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MPs to consider impact of Coronavirus on developing countries

2 April 2020

The International Development Committee is holding an inquiry, Humanitarian crises monitoring, which will start by considering the impact of coronavirus on developing countries around the world and the UK’s response.

Summary

Countries with on-going humanitarian crises, or other dependencies on development aid, face significantly different challenges than higher income countries in tackling coronavirus. Where local agencies and infrastructure, including healthcare, is limited, and the provision of aid supplies and personnel is restricted, mounting an effective response to the pandemic will be extremely challenging.

During the inquiry, the Committee will monitor the spread and pattern of infection. It will look specifically at developing countries that are already struggling with humanitarian crises and those hosting displaced people in crowded camps where infection risks are always high.

The Committee will also consider the implications of the pandemic for the Department for International Development (DFID) and the aid sector as a whole in the short and longer term, including travel restrictions for personnel and funding issues.

Chair's comments

Chair of the International Development Committee, Sarah Champion MP said: 

“What we have learnt so far with Coronavirus is that it does not discriminate – it knows no borders and is affecting rich and poor alike. We are still learning about the virus, including people’s vulnerability to infection and capacity to pass it on.

“A significant concern for the Committee is how challenging this pandemic will be for communities living in areas and countries where basic shelter, nutrition, sanitation – let alone medical and nursing services – are significantly stretched. This is of even greater concern for the many hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people living in crowded camp accommodation, making social distancing and self-isolation impossible.

“We are also keen to learn about the challenges and obstacles that anti-coronavirus measures have created for the aid sector in terms of travel restrictions, loss of funding streams and workforce depletion.”

Scope of the Inquiry

This inquiry will seek information and views about:

  • the emergence, incidence and spread of coronavirus virus infections and the Covid-19 disease in developing countries
  • the direct and indirect impacts of the outbreak on developing countries, and specific risks and threats (particularly relating to countries with existing humanitarian crises and/or substantial populations of refugees or internally displaced persons)
  • the UK’s response, bilaterally and with the international community, to the spread of coronavirus to developing countries
  • the impact of the outbreak on DFID’s operations (staff absences or reassignments, the impact of travel restrictions and other risk mitigation measures)
  • lessons identified and learned/applied from previous experience with infectious diseases (for example, Ebola); the implications for DFID’s policy on a global heath strategy
  • whether there are particular risks of transfer of the coronavirus from conflicted and fragile environments to other countries
  • the risks of negative national or local behaviours arising from perceived risks of cross-border re-infections
  • the impact of the outbreak, and consequential mitigation measures, on fund-raising by UK-based development charities/NGOs, and
  • the impact of the outbreak on UK aid funding in the longer term.

This topic is a current and fast-moving global crisis. Organisations and individuals are invited to submit written evidence in two waves:

  • on the current situation and the immediate risks and threats as soon as possible and in any case by Friday 17 April, and
  • on longer term issues, implications and lessons to be learned, by Friday 8 May.

Oral evidence sessions will be announced in due course.

Notes

The International Development Committee has established an umbrella inquiry to maintain a watching brief on selected humanitarian situations around the world and on the UK’s bilateral and multilateral responses (entitled Humanitarian crises monitoring). The objective is a framework for the Committee’s previous practice of periodic one-off evidence sessions on, for example, the situation in Yemen, Syria and the OPTs, issues such as the incidence of violence against humanitarian personnel, or the impact of natural phenomena like Hurricane Irma, Cyclone Idai and successive Ebola outbreaks.

Planned activity within this framework in the immediate future includes an update on the humanitarian situation of the Rohingya communities in both Bangladesh and Myanmar; and (see above) the impact and implications of the current coronavirus pandemic for the provision of humanitarian relief and development aid globally.

Further information

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