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Live blog: Refugees in the COVID-19 crisis

UNHCR staff explain WHO guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19 to Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Manaus, Brazil

UNHCR staff explain WHO guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19 to Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Manaus, Brazil. © UNHCR/Paulo Lugoboni

These are some of the ways that UNHCR staff, people forced to flee and supporters around the globe are taking action to stay smart, stay safe and stay kind.


Displaced people and host communities all over the world are at heightened risk as the coronavirus pandemic spreads.


Here are some of the ways they – along with UNHCR staff and supporters – are taking action to stay smart, stay safe and stay kind.

***NOTE TO READERS: After nearly four weeks of daily updates, we are bringing our rolling blog to a close. We will continue to follow the COVID-19 response closely, and may pick it up again as events unfold. Thanks to you – our many readers – for checking in. We hope you are well wherever you are. Stay smart, stay safe and stay kind.***

San Diego, California, United States

Thank you to the city of San Diego, protecting refugees. This article from The Hill (US) talks about the city of Chicago’s similar smart move.

New Jersey, United States

Shout out to New Jersey, USA! The state joins New York and Nevada in recognizing the vital role immigrants, refugees and others have to play in the fight against the corona virus! We hope other states will follow their lead.

New York City, United States

This New Yorker, a refugee from Afganistan, is giving back to his new city.

Nairobi, Kenya

This young refugee is working as a nurse in Kenya. Refugees are doctors, nurses, heroes.

Bangladesh

Rohingya artists worked with our partner to create colorful, informative signs on COVID-19 prevention.

Ethiopia

Award-winning singer and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Betty G shares a melodic message of solidarity with refugees and other vulnerable groups.

United Kingdom

A selection of stories from the UK highlighting solidarity with refugees during the coronavirus crisis, with a lot of help this week arriving on two wheels.

Geneva, Switzerland

UNHCR’s Dominique Hyde takes your questions on how coronavirus affects refugees and why we should all care, live on TikTok at 9:30 CEST. Check back later for a link to her responses.

Colombia

Giving back. This Venezuelan refugee in Colombia is taking care of critcally ill patients during the coronavirus pandemic.

Africa 

This piece from the Guardian’s Global Development site (UK) is worth a read. It looks at the preparations in several African countries for Covid-19.

Niger

We are supporting the government of Niger by donating 50 mini-housing structures that can be used during the coronavirus crisis.


In case you missed it…

This story in the Guardian (UK) about a co-operative started outside of Rome by African migrants has beautiful photos and an inspiring story of resilience in the face of adversity.


Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya

A striking scene at Kakuma camp in north-west Kenya, where refugees keep a safe distance while waiting for a food distribution.

Azraq Refugee Camp, Jordan

Zeinab, a 12-year-old Syrian refugee living in Jordan’s second-largest camp, has imagined putting her Taekwondo skills to use to fight the coronavirus.

Iran

Around the world, refugees are using their skills to help the communities where they live during the coronavirus crisis. Moyehman is an Iraqi refugee nurse working 12-hour shifts in the COVID-19 quarantine ward of his local hospital.


In case you missed it…

With Spain among the countries hardest hit to date by coronavirus, Reuters reports that the owner of a holiday resort in Madrid has opened his bungalows up to some of the city’s most vulnerable families, mostly Venezuelan refugees. Staff at the resort, who have temporarily been laid off during the country’s shutdown, have come in to help voluntarily.


Atlanta, Georgia, United States 

Medicine, a “universal language.” Dr. Abdullah and Dr. Kelli are an inspiration. As refugees, they understand what it means to need help, and now they are using their training to protect their community during the coronavirus pandemic. Watch this great interview.

United States 

On World Health Day, and every day, thank you to the healthcare providers!


In case you missed it…

Driven by insecurity, widespread violence and shortages of food and medicines, more than one million Venezuelans have sought shelter in Colombia in recent years. Al Jazeera reports that some see no option now but to head home as the coronavirus pandemic shuts down the Colombian economy, leaving many unable to work or pay rent.


Mberra, Mauritania

Flexible funds are vital to UNHCR. They allow us to kick-start emergency responses, bolster efforts in underfunded and ‘forgotten’ crises, and scale up programmes in a coordinated and efficient way. In Mauritania, the so-called ‘un-earmarked funds’ allowed us to scale up a public health response for refugees and the local community.

Santiago, Chile

UNHCR and its partner World Vision Chile are continuing to provide support to vulnerable Venezuelan refugees and migrants throughout the COVID-19 crisis, including this mother whose daughters were twice sickened by dengue and had no option but to abandon a country without medicine.

https://twitter.com/ACNURamericas/status/1247250775786557440

London, United Kingdom

Hassan Akkad fled war in Syria four years ago and found safety in the United Kingdom. Keen to give back in the COVID-19 outbreak, he joined cleaners disinfecting wards at a London hospital. Thank you Hassan.

Geneva, Switzerland 

Please listen to writer, news anchor and Goodwill Ambassador James Chau from The China Current (China) interview High Commissioner Filippo Grandi about Covid-19. Grandi notes the virus poses a “democratic” challenge, affecting everyone no matter where or who they are,  but also highlights the difficulties “people on the move” face. In this wide ranging interview, Grandi stresses that, “We must help others because it is in our interest…but also because it is right.” 

Afghanistan 

In Afghanistan, UNHCR has topped up allowances so that refugees and asylum seekers can afford to take precautions against COVID-19.


In case you missed it…

This article in The Washington Post (USA) about how the United States has suspended immigration laws – including those that protect asylum seekers – in the name of the corona virus epidemic is an important reminder that we must keep our borders open to those fleeing war and persecution.


Bilbao, Spain

Last year, a Basque community welcomed five refugee families from Syria. As Spain battles the coronavirus, several Syrian children sketched rainbows and thank you notes for the medics risking all to save lives.

Nairobi, Kenya

Refugee athletes know what it’s like to live in crisis and how sports can help. Their advice during lockdown is use to make use of opportunities that present, do what you can, and above all, ‘keep on going.’

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

UNHCR and its partners are working around the clock to build an isolation and treatment centre for both refugees and the local community in south-east Bangladesh, which hosts nearly one million Rohingya refugees. They are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 as they live in overcrowded conditions. No cases of the virus have so far been reported there.

Geneva, Switzerland

Staying true to their motto – ‘be prepared’ – Scouts are adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year they took their meeting online, where they discussed ways scouts can continue to help refugees and other vulnerable people during the crisis.

Ohio, United States

This former refugee graduated from nursing school just four months ago and now works as a registered nurse helping her home state of Ohio (U.S.) during the corona crisis.


In case you missed it…

Chinese pianist Lang Lang, a U.N. Messenger of Peace, reminds us that peace and solidarity are the keys to stopping the coronavirus pandemic. We hope listening to him play at the end of his message will bring peace into your life, wherever you are.


Hama, Syria 

In Hama, Syria, our staff and partners are distributing much needed supplies to protect people from COVID-19.

Geneva, Switzerland 

Multinational Sony today became the first major corporation to cotntribute to UNHCR’s COVID-19 appeal.

https://twitter.com/FilippoGrandi/status/1246051971641102336


In case you missed it…

A year after the latest outbreak of violence began, the humanitarian crisis in Libya is worsening. UNHCR reports that ongoing fighting and the spread of COVID-19 are significant news threats.


Kenya

Distributions of food, jerry cans and soap are underway to curb potential COVID-19 outbreaks in camps in Kenya, which is the second biggest refugee-hosting country in Africa after Ethiopia.

Damascus, Syria

Since UNHCR ramped up direct cash assistance in 2016, it now accounts for a greater share of our assistance than traditional in-kind aid. Disbursements are ongoing in Syria during the COVID-19 pandemic, with staff observing social distancing rules.

Iran 

Refugees and Iranian women are making masks to help keep healthcare workers safe in Iran.

United States

This refugee living in Minnesota, USA, founded a company that makes bracelets, beanies and more from recycled lifejackets worn by refugees during dangerous sea crossings. His company, Epimonia, is teaming up with USA for UNHCR  to raise awareness and funds for refugees during the coronavirus pandemic.

Portugal

A lot of positive reactions to Portugal’s decision to temporarily grant full citizenship rights to all migrants and asylum seekers, giving them access to the country’s health-care system during the COVID-19 crisis.

Jordan

Here’s what life is like for Syrian refugees under lockdown in the region’s largest camp.

Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya

Business is brisk for a young entrepreneur in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp, where increased demand for hand soap has seen him boost production of his aloe vera-based products.

Kharaz Refugee Camp, Yemen

In Yemen, which is already suffering the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, our colleagues are also helping refugees in the country protect themselves from the threat of the coronavirus.


In case you missed it…

Many refugees in Australia who are trained healthcare workers are asking their host country to let them join the battle against COVID-19. This article from SBS News (Australia) highlights their efforts to have their qualifications fast tracked so they can do their jobs now, when the country needs them.


Agadez, Niger 

Our staff and partners are supplying soap and other supplies in Niger – together we are working to keep everyone safe from coronavirus.

El Salvador 

Phone, email, text – our staff is staying connected from a safe distance!

Westfield, New Jersey, United States

Who inspires you during this difficult time? Add these heroes to your list!

Geneva, Switzerland

“The worst of crises requires the best of humanity.”

Watch High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi’s emergency coronavirus appeal. We know everyone must care for their own family and friends first during these uncertain and stressful times. But please consider donating if you can.

El Geneina, Darfur, Sudan 

Time to wash hands – and many of you may even learn a new song to sing while doing it!

Time to wash hands in 

https://twitter.com/UNHCRinSudan/status/1245365335550758913

Berlin, Germany

If you’re stuck at home and finding it hard to get enough exercise, why not try UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and Olympian Yusra Mardini’s one-minute workout?

Tanzania

In the camps in northwest Tanzania, which host most of the country’s 325,000 refugees, residents have been receiving soap and information on how to protect themselves from the virus.

San Francisco, Ecuador

In a remote corner of Ecuador, a young Venezuelan doctor called Samuel has been visiting isolated communities to teach elderly locals and refugees most at risk from COVID-19 how to protect themselves against the virus.

United States

UNHCR High Profile Supporter Kat Graham is the latest to take up the World Health Organization’s #SafeHands challenge, after being nominated by our own Dominique Hyde.

Iran

One of UNHCR’s partners in Iran has brought together female Afghan refugees and women from the local community to produce face masks for doctors and nurses working on the front lines of the COVID-19 response.

Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

How do you self-isolate if your family shares a single tent in a crowded refugee settlement? UNHCR colleagues in Lebanon have thought about the problem and launched a project to build isolation units inside refugee settlements around the country.

Gulan settlement, Khost Province, Afghanistan 

Our colleagues in Afghanistan are raising awareness about COVID-19 and providing soap to 3,500 families. There is much more work to do, but we are thankful to all of the refugees and partners working with us.

Geneva, Switzerland

Please take a look at our latest statement on the COVID-19 crisis and how we are responding to protect refugees and their host communities, internally displaced and people who are stateless. We need everyone’s support to keep everyone safe.

Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya

Beauty and function. Refugee artists and tailors in Kenya’s Kakuma camp are joining together to produce these colorful masks.


In case you missed it…

Nearly one million Rohingya refugees at the world’s largest refugee settlement are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 as they live in overcrowded conditions. This Al Jazeera story argues that current restrictions on mobile communications in the settlements in Bangladesh make it more difficult for them to receive and share vital information on how to prevent transmission.


Boa Vista, Brazil

COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate, and neither does UNHCR. In Brazil’s northern Roraima state, our staff are setting up a field medical centre that will provide treatment for Brazilians as well as refugees and migrants from Venezuela.

Tanzania

Nduta camp in northwest Tanzania is home to 75,000 refugees from Burundi. Steps setting out how to  protect against COVID-19 are displayed on noticeboards.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Officials in Malaysia said they will not punish people who come forward for COVID-19 testing, no matter what their citizenship status. Including refugees and stateless people in COVID-19 prevention and care is smart, safe and kind.

Turin, Italy 

As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc in Italy, one organization founded by a former refugee is helping newly arrived refugees in the city of Turin. The organization delivered food, diapers, feminine hygiene items and more to help people during lockdown.

Germany 

In Germany, migrants step up to fill a potential shortage of medical workers.

United Kingdom 

Good news.

Niger 

Refugees from Nigeria living in Niger are making beautiful soap, doing their part to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sudan 

Our staff in Sudan is working around the clock to protect refugees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

https://twitter.com/UNHCRinSudan/status/1244249251489734656

Za’atari camp, Jordan

To boost hygiene, Syrian refygees at Za’atari camp in northern Jordan are making and distributing soap.


In case you missed it…

More than three quarters of refugees live in developing countries in the Americas, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. As this Reuters story makes clear, a COVID-19 outbreak would put extraordinary strain on fragile local health-care services and likely result in avoidable suffering and death. Preventing or delaying outbreaks, particularly among the most vulnerable, is the most important action we can take right now.


Kabul, Afghanistan

Preventing COVID-19 outbreaks is vital. Afghans who received financial support last year to start transport businesses are taking the message about coronavirus prevention out to the streets of Kabul on their tuk-tuks.

Tripoli, Libya

The World Health Organization has classified Libya among the high-risk countries in the Middle East and North Africa. UNHCR has stepped up its support for the health sector’s response to COVID-19, including in the country’s hard-to-reach south.

Portugal 

Countries should follow Portugal’s fine example. Inclusion, compassion and kindness are always the right choice.

Pennsylvania, United States 

We’ve been amazed and inspired by the refugees around the world moved to help their communities. Delivering groceries and air high fives, this entrepreneur in small-town America keeps his community going.


In case you missed it…

This important story in the Guardian (UK) warns that while countries implement restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, they need to remember that humanitarian aid workers must be allowed to deliver food, water and other lifesaving care. Countries must protect everyone, or no one is safe.


New York

Weekend reading! We have an excellent list of books, many of which have been translated into multiple languages. Share these titles with family and friends!

United States

American magazine InStyle on UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie helping refugees and children during the COVID-19 pandemic.


In case you missed it…

Why pay extra attention to refugees during the Coronavirus pandemic? See this great Q&A in Teen Vogue for answers and how to help.


Guatemala 

Coronavirus means our staff and friends must find creative ways to communicate and offer support.


Nowshera, Pakistan

Workers at a UNHCR warehouse in Nowshera load a truck with soap, disinfectant and other medical supplies for distribution to health centres in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces. Pakistan hosts more than 1.4 million Afghan refugees.

Men unloading a truck one is wearing UNHCR branded clothing

At UNHCR’s central warehouse in Nowshera, Pakistan, workers load a truck to dispatch core relief items in support of the Government of Pakistan’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. © UNHCR/Anjum Pervez


Geneva

Our leading public health official sets out the steps we are taking to curb the spread of COVID-19 and save refugees’ lives.

Dadaab, Kenya

COVID-19 has closed schools at Dadaab, a complex of refugee camps in Kenya that is home to more than 200,000 refugees and asylum seekers. Undaunted, dedicated English teacher Anima gave her lessons over the airwaves.

Central Africa Republic 

Going home and keeping safe along the way.

Geneva, Switzerland

The kind of inspiration we need now.


In case you missed it…

This article in the Guardian (UK) reminds us refugees around the world stand ready to lend their expertise and skills to the COVID-19 fight.


Guatemala 

Our work is “essential business.” COVID-19 has not stopped war and persecution.

Bekaa Valley, Lebanon

As the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates, keeping the ultra-vulnerable free of infection will save lives. Our staff in Lebanon have lost no time in building isolation facilities to safeguard Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley.

Milan, Italy

In the COVID-19 pandemic, AC Milan goalkeeper Asmir Begovic is supporting refugees. Thank you for your generosity Asmir.

Darfur, Sudan

Safety ever in mind, our colleagues in Southern Darfur don face masks and do what they always do – head out to work.

Geneva, Switzerland 

A time for reflection. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

Brazil 

A routine that saves lives. Our Brazilian colleagues and partners share handwashing tips with Venezuelan refugees.

Bakhmut, Ukraine

At a community centre for internally displaced Ukrainians in the Donetsk Oblast region of the country, volunteers are using sewing machines donated by UNHCR to produce face masks for local residents.

United States

Nominated by UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi to take up the World Health Organization’s #SafeHands challenge, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Ben Stiller took an imaginative approach…

Uganda

In Uganda, which hosts more than 1.4 million refugees, UNHCR has produced a video explaining how refugees can guard against COVID-19 and busting some common myths.

Za’atari Refugee Camp, Jordan

The region’s largest refugee camp is home to nearly 80,000 Syrians, and residents have come up with their own solution to ensure adequate social distancing in the queue for daily food distributions.

Maratane Refugee Camp, Mozambique

After Mozambique reported its first COVID-19 case earlier this week, UNHCR colleagues in the country’s main site for refugees have begun distributing soap and offering advice to residents on how to protect themselves from the virus.

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

At the world’s largest refugee settlement, in Bangladesh, UNHCR is giving health tips and distributing soap to curb the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak among Rohingya refugees.

Canada

Payback time for writer Robin Stevenson, who four years ago sponsored a refugee family to resettle to Canada. Now self-isolating after travel, that family brought a care package to her door.

Warsaw, Poland

UNHCR’s representative in Poland is highlighting a refugee initiative in the port city of Gdansk to sew protective masks – vital kit in short supply as health-care systems strain to treat soaring numbers of COVID-19 patients.

Frankfurt, Germany

A UNHCR airlift from Frankfurt flew 4.4 tonnes of much needed medical equipment including masks, gloves and essential medicines to support the COVID-19 response in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The country hosts close to one million Afghan refugees and faces critical shortages within its health-care system.

Geneva, Switzerland

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Fillippo Grandi highlights steps taken to curb the COVID-19 outbreak around the world.

Originally published on UNHCR on 30 March 2020