On 30th April and 4th May 2020 the Bishop of Coventry, Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, received written answers to questions on refugees in Syria and around the world and vulnerability to coronavirus:
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: HL3255 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to limit the vulnerability of refugees around the world to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Baroness Sugg: One of the main risks to ending the COVID-19 pandemic is the weakness of developing countries’ healthcare systems. Those countries already struggling with humanitarian crises will be particularly stretched. Refugees are amongst the most vulnerable. They often live in close quarters without access to proper healthcare or shelter, many in crowded and unsanitary camps where social distancing and regular handwashing are almost impossible.
The UK has long been supportive of initiatives to build resilience amongst refugees and their host communities, including in health and disease control. We have done this through programmes that are providing access to public health information, clean water, sanitation and health services. We are also working closely with all our international partners to coordinate a global response that includes actions to address the vulnerability of refugee populations.
We have committed £744 million to date in the fight against COVID-19. Our most recent funding includes new support to the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) and to UNICEF to help install new hand-washing stations and isolation and treatment centres in refugee camps as well as provide protection services and education opportunities for forcibly displaced children.
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: HL3254 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to help minimise the risk posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to those currently living in refugee camps in Syria.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The UK recognises that individuals in refugee camps are more vulnerable to COVID-19. In Syria the UK is one of the leading donors supporting international efforts to deliver vital healthcare, water, sanitation and hygiene activities; all of which help to mitigate the threat posed by COVID-19.
DFID’s current support in Syria includes training for health workers; educational material to raise awareness on health and sanitation; provision of infection, prevention, and control supplies; and cash assistance for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). The UK is monitoring the situation closely and working with humanitarian partners inside Syria to respond to the outbreak and to sustain life-saving services.
DFID has pledged £200 million of humanitarian aid to support the UK’s global efforts to combat the outbreak, this includes support for IDPs and those in refugee camps. £65 million of this contribution is for the World Health Organisation to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Our most recent funding also includes new support to the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) and to UNICEF to help install new hand-washing stations and isolation and treatment centres in refugee camps, as well as provide protection services and education opportunities for forcibly displaced children.