SEATTLE, Washington — Nearly 1% of the world’s population, or 79.5 million people, are refugees, with 90% of refugees unable to access essential services. Now, amid the pandemic, refugees’ vulnerability to contracting COVID-19 has become an increasing global concern. Since refugees often live in overcrowded camps with limited access to clean water, many are at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and face more significant challenges in accessing medical care. However, humanitarian organizations and refugees alike are providing refugees with COVID-19 aid and resources.
Humanitarian Organizations Aiding Refugees
Various nonprofit organizations, such as the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), work on the ground in multiple countries to provide critical aid to refugees during the pandemic. The IRC’s information dissemination initiatives and healthcare worker training in more than 40 countries have effectively allowed refugees to learn and care for themselves.
Moreover, WHO provides primary health care through partnerships with other NGOs and ministries of health. These organizations’ efforts are equipping refugees with the resources and knowledge essential to fighting COVID-19.
The committed efforts of large humanitarian organizations in assisting refugees during the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be overlooked. However, the actions of individual refugees in their own communities is an underestimated force.
Refugees Aiding Refugees
After fleeing conflict in Afghanistan, Dr. Fezzeh Hosseini arrived in Iran with her family as a one-month-old baby. Refugee children in Iran are permitted to attend school and at the age of 19, Hosseini passed the competitive medical school entrance exams and navigated the medical world as a refugee. Now, she works on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis in Iran, providing medical care for other refugees like herself. As the appointed head of the coronavirus public outreach program in Iran’s central Esfahan province, Hosseini not only cares for her regular patients but takes the time to make calls to 200 families affected by COVID-19 every evening.
Hosseini’s career and efforts are making a difference in the lives of refugees facing a global pandemic. However, Hosseini also stands as a testament that refugees can accomplish great things and find success. “Sometimes, my Afghan patients are surprised when they find out that I am also from Afghanistan. It is as if they have forgotten that they too can succeed,” said Hosseini in an interview with the U.N. Refugee Agency.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect people worldwide, many refugees have stepped up in their communities to provide assistance and help in various capacities. Combatting COVID-19 as a refugee is a unique challenge, but these individuals are making a difference.
Remarkable Refugees Contributing to the Fight Against COVID-19
- Midia Said Sido: Recognizing the need for sanitation and soap to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Sido has been using her knowledge of soapmaking to help her community in southern Lebanon. In addition to making soap herself, she has been teaching other women the practice, ensuring that more families can access sanitary resources.
- Sidra Median Al-Ghothani: Living in Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp, Syria refugee, Al-Ghothani is an aspiring teacher. At 14 years old, Al-Ghothani teaches her siblings and other children in her community who cannot attend schools in the camp during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Djuba Alois: A 75-year-old refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, has made it his mission to ensure refugees are educated about COVID-19 and its impacts. As a pastor, Alois can’t speak from the pulpit as he usually would. Instead, he rides his bicycle around the camp, passing out flyers and urging individuals to wash their hands.
- Shadi Shhadeh: As a Syrian refugee living in Geneva, Switzerland, Shhadeh wanted to do something to help older individuals or those with preexisting conditions advised to stay at home due to COVID-19. Shhadeh and his wife enlisted their friends’ help in putting up flyers, offering to do grocery shopping and run errands for those who couldn’t help themselves. In just a few weeks, the couple and the many volunteers, who were also Syrian refugees, were shopping for upwards of 200 families.
As refugees continue to combat COVID-19 in their unique circumstances and environments, nonprofit organizations like the IRC and WHO will continually lend a hand and provide aid, as will individual refugees in their communities, whose efforts will not go unnoticed.