How Coronavirus is impacting people living in poverty

Life has looked very different for everyone since the Covid-19 pandemic brought the world to a halt. While many of us are figuring out how best to use our time, people all around the world are being affected in different ways. Some of those who have it the hardest, are those who have no homes to isolate in. For 70.8 million people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes due to conflict, violence or persecution, the coronavirus crisis poses even greater challenges to their daily lives.

Here are three places where Tearfund and our partner organisations are responding:

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

In the world’s largest refugee camp, it’s estimated between 60,000 and 90,000 Rohingya people are living in each square kilometre. Typically, 12 people occupy each make-shift shelter and many more use the same water well and toilet.

There has already been two cases of coronavirus reported in Cox’s Bazar district. It’s feared that, if it spreads, it’ll spread fast and the consequences will be catastrophic.

Tearfund staff and partners, alongside the Bangladeshi government and the UN, are supporting people by providing access to clean water, as well as sharing messages about good sanitation to prevent the spread of the virus.

‘We have distributed hygiene kits, but getting access to the camps is likely to become even harder as the country goes into lockdown,’ says Sudarshan Reddy Kodooru, Tearfund’s Country Director in Bangladesh. ‘The handpumps and sanitation facilities we’ve been able to provide will be more important than ever.

Barranquilla, Colombia

In Colombia, thousands of Venezuelan refugees, who fled the political and economic crisis back home, are facing weeks with very little food after a coronavirus lockdown.

The city of Barranquilla hosts more than 15,000 Venezuelan families who have taken refuge in temporary accommodation. Most of them depend on being able to go out to work in order to put food on the table, but now they can no longer leave their houses.

‘Children and families have been suffering from lack of food for a long time now and are at high risk because of how impossible it is to get food,’ says Rosa Camargo de Bravo, who leads Tearfund’s work in Latin America and the Caribbean.

While the Colombian government ordered that everyone should stay home for the next few weeks, relief agencies such as Tearfund and local churches have been given special permission to carry on supporting people. In the past week alone our church partners have delivered food baskets to 600 families with young children. 

They will continue to reach out to help the most vulnerable, including the elderly and women and children who are at risk of violence and abuse when confined to their homes.

Tearfund and local churches have been given special permission to carry on supporting people.


Lebanon is one of the most densely populated countries in the world and is home to 1.5 million people forced to flee fighting in Syria. To put this in perspective, there is one Syrian refugee for every four Lebanese nationals.

A large-scale outbreak of coronavirus here would be devastating. The healthcare system is already overwhelmed because of an ongoing economic crisis combined with the large numbers of people. On 15 March, the Lebanese government declared a state of emergency in response to more than 300 cases and four deaths. The nation is currently in lockdown until at least 12 April.

‘As Christians we need to reach out to people who are in need and to keep up people’s hope for the future,’ says Karen Soerensen, Tearfund’s Country Director for Lebanon.

‘We are adjusting the way we work to continue to offer psychosocial support and assess the basic needs of the most vulnerable. 

‘We are concerned that gender-based violence will increase. Some things, such as counselling, can be offered over the phone. And our partner in Lebanon is keeping support for young people going through social media and regular calls.’

Tearfund partners are also distributing hygiene kits and materials to raise awareness about how to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

How can we respond?

It goes without saying that now is a great time to pray. So let’s lift up all those who are living in refugee camps or temporary settlements across the world that are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus.

As well as praying, you can get involved in The Climb – the challenge that lets you fundraise for people living in poverty without needing to leave your front door. Make the most of your lockdown and get sponsored for climbing your stairs to the equivalent height of some of the world’s most iconic mountains.
All money raised through the challenge will help Tearfund respond to the coronavirus and reach those who are being hit the worst. To find out more and apply, head here.

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