It also said the ongoing economic and food security impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been massive and appears likely to worsen over time
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said new survey data showed that economic hardships brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic could foster a boom in aid-dependency in countries at conflict without coordinated responses from governments, international financial institutions and humanitarian and development actors.
“Without concerted action from the global community, we expect humanitarian needs to deepen and worsen in the wake of Covid-19. It is likely that new short- and longer-term health and protection needs will emerge, and that otherwise relatively resilient communities will need assistance,” ICRC said in a press release issued on Tuesday.
In such a situation, the Geneva-based global humanitarian institution called for social protection programs to be maintained or extended, and that they include the most vulnerable along with reinforcement of existing humanitarian activities focused on food security, nutrition and livelihoods.
It also said the ongoing economic and food security impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been massive and appears likely to worsen over time.
“In countries at conflict, millions already live with little or no healthcare, food, water and electricity, as well as volatile prices and destroyed infrastructure. Covid-19’s impact could set in motion a vicious cycle of lost income, deepening poverty and hunger,” it added.
The ICRC also mentioned that the pandemic has already put a vast impact on present conflict zones.
“Covid-19 is causing a tremendous financial shock for families, particularly in conflict zones. I fear that without coordinated action from governments and humanitarians, the long-term consequences will be crippling,” said Charlotte Bennborn, the head of ICRC’s economic security department.
“The typical coping mechanism that families use to overcome lean times -- asking for loans from neighbours or family, reducing purchases, using savings -- have been exhausted for many. The hardest-hit households were already food insecure, with physical and financial access to food markets restricted due to Covid.”
At the same time, ICRC also expressed deep concerns over chronic hunger and malnutrition were mutually reinforcing with Covid-19 which, just as previous outbreaks — Ebola, SARS, MERS — had negatively impacted food security, increasing malnutrition rates.
“In the near term, strengthening health, water and sanitation systems in conflict zones, to prevent and manage infectious disease transmission, must become a priority,” said Esperanza Martinez, ICRC’s head of health.
It also said income shortages could hit families at a time when countries struggle to provide essential services, deepening food insecurity for people already at risk.
“When movement restrictions are imposed, people face a dire choice between earning a living and protecting their health,” said the statement.