Pandemic threatens female refugees’ livelihoods: UNHCR


The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) warned that the lives and rights of female refugees have “worsened” due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, saying that there were grave manifestations of gender inequality for some of the world’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged.

“We are seeing extremely worrying increases in reports of gender-based violence, including domestic violence, forced marriages, child labour and adolescent pregnancies,” Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement issued by the Agency on Monday.

In the statement, the UNHCR reported worrying trends for refugee and displaced women worldwide, including growing socio-economic pressures, increased tensions in homes and school closures for girls, reports Xinhua news agency.

The consequences of gender inequality and the pandemic could “prove catastrophic on refugee girls’ education”, said Gillian Triggs, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, adding that many refugee girls could “drop out of school and into work, sold off or married”.

According to the UNHCR statement, 13 million girls worldwide may have no other choices but to accept forced marriages due to the increase of poverty following the global pandemic.

Furthermore, according to the refugee agency, 85 per cent of refugees worldwide lived in developing nations and were “largely dependent on humanitarian aid or day labour”.

Stating that programs to reduce gender inequalities and domestic violence were “severely underfunded”, the Geneva-based organisation urged governments to support the involvement of refugees and displaced women in recovery plans.

“Unless concerted efforts are made to mitigate the gendered impacts of Covid-19, we risk leaving refugee, displaced and stateless women and girls behind,” Triggs added.

Women represent almost half of the 244 million migrants and half of the 19.6 million refugees worldwide, according to UN Women.