Evidence-based responses to the COVID-19 emergency

Dear Colleagues,

August 2020 marked the third anniversary of the events leading to the displacement of more than 700,000 members of the Rohingya community into Bangladesh. This humanitarian crisis has attracted the attention of international organizations, NGOs, local and national governments, as well as human rights advocates and legal experts. The living conditions in the refugee camps, with thousands of people concentrated in small, flood-prone areas are a source of concerns from both the social and health points of view. At the same time, the arrival of the refugees has put a considerable level of pressure on host communities, and their resources, infrastructures and public services. The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these concerns, and led researchers to think about methods which can help limit the spreading of the disease in such crowded environments.

Our Literature Review Update features this time, among others, three papers on this topic. The indications which emerge from these papers highlight: a) the critical role of providing vulnerable populations with health and administrative information; and b) how data collection on symptoms and behaviors can help quantify COVID-19 cases where testing facilities are limited. Some of these indications may be of use in many contexts other than refugee camps and the experience of those forcibly displaced can help informing and promoting best practices for many people around the world.

Numerous initiatives have tried to fill the lack of data on the effects of COVID-19 on vulnerable individuals. For example, the WHO, in collaboration with other UN entities, Ghent University and the University of Copenhagen, has recently launched ApartTogether, a global study to assess the public health social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on refugees and migrants. The study features a public survey which aims to help us understand how these individuals are being affected by the pandemic.

Evidence-based responses to the COVID-19 emergency are among the core activities of the JDC, which has dedicated several initiatives to this topic. You can read about this workstream and all other activities supported by the JDC on our newly launched website. Here you will also find a dedicated page on the development of a 2021-2023 Strategy for the JDC. A zero draft of this note was recently discussed with our Strategic Advisory Council. The Council included more than 100 participants, from 53 different institutions, representing all of our stakeholders. The Council members generously offered their comments and suggestions which will inform the development of our future activities. You are invited to provide us with comments on the Strategy; as you do, please use the online form. The website also provides information on our 2nd Research Conference on Forced Displacement, whose call for paper is open until October 31, 2020, and features our new JDC Literature Review Online Database.

As always, please do not hesitate to share your feedback on the Literature Review, the Newsletter and our website either to Zara on [email protected] or myself on [email protected].

Yours sincerely,

Björn Gillsäter
Head of the Joint Data Center on Forced Displacement