With COVID-19 spreading rapidly throughout the globe, it’s hard to fully depict (and even conceive of) the devastation this will inflict on refugee camps and sites—to those already living on the brink of civilization, who are largely forgotten and pushed aside, who have limited resources (food, water, health care, etc.), whose home country and government deal with recurring conflict, who have already dealt with immeasurable trauma. These are communities who for a long time have been on a journey of healing, empowering, and moving forward.

Amidst this, it is also important to recognize the commitment of these communities to create awareness and plans to protect themselves against COVID-19. During this time of stress, hardship, and moving toward the unknown, refugee-led community action is critical.

“Many of the refugees are making a collaborative effort to prepare for the impact of COVID-19.” – Refugee leader in Cameroon

As always, iACT refugee leaders have shown their dedication to empowering their communities. In the case of COVID-19, this means circulating accessible and culturally relevant documents regarding facts, precautions, and guidelines. Community leaders are also helping scale down the spread of misinformation (which can often be costly and dangerous), giving and answering survey questions to help US-based staff understand how the situation is unfolding (the NGO’s response, food and hygiene material accessibility, asking how they are feeling and what support they need, etc.), and listening to and guiding their community during this hard time.

It has become increasingly clearer that refugee staff are prepared to lead in times of crisis. iACT’s LEAD with EMPATHY (LwE) curriculum is a leadership development and empowerment program that provides tools and guidance for refugees and communities affected by humanitarian crises to learn and practice leadership skills. The 30-unit curriculum begins with understanding empathy and nonviolent communication before defining their personal leadership and moving into: goal setting, facilitation skills, human rights, community organizing, empowerment, and peacebuilding. Not only has LwE helped prepare refugee communities by cultivating leadership skills, but iACT also incorporates health and hygiene practices into all of their programs. A few of the topics covered in the Health, Hygiene, and Wellness curriculum (which is shared with all refugee staff and the children in the programs) are proper handwashing guidelines, the need to cough and sneeze into a bent elbow, the definition of germs and how they spread.  Due to the spread of COVID-19 being linked to respiratory droplets, proper hygiene practices are critical during this time.

Moving forward, iACT is confident that refugee leaders will continue guiding and helping their communities (as they always have) through this global pandemic. Now more than ever refugee voices need to be shared with the world. Their ability to activate change and empower their communities should not be overlooked. To help them reach their full potential, please consider donating (if you can during this hard time) here. 100% of funds collected will go towards soap, water collection materials, phone credit to disseminate information, and other essential needs. We are currently supporting hundreds of thousands of refugees from Darfur in Chad, from Burundi in Tanzania, from the Central African Republic in Cameroon, and from many countries in Greece. Also, check-in occasionally to iACT’s COVID-19 updates/blogs to continue hearing from refugee communities around the world.

“We as iACT have a big positive impact in the world and our messages are still sharing somewhere in the world. We have a big appreciation from the world which is unknown to us. I thank you team for your generous contribution against COVID-19. You have saved millions of human spirits through the COVID-19 document prevention that we have shared with the rest of the world. We are leaders and we want to work hard enough until the end of COVID-19.
– Refugee Leader in Chad