Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Societies

Somali community members gather.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents an array of challenges to societies affected by armed conflict and acute fragility. The threat to public health, along with governments’ responses to the pandemic, risk exacerbating violence and instability worldwide, which could consequently undermine efforts to contain the virus. While scholars, policymakers, and practitioners have speculated about the potential effects of COVID-19 on conflict, stability, and governance, Mercy Corps is drawing on its presence in more than 40 countries to better understand how the pandemic is having an impact on the ground. In addition to assessing the impact on social cohesion, state-society relations, economic well-being and resource competition, we are tracking how our programs are adapting both to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and to overcome the difficulties of operating in its midst. This page collects our latest research and analysis on COVID-19 impacts, including recommendations for how policymakers and practitioners can rise to the challenge and seize opportunities to bolster communities’ resilience to the crisis.

Advancing Peace in a Changed World: COVID-19 Effects on Conflict and How to Respond

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This research brief outlines five areas in which COVID-19 and government responses to it are impacting conflict dynamics: fraying social cohesion, deteriorating state-society relations, armed groups filling the void, proliferating dis/misinformation, and increasing scarcity and economic opportunities. Drawing on evidence and examples from Mercy Corps programs around the world, this brief describes these impacts, how our programs are adapting, and provides recommendations for policymakers and practitioners for building an effective response.

Linking Good Governance, Peacebuilding, and Public Health in the Midst of COVID-19: Lessons from Northeast Nigeria

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When strained state-society relations are part of pre-existing conflict dynamics, responses to COVID-19 that fail to incorporate governance and peacebuilding approaches run the risk of undermining their intended disease prevention goals and further exacerbating cycles of violence. This report uses a case study of ongoing dynamics related to governance, conflict, and the pandemic in Northeast Nigeria to identify how donor funding and programs can be oriented to both address the immediate COVID-19 public health crisis and broader governance and peacebuilding goals.