Urban areas are often strongholds for the opposition and gangs and as a result, popular uprisings normally start here. Large numbers of frightened, urbanised and vulnerable people, connected through social media, can mobilise against oppression very rapidly, or can be manipulated by politicians for their own ends.
Closed borders can also be sites of unrest as has been seen between Kenya and Ethiopia. Isolationist and nationalist politics can pit nation states against each other, especially as some leaders engage in racialising the virus.
A rise in conflict resulting from the economic and political impacts of COVID-19 is highly likely.
In countries already dealing with past or present conflict, or where there is a high potential for conflict (which is true of most of the countries in which Concern works), the government’s ability to manage public health crises is already compromised. As was seen in DRC during the recent Ebola crisis, conflict makes the management of epidemics significantly more dangerous and challenging.
Inevitably, humanitarian needs will increase as a result of COVID-19, but funding to the humanitarian sector may well go down at the same time. Before the pandemic was declared, humanitarian funding only covered about 50% of proposed life-saving programmes in conflict contexts. Compensatory budget measures may well divert money from overseas humanitarian aid into domestic responses; and existing humanitarian aid budgets may also be re-assigned to COVID-19 responses, away from other critical, life-saving work that will become more important in the coming weeks and months. This cannot happen.