COVID-19 is a public health emergency. At the same time, the scale and severity of this crises raises a number of human rights concerns. In this series, we will be highlighting many of these concerns as well as laying out suggestions for readings for those interested in learning more.

COVID-19 is a threat to humanity, but those most in need of protection are being left behind. There are over 70.5 million displaced persons worldwide and COVID-19 threatens to further harm this at-risk population.

The largest threats to displaced populations are crowded and unsanitary conditions in camps, lack of access to timely and accurate information, lack of access to medical care, and further oppression from COVID-19. Over 80 percent of the world’s refugee population and almost all of internally displaced people live in low to middle-income countries and most are harbored in government or NGO-run camps. These camps lack clean, running water, proper sewage systems, and are severely overcrowded. Most governments provide information to their displaced populations last, and language barriers and lack of internet or phone service hinder information consumption. As such, displaced persons are receiving incomplete to no information on social distancing, hygiene, and government regulations, leaving them at risk of catching the disease or punishment for breaking government regulations.

Displaced populations in camps also lack access to proper medical care, as the camps are not equipped to handle critical care, especially in mass numbers, and governments restrict healthcare benefits to non-citizens. Finally, there is a great risk that COVID-19 will be used as a weapon of oppression. Political leaders around the globe are blaming displaced populations for the spread of COVID-19 to divert blame from themselves. COVID-19 might not simply be a virus, but a tool for further oppression.