Further the emergence of COVID-19 and the perceived socioeconomic hardship imposed by the measures put in place to curtail the spread of the virus, the United High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) embarked on a study to understand the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19 among PoCs. The study was carried in conjunction with UNHCR partners across various locations. Different geographical zones and survey strata were identified to inform the sampling strategy. The rationale is to harvest several dimensions of the impact of the pandemic on economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights of PoCs, the host community members and other persons of concern in Nigeria. The assessment was carried out with a view to understand:
- The socioeconomic background of refugees, IDPs and returnees across all locations of its operation.
- Assess the level of knowledge and awareness on COVID-19 pandemic among the persons of concern (PoCs).
- Examine the degree of access to social services among PoCs, especially during COVID-19.
- Examine level of access to basic health facilities among PoCs during COVID-19.
- Assess the effect of COVID-19 on social activities and practices.
- Assess effect of COVID-19 on socio-economic activities and various coping mechanisms adopted by the affected population.
- Identify forms of domestic crises imposed by COVID-19 among the affected households.
- Identify needs and level of support received by PoCs during COVID-19.
Each of the outlined objective was assessed based on UNHCR socio-economic and livelihood indicators with a view to provide an understanding of the impact of the pandemic in terms of access to economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights of refugees and other persons of concern and the host community members in Nigeria.
Respective field offices of UNHCR worked closely with different partners, respective state Government authorities, community leaders and relevant local authorities to ensure smooth data collection process. Prior to the data collection exercise, community sensitizations were ensured appropriately by partners to facilitate proper awareness and foster validity of the data that were elicited from the PoCs. In addition, an online training was conducted to guide the enumerators on the approach to the data collection with clear interpretation of each of the questions and the expected responses. UNHCR have up to date database of all refugees living in urban and rural settings, as well as those within the settlements and host communities. For ease of data collection and intervention design, household level data were used for the study across all locations. The database gave the estimation of the study population which informed the estimation of the sample size. Sample size for the study was developed using the minimum sample size technique. The structure of the UNHCR database was used to draw the sample while respondents were selected randomly across locations. A pretest of the survey tool was carried to ensure reliability of the instrument prior to the collection of the overall data set. Data collected include qualitative and quantitative variables.
Data were analyzed in line with the respective indicators identified under each of the objective. Most of the data components were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Influence of COVID-19 on households’ food expenditure and wellbeing were analyzed using consumer price index (CPI). Monthly food expenditure was used as a proxy to prices of food basket among households. The estimation was assessed over a 5-month period. For ease of result presentation and brevity, a country level analysis was done using the pooled data. The rationale is to present the impact of COVID-19 on PoCs in Nigeria as a whole. However, for ease of intervention design, the result of the analysis was further disaggregated using relevant variables.
From the results, it is obvious that COVID-19 has negatively impacted the socio-economic status of PoCs in Nigeria irrespective of their categories (refugees, IDPs or returnees, host?) and locations. The restrictions imposed by government at all level in order to curtail the spread of the virus has affected the income and livelihood of the PoCs, and consequently their wellbeing. Although, the depth and severity differ, however, the larger percentage (95%) across locations have experienced significant economic shock with limited access to basic needs (like food and shelter). Apart from the hardship imposed by the restrictions, the rise in food prices (as revealed by the CPI) also contribute a significant difficulty in the socioeconomic wellbeing. The situation is expected to be largely felt among those living on remittances (aged or students) or those with no current occupation or loss of job.
In addition, just like other citizen in the country, PoCs have been denied access to social services like education, market, financial services, and so on, unlike before. However, the significance of the challenge is that, the said group are highly vulnerable and could be further subjected to all forms of social ill treatment like extortion, sexual abuse, among others. Although, some of the PoCs received a significant support from government and humanitarian actors, but incidence of poverty is still in commonplace. The situation therefore calls for the need for advocacy and urgent intervention to reduce incidence of poverty as well as the establishment of effective adaptive mechanism that will foster restoration of life, social and economic activities among PoCs. Governments, UNHCR, other humanitarian organizations as well as development actors need to join forces in order to achieve more significant results.
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees