With the pandemic impacting the country throughout 2020, and partial lockdowns in place in different cities, refugees’ livelihoods and traditional sources of income were tremendously impacted, resulting in double the number of direct requests to UNHCR for cash assistance in 2020, in comparison to 2019.
In order to address these increased needs from the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, UNHCR and the Government identified vulnerable refugee households whose well-being and socioeconomic situation were severely affected, either directly or indirectly, by COVID-19. Subsequently, UNHCR initiated three different cash programmes, including, for the first time, joint assistance with the Government in the form of direct transfers into refugees’ bank accounts. Through these programmes, UNHCR was able to support 6,549 vulnerable households (32,238 individuals) with cash equivalent to the Minimum Expenditure Basket of a typical refugee household, for a duration of two to three months. This joint project also enabled UNHCR to expand its outreach by accessing additional vulnerable households, in addition to those who usually approach its offices, by collaborating with the Government to identify and assist people of concern countrywide.
The needs of vulnerable and at-risk individuals increased exponentially in 2020, while resources available to assist them remained limited, which led to the prioritization of cash assistance as a response. Yet, out of 24,946 direct requests for cash assistance received by UNHCR in 2020, only around 12,000 could be supported with cash assistance.