A look at some of the world’s worst refugee crises
The rapid spread of the coronavirus has raised fears about the world’s refugees and internally displaced people, many of whom live in war-ravaged countries ill-equipped to test for the virus or contain an outbreak.
Limited testing means the virus may be able to spread unchecked until people show symptoms.
More than 70 million people worldwide have been forced out of their homes, according to the U.N. refugee agency, although the vast majority do not live in camps.
Here’s a look at the areas of greatest concern.
More than a million Rohingya Muslims from neighboring Myanmar are packed into the world’s largest refugee camp in Bangladesh. Most fled a scorched-earth campaign by Myanmar’s government and Buddhist mobs in 2017. Aid workers are rushing to build isolation wards.
The nearly 10-year civil war has displaced half of Syria’s population of 23 million. The northwestern Idlib province, home to 4 million people, has just one small health facility equipped to receive suspected coronavirus cases. Authorities have conducted around 200 tests, all of which came back negative.
Iraq is home to some 1.4 million people displaced by the war against the Islamic State group, many of whom reside in camps. No coronavirus cases have been detected in the camps, but aid agencies have struggled to provide services amid restrictions imposed to prevent the virus’ spread.
Decades of war have displaced millions of Afghans, and most fled to neighboring Iran and Pakistan. Iran is battling the deadliest coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East. The International Organization of Migration says 200,000 Afghans have returned from Iran this year, as the outbreak there accelerated. That could potentially contribute to the spread of the virus in Afghanistan, which is still mired in conflict and poverty.
In South Sudan, more than 180,000 people live in crowded U.N.-run camps across the country after a five-year civil war ended in 2018. South Sudan has reported just four cases, with none inside the camps, but one was a woman who had been in the country for five weeks.
More than 2.2 million people live in displacement camps after being uprooted by cycles of drought and the ever-present threat of jihadis. Another 400,000 Somalis live in two sprawling refugee camps in neighboring Kenya. There is no testing in either camp, nor are there ventilators.
More than 5 million people have been uprooted by conflict within Congo’s borders, and more than half a million refugees have fled there from neighboring countries. Violence in the east has displaced thousands, even as the region has grappled with an Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 2,260 people.
Nearly 5 million Venezuelans have fled economic collapse, crossing by foot and bus into neighboring Colombia and other countries in one of the largest migrations in the world today. Many of the migrants live in crowded apartments in Bogota, which has the bulk of Colombia’s virus cases, and work as street vendors — jobs now prohibited.