How COVID-19 is changing the world: UNODC highlights impact on homicide and drug trafficking

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VIENNA, 13 May – COVID-19 lockdown measures seem to have reduced violence only in countries with a relatively low homicide rate with little impact on homicide driven by organized crime and gang violence. While movement restrictions have disrupted the international trafficking of heroin more than cocaine as a result of greater reliance on land transport. These are the findings presented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in a report published today by 36 international organizations on the impact of the current pandemic.

The report by the international statistical community seeks to provide the world after COVID-19 with authoritative data and statistics in order to support policy decisions that are based on facts and science. The range of statistics presented in the Report provides a unique snapshot of the multiple impact that the COVID-19 crisis has had on the everyday life of individuals and on the macro social and economic dynamics. 

“To act effectively, we need strong data to guide us. Measuring the many impacts of COVID-19 is a key building block of the recovery that the world needs. Together with fellow United Nations agencies and other partners, UNODC is contributing to a better understanding of the new reality which our societies are facing, to help decision-makers pursue evidence-based solutions in this crisis,” says UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in its contribution, focuses on the impact of the pandemic on homicide and drug trafficking around the globe. Data on homicide trends show that in the months of March to mid-April 2020 homicide levels remained stable or slightly decreased in Central America. 

This could be linked to different lockdown regimes but can also be explained by the fact that the main actors, such as organized crime and youth gangs, continued, at least in this phase, to operate violently. Data also shows that in countries with low levels of homicide, intensity of lockdown measures seems to have drastically reduced violence.

Available reports on countries of western Europe and the United States, reflect a sharp decrease of lethal violence, while it also shows that tight lockdown measures have resulted in a sharp decrease of homicide levels.

To assess the impact on domestic violence, however, is challenging. While a decrease of gender-based killings was observed in some countries, requests for assistance helplines or service centres protecting victims of gender violence increased in a number of countries.

Impact on drug trafficking is linked to the way drug shipments are typically crossing borders. International trafficking of heroin, primarily transported by land, has been disrupted differently than cocaine trafficking, which relies on sea routes. Recent large seizures of cocaine in European ports show the still ongoing international trafficking of cocaine.


The report is available online at:


Further information:

Latest data is available on dataUNODC

Research Brief - COVID-19 and the drug supply chain: from production and trafficking to use

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