complex. We must not only respond to the health and economic impact of this crisis, but work in addressing the existing drivers of fragility, including violent conflict and poverty. Otherwise together they will quickly fuel social, economic and political instability, thus furthering the vicious cycle. But we have an opportunity here, to deliver a response that not only helps communities cope with this crisis, but strengthens their resilience, and leaves communities and systems better prepared to tackle the next, inevitable shock.

Source: Mercy Corps