Breaking Point: New report reveals how the coronavirus pandemic will push fragile states towards catastrophe in 2021

Breaking Point: New report reveals how the coronavirus pandemic will push fragile states towards catastrophe in 2021

A new report published by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) has revealed the worrying extent of the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the world's most fragile states.

By surveying its 14 members, polling country directors and other senior staff working in the world’s most fragile states, the grave reality of the impact of the pandemic was revealed, with 98 per cent agreeing that it had worsened the humanitarian crisis in their respective countries, and 92 per cent expecting it to get much worse in the coming months.

The report sets out the state of play in the six places – Afghanistan, DR Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen – that were the focus of the DEC’s Coronavirus Appeal, together with the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. It examines the impact of Covid-19 so far and what 2021 holds for vulnerable people in these places, as well as giving an overview of how appeal funds were spent in the first three months of the DEC-funded humanitarian response.

Among the report's key findings was that,

The Pandemic magnifies existing health and socio-economic challenges in world’s most fragile states

The world’s most fragile states prioritised in the DEC appeal are spread across Africa, Asia and the Middle East but they share certain characteristics: their experience of prolonged conflict and displacement means their healthcare systems and social and economic structures were already weak and have been further weakened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

For those living in these fragile states, the experience of the pandemic has similarities too. Layered on top of multiple existing yet devastating issues which were significantly affecting people's lives before the outbreak of the pandemic, the virus is viewed as ‘one additional problem’. For many people, while they know Covid-19 exists and see people becoming unwell, their greatest concerns remain feeding their family and keeping them safe from conflict.

But this ‘additional problem’ is wreaking havoc on already vulnerable populations, causing increased economic hardship and hunger against a backdrop of reduced funding for humanitarian aid. Covid-19 vaccines, while helpful, will not solve these issues in the short- or medium-term.

Helping the most vulnerable communities face the challenges that lie ahead

In its Conclusions, the report emphasised the devastating public health, societal and economic consequences around the world, including in the world’s most fragile states. It pointed out that while the true number of cases and deaths in these most precarious of places cannot and may never be known due to lack of testing capacity and comprehensive recording of deaths, the economic impact is undeniable and is already leading directly to growing hunger levels, with the possibility of famine looming in many of them.

As key areas of priority going forward it highlighted the following:

  • Tackling hunger is a top priority
  • Support to health services will provide a valuable legacy
  • As needs grow and funding declines, strengthening local humanitarian action will be vital.

To find out about the background to this research, and to view the full report and its findings, visit the dedicated website at