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COVID-19: The Humanitarian Community Must Act Now

With the Coronavirus spreading around the world, it is imperative that the humanitarian community immediately move to prepare the refugee and internally displaced communities to minimize the impact of this disruptive and deadly disease. These groups of people will be amongst the most vulnerable because of their living conditions, lack of adequate nutrition and health services, and the traumatic life experiences that drove them from their homes. 

These days of global uncertainty, with our sense of security and normalcy turned upside down, can serve as an empathetic window into what refugees and the internally displaced experience every day and almost every moment of their lives. This crisis is also an opportunity to utilize the leadership, knowledge, and strengths that refugees possess. The response to the crises should be co-created with the refugee communities if it is to be effective and respectful. They should lead in the response. 

From my conversations with iACT’s friends in camps around the world, refugees are ready to take on the challenge. But they are also concerned, and are not receiving enough factual information. Further complicating the situation is the amount of misleading posts they are seeing on social media. 

The humanitarian community needs to be proactive in the creation of an information and action strategy, and this should have begun more than a month ago once it was clear that a pandemic was imminent. 

We have been communicating with refugees connected to iACT programs around the world. Fortunately, both our Little Ripples preschool program and the Refugees United Soccer Academy have a strong health and hygiene component in their curricula that mirrors what experts now suggest as the most important practices to minimize the spread of COVID-19. The teachers and coaches talk daily with thousands of children about washing hands, sneezing and coughing into bent elbows, and using latrines.