17 de abril de 2020

A WHO comment published in The Lancet highlights the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on refugees and migrants and the need to include them in outbreak response and readiness. Refugees and migrants, particularly those who are displaced and/or living in camps and camp-like settings, are faced with specific challenges and vulnerabilities that must be taken into consideration when preparing for or responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Lancet article – by Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe; Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, Deputy Director-General of WHO; and Dr Santino Severoni, Special Advisor on Health and Migration and Acting Director of the Division of Health Systems and Public Health at WHO/Europe – is the latest edition in a series of WHO documents to support health authorities in the European Region in including refugees and migrants in COVID-19 related operations through a number of recommendations.

Refugees and migrants particularly at risk from COVID-19

The article highlights the following areas of concern:

  • Refugees and migrants are at increased risk of contracting diseases, including COVID-19, because they typically live in overcrowded conditions without the means to follow basic public health measures.
  • Refugees and migrants are over-represented among the homeless population in most countries and face similar obstacles in accessing sanitation facilities.
  • The ability to access health-care services in humanitarian settings is usually compromised and exacerbated by shortages of medicines and lack of health-care facilities.
  • Income loss, health-care insecurity and the difficulties linked to the uncertainty in their legal status or to the reduction of employment, can further affect refugees and migrants.

Ensuring measures and messages reach vulnerable communities

WHO calls on health authorities to consider the impact that the current pandemic and response measures have on refugees and migrants. It further highlights the need to:

  • assess the risk of COVID-19 introduction and spread in refugee camps;
  • ensure access to safety, health-care services and information;
  • lift all barriers to accessing health services, including language and physical barriers, as well as legal, administrative and financial constraints;
  • avoid forced returns based on fear or suspicion of COVID-19 transmission, and ensure refugees and migrants are not stigmatized, so they are not fearful to seek treatment or disclose symptoms.

Leaving no one behind

On 30 January 2020, the WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, declared the current pandemic a public health emergency of international concern. The COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan, issued on 25 March 2020, shows a clear commitment to helping some of the most vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 outbreak, including refugee and migrant communities.