On reaching the Horn of Africa, the corona virus will have encountered countries already facing a multitude of challenges. Prolonged armed conflict, drought and insecurity have turned more than eight million people into refugees in their own countries, and a further 3.5 million have fled to neighbouring countries where they live in overcrowded refugee camps. All the countries in this region are in a fragile state of political transformation or have been severely weakened by war and government failures. They possess neither the capacity to contain the Covid pandemic nor to mitigate the resulting unemployment, poverty and hunger. In order to guard against jeopardising the process of democratisation in Sudan and Ethiopia, special emphasis should be placed on social security systems and gaining the trust of the population. This requires an emergency aid package from abroad that will ensure the economic survival of all countries in the region. However, long-term support should be conditional on guaranteeing that most of the investment goes into developing state capacities for critical infrastructure and social security.