IGAD conference: Human Mobility in the context of COVID-19

From February 22-24, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) convened a scientific conference on Human Mobility in the context of COVID-19 in Addis Ababa. The conference examined the immediate and longer-term impact of COVID-19 on migration and displacement in and around the IGAD region.

REF team leader, Professor Laura Hammond, gave the Keynote Address titled: Moving through COVID – Impacts of the pandemic on the lives of migrant and displaced populations (starts at 1H 57 min). In her talk, Prof Hammond examined the many vulnerabilities displaced populations face in the pandemic ranging from health concerns to economic impacts. Displaced persons face heightened challenges from COVID-19 due to their precarious legal status, poorer living conditions and insecure access to livelihoods, coupled with the drop in remittances due to the impact of COVID-19 on countries from which remittances are sent.

In his talk on COVID-19 and forced immobility in the Horn of Africa (starts at 3H 6 min), Dr. Oliver Bakewell explored how the pandemic has caused a crisis of immobility unlike other disasters that induce widespread displacement of populations. COVID-19 has resulted in extensive migration control as states in the Horn of Africa closed land borders, restricted air travel and instated several other travel restrictions on their populations. In a region where crisis-driven migration dominates the agenda of scholarship and policy, Dr. Bakewell’s paper explores how the forced immobility of the pandemic could act as a stimulus for policymakers and practitioners to reconsider the importance of everyday patterns of mobility that underpin people’s livelihoods, and thus rethink wider processes of development and change. 

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