Coronavirus in Africa: how the pandemic will exacerbate humanitarian crises 


Social distancing and frequent hand washing have become standard parts of our daily lives. But the truth is that access to soap, clean water and shelter for self-isolation and safety from coronavirus (COVID-19) is not a reality in many parts of the world – especially in Africa,  where millions face humanitarian crises. 


Refugees escaping  violence don’t have the option of social distancing during covid-19 in Africa

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the world was already witnessing the highest levels of human displacement on record. An unprecedented 70.8 million people worldwide have been forced from home due to ongoing conflict, persecution and climate change.

COVID-19 adds a new layer of complexity and concern for refugees and internally displaced peoples (IDPs).  

Why are refugees and IDPs more vulnerable?

  • In informal camps, existing health systems are usually weak and limited.
  • There are enormous obstacles to disease prevention and treatment. There may be no access to clean water, and social distancing is unrealistic.
  • Measures to contain the outbreak are closing humanitarian spaces and preventing those in danger from seeking asylum.
  • Essential humanitarian assistance and protection may be delayed or unavailable.
  • Refugees are frequently stigmatized and excluded from decision-making forums. Girls within crisis-affected populations face additional barriers to participation and access to education and health care, including sexual and reproductive health.


Current Crises in Africa

Africa has the second-highest number of displaced persons in the world. The continent hosts about 37% of the world's refugees and IDPs.



The Sahel Crisis

There are over 18,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Africa, including in the Sahel region, which has been experiencing a deteriorating humanitarian crisis since 2018.

Many countries of the Sahel have been struggling with extreme climate shifts that result in recurring droughts with devastating effects on the already vulnerable populations. Parts of western Sahel have also experienced conflicts involving armed groups and military campaigns.


The Sahel crisis has displaced more than 1.1 million people in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

People living in hard-to-reach areas have limited access to health services that could help curb the spread of COVID-19. Prevention measures like hand washing and social distancing are impossible for people living in temporary camps. 

Plan International is working closely with health authorities and humanitarian partners in Niger to contain the pandemic through awareness-raising, girls' associations, women's microfinance groups, and Alumni Sponsored Children.

We're also providing hand-washing kits, training health workers, supporting the logistics and coordination of supplies, and distributing menstrual supplies for girls and young women.

Dignity kits are essential during COVID-19 in Africa

Example of contents of menstrual health management kits distributed by Plan International


The Lake Chad crisis

The protracted crisis in the Lake Chad Basin region remains one of the most severe humanitarian emergencies in the world. More than 17 million people live in the affected areas across Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger - 10.7 million people need humanitarian assistance; more than 6 million are children.

The crisis has unfolded in a region beset by chronic fragility, where poverty, under-development, gender inequality, unemployment and a lack of prospects for young people fuel extremism compounded by environmental degradation and the impact of climate change.


Teaching children and families how to wash their hands is crucial to our work in refugee camps.

Plan International's projects in Lake Chad have always worked to deliver positive outcomes for children - especially girls - their families, and their communities. During the pandemic, we are working closely with government agencies across the numerous countries affected by the Lake Chad crisis to ensure that people are prepared for COVID-19.

We are also making every effort to reduce the coronavirus's impact on people living in refugee camps in the region. For instance, in Niger, we partner with local radio stations to inform the public about COVID-19 and how to prevent it.


Youth living in Lake Chad work with Plan International to raise awareness and share information during emergencies using radio.

In Nigeria, we distribute hand sanitizers, build handwashinghandwashing stations and disseminate posters and banners to inform community members. We are also working with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Ministry of Health to ensure strong community outreach and engagement.


The civil war in the Central African Republic

A deadly civil war has decimated the Central African Republic (CAR) since 2012. 

Despite the country's significant mineral deposits and other resources, CAR is among the ten poorest countries in the world and the worst country to be young.

Thousands of people have been killed, and over 600,000 refugees have fled into neighbouring Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Plan International is one of the leading humanitarian organizations in the CAR refugee crisis in Cameroon, focused on the most urgent needs of refugees. We've helped over 12,000 refugee families and constructed over 100 temporary learning spaces so that children can continue their education in crisis.


A temporary learning space in Cameroon

In response to COVID-19 and its impact on the CAR refugee population, we have begun training 40 community health workers to sensitize the broader community on preventing and identifying the coronavirus.  


Working to protect the most vulnerable


Plan International Canada has over 80 years of experience in international development and humanitarian response and remains committed to children'sWe'veWe've rights and equality for girls as the world navigates the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak.­­­­­­

When COVID-19 hits countries already facing complex emergencies related to conflict, food insecurity or disease, the impacts can be devasting. We are currently prioritizing support for these hard-hit communities focusing on girls, as our research and experience show that girls are often most at risk in times of crisis.




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