Physical distancing, clean water and soap, and strong health care services: These are the key ingredients to preventing and containing the spread of COVID-19, according to health officials.

Yet most refugees and internally displaced people have no way of accessing them on a regular and reliable basis.

Displaced people often live in crowded urban shelters, settlements, or camps where they’re unable to physically distance and receive adequate health care. They often have to wait in long lines to get water and use a latrine.

A new data visualization from UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, sheds light on the scarcity, pressures, and hardships that make displaced people highly vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreaks.

"While COVID-19 has affected us all, refugees who were already living with uncertainty have been disproportionately impacted,” said Raouf Mazou, UNHCR's assistant high commissioner for operations, in a statement. “During this challenging time, it is crucial that we step up support of the programmes and initiatives assisting millions of forcibly displaced families trying to rebuild their lives as they strive to access health care, education, employment, and adequate housing."

The report notes that in most refugee camps worldwide, density levels far exceed the highest recommended limit. In fact, if São Paulo had the same density as the Nayapara Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, its population would jump from 12 million to 100 million.

UNHCR is working around the clock to help displaced people both survive the pandemic and achieve stability in the aftermath.

Here are six ways, based on the agency's new data visualization, that UNHCR is helping to protect and empower displaced people.

  1. Improving shelter 
  2. Providing access to water and soap 
  3. Disbursing cash assistance 
  4. Training community health workers
  5. Expanding health facilities 
  6. Releasing public messaging 

Read the full article about helping refugees face COVID-19 by Joe McCarthy at Global Citizen.