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Olympic Refuge Foundation: Sport can offer hope to displaced communities during the COVID-19 pandemic

By United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) | sportsanddev.com | Brussels – The Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF) 19 May highlighted how sport can help build resilience and boost the mental health of forcibly displaced young people, especially during the COVID‐19 pandemic.

The ORF Chair and IOC President, Thomas Bach, and the Vice-Chair, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, warned of the growing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the mental health of refugees and others uprooted by war, violence and persecution around the world, compounding already very challenging circumstances.

Refugees are among the most vulnerable to the consequences of the pandemic – often residing in overcrowded camps, settlements and urban areas in cramped conditions with inadequate access to fresh water and hygiene supplies. Mental health conditions amongst people affected by conflict are already two or three times higher than in the general population, with one in five people experiencing mental health challenges.

Meeting remotely today, the ORF Board agreed on a number of initiatives to boost the protection of forcibly displaced young people and help improve their mental health through sport. 

As an example, the ORF is launching a pilot project in Uganda, using sport to improve the mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of more than 10,000 refugee and host community young people (aged 15 to 24). Led by a consortium of five agencies (the ORF, AVSI, UOC, Youth Sport Uganda and UNHCR Uganda), the programme will deliver a nationwide Sport for Protection programme.