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Weathering the Storms: Covid-19, Disasters and Internal Displacement in the Asia-Pacific in 2020

By Sanjula Weerasinghe

When COVID-19 swept across the world in 2020 and governments imposed measures to curb its spread, countries in the Asia Pacific region had to confront the complexity of addressing disaster-related internal displacement amidst a pandemic. Each year, the region accounts for the vast majority of disaster-related new internal displacements globally. In the face of COVID-19 and storms, floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, efforts to prevent and mitigate displacement, support people to move out of harm’s way and assist them to rebuild, presented unique challenges.

With a focus on the Asia Pacific region, and based on the experience of four case study countries during 2020 – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines and Vanuatu – this report collates knowledge on how COVID-19 and disasters affected IDPs and internal displacement. The report describes how IDPs, and efforts to address displacement and assist and protect IDPs, were affected by the pandemic and government responses as COVID-19 and disasters converged.

The insights and observations from the case studies inform suggestions to: (1) Prevent, mitigate, prepare for, and address disaster-related internal displacement in the context of health crises; and (2) Alleviate harms faced by IDPs when health crises and disasters collide. The case studies reinforce the importance of context-specific, collective, multi-hazard approaches to risk mitigation, prevention, preparedness, response and recovery to address overlapping crises. As such, this report may be valuable for policymakers and practitioners in the Asia Pacific and beyond, assessing strategies to prevent the conditions that lead to displacement, manage converging disasters and health crises and mitigate adverse effects on certain vulnerable groups.

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