With over 50 million global COVID cases and counting, the IRC has released a report with key recommendations for the Biden Administration to tackle the effects of COVID-19 in conflict-affected countries, including urgently allocating an additional $20 billion in funding to fight the virus and its secondary impacts abroad.

The Biden administration will take office as the COVID-19 outbreak worsens overseas. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is concerned about the resurgence of COVID-19 infections in crisis-affected countries after the initial peaks observed earlier this year, with second waves underway in countries such as KenyaColombia and El Salvador. Aside from the debilitating and deadly implications of the Coronavirus, the IRC is especially concerned by potential knock-on effects of the virus, such as hunger, rising gender-based violence and economic collapse, as conflict-affected countries struggle to control not only Coronavirus but also their existing humanitarian crises.

In addition to Kenya, Colombia and El Salvador, infections are rising in Syria, Jordan, Myanmar, Libya and Pakistan -- with Jordan seeing a 195% rise in confirmed cases over a three-week period (1). The IRC also remains concerned about a lack of testing in many fragile and crisis-affected states such as Yemen (which has carried out just 554 tests per million people, the second lowest testing rate globally (2)) and Somalia, and about high test positivity rates in Mexico (50%), Iraq (17%) and Bangladesh (13.7%) (3).

Nazanin Ash, the International Rescue Committee’s Vice President of Policy and Practice, said, “It’s not just the US and Europe facing devastating second waves. Crisis-affected countries, which are already dealing with unfathomable levels of hunger, economic distress, crippled health systems and infrastructure, are now facing second waves that could be even more devastating than the first. The clarion call for US global leadership in the face of this unprecedented and growing pandemic has never been louder. In places that the IRC works, like the Central African Republic and South Sudan, NGOs provide over 70% of health services. Even before COVID-19, 64 developing countries, including 18 where the IRC works, spent more on debt service than health. We simply cannot expect these countries to face these second waves and the indirect crises resulting from COVID-19 without clearer, bolder and more innovative commitment. 

“The Trump Administration’s withdrawal from global systems, including the World Health Organization, led to global competition rather than collaboration. The Biden Administration is well aware that while the most vulnerable may pay the price today, controlling the outbreak everywhere is necessary to end the pandemic, let alone preserving decades of US investment abroad. With the promising news about a possible vaccine breakthrough, we must also not lose sight of the global picture that no solution will return us to normality — not even a vaccine — unless the response prioritises the world’s most vulnerable. The first critical step is committing an additional $20 billion to the fight against the virus and its knock-on impacts, prioritising NGOs and local actors to reach those most in need.”

There is still time to prevent the worst-case scenarios. The IRC is calling on the Biden Administration to prioritise a global COVID response, especially in crisis affected states and take the following urgent actions in his first 100 days


(1) Data for the three-week period from 19th October to 9th November, source: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus

(2) Data as of 12th November, source: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

(3) A seven-day rolling average, data as of Nov. 8, source: https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus-testing