In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic brought chaos to the world. Europe quickly became the most affected continent. Day after day, national dead counts became the headline news.
More than a year after the start of the pandemic, the findings are indisputable: people who were already in precarious situations before the pandemic got hit the hardest by the economic and social consequences of the crisis that followed.
This is true in Italy, France or Germany. It is also true in Uganda, Lebanon, Haiti or Bangladesh.
As the European Commission stated in 2020, “the coronavirus outbreak has evolved into a global pandemic. It has killed tens of thousands of people, straining communities, increasing calls for social protection, shrinking business activity and disrupting supply chains. Its consequences will be profound.”
Between November 2020 and February 2021 and with the support of the European Commission in the frame of the #SaferTogether campaign, five renowned photographers from Agence MYOP travelled to five developing countries, to document the lives of the most vulnerable people around the world.
Guillaume Binet visited Haiti, Pascal Maitre went to Lebanon, Agnès Dherbeys travelled to Ecuador and shed a light on Venezuelan and Colombian migrants and refugees, Stephane Lagoutte reported from Uganda and Oliver Laban-Mattei travelled to Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh.
When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Haiti, it brought the country to a halt. Stores closed, tourists disappeared, and jobs vanished.
With the situation rapidly deteriorating, the EU and its local and international partners immediately began to act. The EU provided key funding to support the country’s emergency medical teams and to explain to people how to protect themselves from getting the virus. These actions have helped prevent Haitians from getting sick, while also heading off a greater humanitarian disaster.
In 2020, the EU activated €3 million to fight the spread of COVID-19 in Haiti. This funding, plays a crucial role in limiting the devastation of the pandemic among Haiti’s most vulnerable.
Across Lebanon, vulnerable people of all nationalities and walks of life have been engulfed by crises. In early 2020, five months before the disastrous port blast in Beirut, COVID-19 began to spread in the country. The pandemic arrived during a period of political crisis. Out-of-control inflation had decimated people’s savings, leaving many unable to afford even the most basic essentials.
In 2020, the European Union provided €83 million in crucial humanitarian aid to support the basic needs of vulnerable Lebanese and Syrian refugees, directing more than €4.3 million to COVID-19 relief efforts.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the European Union has moved quickly to provide emergency humanitarian aid for Kyaka II and other refugee camps in the country. In 2020 alone, the EU contributed more than €34 million to address the needs of Uganda’s 1.4 million refugees and their host communities.
Uganda is no stranger to epidemics. Before the coronavirus, there was Ebola. These epidemics terrorised the region, particularly Uganda’s large refugee communities. These outbreaks taught Ugandan authorities and the European Union supported humanitarian organizations an important lesson: act swiftly to prevent broader social and economic devastation
In 2017, Myanmar’s government led an anti-Rohingya campaign that forced more than 500,000 of them to flee the country and take refuge in Bangladesh. In several weeks, one of the biggest refugee camp emerged near Cox’s Bazar.
As of 2020, the Kutupalong camp hosts around 750,000 Rohingya, living in a very precarious situation.
The COVID-19 crisis has severely impacted the access of humanitarian organisations to the camp, worsening the life conditions of the refugees.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, the EU has stepped up its support on quality health services and sanitation in the camps. The European Union contributions totalling €24.5 million in 2021 provide much-needed humanitarian aid for refugees. The funding supports numerous programs that directly limit the impact of COVID19. Teaching people how to avoid getting sick, personal hygiene strategies—along with COVID-tests and treatment—are all critical pieces in preventing viral transmission in the camps.
In Ecuador, there are an estimated 415,000 Venezuelan migrants and refugees, along with 68,500 refugees from Colombia. When the coronavirus arrived, emergency shelters were forced to cut back on staff and services. Border closings stranded people, including children with no parents to look after them.
The European Union is working with its partners in Ecuador to ensure the thousands of migrants and refugees in the country remain safe in these perilous times.