Millions of displaced people are facing serious threat to fulfilling their need to be protected and aided, while their host communities are suffering massive underfunding amid the coronavirus pandemic, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Friday.

“The agency has so far received just 49 per cent (US$4.5 billion) of the $9.1 billion required for its global operations this year,” the UNHCR said in a statement on Friday.

“The consequences of this funding gap are particularly devastating in low- and middle-income countries, which currently host more than 85 per cent of the world’s refugees,” it said.

“In many such countries, the pandemic has destabilized economies, exacerbated internal displacement and reduced access to asylum.”

The statement highlighted 10 situations specifically affected by funding gaps, which are, “Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, the Central Mediterranean route, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, and Venezuela. These situations make up 56 per cent of UNHCR’s annual budget.”

It said that underfunding has already caused the halt of many programs and essential activities.

“Child protection, support for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, health services, education, and water, sanitation and hygiene activities are on the brink of being cancelled or scaled back if more funding is not forthcoming soon,” the UNHCR warned.

Giving an example from Uganda, the UNHCR said that child protection and psychosocial care services in Ugandan settlements hosting refugees from South Sudan “had to be scaled down this year due to lack of funding. Further reductions in the number of case worker staff will result in at-risk children not receiving home monitoring visits.”

“As violence, persecution and civil strife continue to uproot millions, the coronavirus pandemic is destabilizing entire sectors of the economy, with millions depending on fragile incomes that are now at risk,” UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Kelly T. Clements was quoted as saying in the statement.

“In these unprecedented times, the world needs to broaden its focus making sure displaced populations and their generous but under-resourced hosts are not forgotten. The time to step up support is now,” he said.

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