Covid19_Vulnerable_PeopleThe unprecedented health crisis linked to Covid-19 will undoubtedly affect more severely countries dependant on the world economy and fragile or excluded populations. A brief overview of the chain of risks already identified.

The impact of Covid-19 in Cambodia for instance

390 millions of dollars : it is the loss estimated in Cambodia by the Asian Development Bank. The country should suffer its worst growth rate in decades. 

Tourism is vital in this country. However, Chinese visits, major clients, have dropped in January and February. Then European visits followed. 

Garment manufacturing, the first industry in the country with 700 000 employees, comes to a standstill. Firstly, China has slow down or even stopped its raw materials deliveries (60% of supplies come from China). Then, Western brands have suspended or cancelled their purchases. According to the website, “around a third of the factories are forced to temporarily close for several months, affecting hundreds of thousands of workers”. The Cambodian government announced that it will compensate 60% of the minimum wage (190$ / month), but it won’t be enough to support these workers’ families, also suffering from the cutoff of their overtime pay. 

By cascading effect, if the country doesn’t product anymore, it won’t be able to export. Not to mention border closures from Europe and the United States, first customer markets of Cambodia. 

Rural areas and agriculture won’t be spared by Covid-19. Already harshly hit by another year of drought, many families will no longer receive the aid sent by the tens of thousands of workers who have migrated to the city to work in the garment industry.

And as Cambodia has also closed its borders, prices of agricultural products have already started to fall.

If the Cambodian government announces a stimulus package of $800 million to $2 billion (1/4 of the state budget), we still don’t know how this will be distributed.

The ODI (Overseas Development Institute) indicates that Vietnam, a neighboring country, should also be strongly affected by the economic impact of the crisis. “Sub-Saharan Africa could also lose up to $4 billion in exports”.


The vulnerability of the poorest, women and children to Covid-19

As the ODI reminds us, all the recommendations currently being issued to limit the spread of the Covid-19 virus are real challenges for the most vulnerable. “Poverty can fuel contagion, but contagion can also create or aggravate impoverishment”.

Without the ability to go to work and without health insurance or unemployment, what are the sources of income ? Without money, how can food be bought and stored ? “A study of 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia found that in the absence of health insurance or other forms of universal health coverage, […] people living in poverty or close to the poverty line […] take out loans from informal lenders, sometimes at exploitative rates”.

How can you stay confined to your home when you have no roof or unsanitary housing in a slum that is a daily danger to your family ?

Housing has become the frontline defence against coronavirus. Home has rarely been more of a life-and-death situation” says Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing.

1.8 billion people : that’s the number of people who are homeless or in insecure housing.

By ensuring access to safe housing and adequate sanitation, States will not only protect the lives of those who are homeless or living in informal settlements, but will help protect the world population as a whole by flattening the CV19 curve“, the UN expert concluded.

With the Covid-19 epidemic, girls and women are even more vulnerable to discrimination and violence. UN Women reminds us that with the closure of schools, caring for children represents additional work for many women and girls in many countries. The UN entity also reminds us that 70% of workers in the health sector are women worldwide. They are therefore on the front line.

Another risk for women is violence : domestic violence increased by a feeling of anxiety in the home (food and financial insecurity…), sexual exploitation to make up for financial losses in a context where hospitals are monopolised by the treatment of the virus and where sexual health care and psycho-social support may be neglected.

It is therefore vital to take into account the needs of the most vulnerable populations, because human lives are priceless and because the Covid-19 virus knows no borders.


April 10th 2020


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