ICRC calls for social protection programs to most vulnerable amid COVID-19 pandemic

COTABATO CITY – In a report released by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says that in Nigeria, 95% of people who talked to the committee said their sources of income have suffered, 83% of peoples’ livelihoods in Iraq have also suffered, and in Ukraine, 75% of people reported an increase in the price of basic items.
The ICRC new survey data serves as a warning 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, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
They commented that without concerted action from the global community, 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.
The ICRC said, the ongoing economic and food security impact of COVID-19 is 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.
Early indications in conflict zones where the ICRC operates shows the vast impact of COVID-19:
In Nigeria, 95% of people in a 313-person ICRC survey said their livelihoods have suffered because of COVID-19, resulting in reduced salaries or revenue. In Iraq the number was 83% (of 130 people); in Libya, the number was 52% (of 190 people).
In Iraq, 77% interviewed reported having no savings to cope with the crisis; in Libya it was 85%; in Nigeria 48%.
In Ukraine, 75% of 215 people interviewed reported an increase in the price of basic items, while 47% reported a reduction in market access.
Charlotte Bennborn, the head of ICRC’s economic security department said “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.” 
In the Philippines, the ICRC observed that people in conflict-affected areas faced risky and limited access to their farms even before COVID-19. With the movement restrictions, farming activities shrank considerably while agricultural inputs became harder and more expensive to get. That is why the ICRC anticipates food insecurity to increase, particularly in volatile areas of Mindanao where agricultural activities are the main source of livelihood.
The ICRC calls for social protection programs to be maintained or extended, and that they include the most vulnerable. Existing humanitarian activities focused on food security, nutrition and livelihoods must also be reinforced.
The typical coping mechanism that families use to overcome lean times -- asking for loans from neighbors 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. 
Worryingly, chronic hunger/malnutrition and COVID-19 are mutually reinforcing, as previous outbreaks — Ebola, SARS, MERS — have negatively impacted food security, increasing malnutrition rates. Improving health systems in conflict zones offers positive returns locally and globally.