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The recently-launched report from Concordia Global Patron Member CARE, Magnifying Inequalities and Compounding Risks: The Impact of COVID-19 on the Health and Protection of Women and Girls on the Move, reveals growing evidence that COVID-19 is increasing short-term humanitarian needs and degrading longer-term outcomes for marginalized and vulnerable populations.  

The report shows that forcibly-displaced women and girls in Afghanistan, Ecuador, and Turkey were gravely affected, with the pandemic increasing their barriers to accessing critical basic services, due to the intersection of their gender and displacement status. This means diminished access to healthcare — including sexual and reproductive health — and protection services increased risks of gender-based violence, deeper poverty, and food insecurity.  

CARE undertook the new research in Afghanistan, Ecuador, and Turkey between April and May 2021 to better understand how COVID-19 is affecting the health and protection of displaced women and girls.   

The three countries represent different types of forced displacement: 

  • Internally-displaced persons (IDPs) and refugee returnees in Afghanistan; 
  • More recent migrants and refugees due to the Venezuelan crisis in Ecuador; and, 
  • Longer-term Syrian refugees living under temporary international protection in Turkey. 


Key findings across the three countries included: 

  • Half of all displaced women have had less or no access to most basic health services since the pandemic began. Many told CARE they were not utilizing any available health services because they feared stigmatization and/or contracting the virus. 
  • Almost half (46%) of displaced women had less or no access to safe maternity care. 
  • 67% of displaced women in Afghanistan and 70% in Turkey reported that their household income decreased, cutting spending on medication, hygiene items, and food, and increasing reliance on negative coping strategies.
  • Between 16% and 39% of displaced women reported that the risk of violence and abuse in their communities had increased. 
  • More than a quarter of displaced women (26% on average) reported increased challenges accessing registration and legal and civil documentation, which are vital to secure legal stay and often to access essential services, such as health care. 

With the findings confirming that forcibly-displaced women and girls are facing even graver challenges, CARE calls on national governments and the international community to act urgently to ensure response and recovery efforts are gender-responsive, women-led, and focused on preventing women and girls on the move from losing further ground in the fight for gender equality.   

What we’ve heard

Salah Hamwi, CARE Turkey’s Assistant Country Director: 

“The socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been significant in Turkey, with reduced access to livelihood opportunities, increased basic needs, and challenges accessing education and health services…We must take urgent action to guarantee that the response, and other humanitarian and recovery efforts, promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, and are focused on preventing losing more ground in the fight for gender equality.” 

Victor Moses, CARE Afghanistan Country Director: 

“COVID has greatly affected the Afghanistan economy, and this has been felt acutely by displaced women…Lower incomes have led to fewer displaced women accessing health services because they simply cannot afford it. The implications for them, their families and the wider community are deeply concerning.”  

Venezuelan migrant mother in Ecuador: 

“My daughter got a fever and was unconscious and I had to take her to hospital. She had access [to health care services] because of her father, who is Ecuadorian, but later I had problems when we changed hospitals because she was a foreigner, and they did not want to receive her because she did not have a foreigner code. I had a very difficult time.”  

IDP woman in Balkh, Afghanistan: 

“During COVID-19 we have no jobs. We were all at home and used all the food we had. My husband was sick, and we had nothing to eat so we decided to marry our [young] girl to get food and water for eating and drinking. Our neighbors did not let us do this and helped us with food.”  

Syrian refugee woman in Şanlıurfa, Turkey: 

“Violence has increased in the home because men used to go out, change their air and spend a long time outside. Maybe some arguments used to happen, but it would not reach violence level. Men now have to stay longer at home with children and they get annoyed at the noise which has created problems in the house.”

What you can do:

Help CARE protect women’s health and rights. The Safe from the Start Act would keep women and girls safe from violence, early marriage, and other injustices in emergencies, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Ask your Members of Congress to support passage of the Safe from the Start Act HERE.