Fighting COVID-19 in Vulnerable Communities


SEATTLE, Washington — The COVID-19 pandemic presents an unprecedented challenge to the modern world. Convenient travel options and a growing economic interconnectedness make it easy for viruses to make the leap from country to country in record time. Having access to proper sanitation and up-to-date information, then, is essential to saving lives. Yet, not every population has access to these vital tools. That is why these three nonprofits are working to fight COVID-19 in vulnerable communities.


In many places across the developing world, high population density and cramped living conditions mean social distancing is often impractical, if not downright impossible. Thus, doubling the importance of sanitation in guarding against the transmission of COVID-19.

That is why the nonprofit Oxfam is working closely with impoverished communities to make sure they can better protect themselves amid the pandemic. In particular, the organization is doing so in three key ways.

  1. Ensuring communal access to clean water. This includes maintenance of existing water systems and delivering needed water to remote communities via truck. Since those deliveries can take time, Oxfam also builds water tanks to provide an immediate source of water.
  2. Improving waste disposal practices. On a practical level, this means installing portable latrines and increasing the efficiency of existing sewage systems. Thus, preventing the possible contamination of existing water sources.
  3. Making it easier for communities to keep good hygiene. As seen during past health crises, instilling good hygiene habits in at-risk communities continually helps ensure lower infection rates. To that end, Oxfam is assembling and disseminating hygiene kits that include necessary materials like soap and other cleaning products. The nonprofit is also setting up hand washing stations and health centers while working closely with locals to make sure these services will not be in conflict with local contexts and cultures.

International Rescue Committee

It is essential that communities remain well-informed of news pertaining to COVID-19, including up-to-date methods for prevention and treatment. Otherwise, they may fall prey to misinformation, which could amplify the rapid spread of the disease.

That is why the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is working with governments and aid groups to make sure relief efforts are coordinated and transparent. In practical terms, this means sharing information from credible public health experts and taking into account various factors like culture and the accessibility of media platforms in a given community. Thus, building the trust local health services need to be effective.

One particularly prominent example of the IRC’s work in this regard is Signpost, an online engagement platform that makes health and legal information accessible to anyone with a mobile phone. Within three years of its debut in 2015, Signpost succeeded in reaching more than 1 million people in vulnerable communities struck by crises. Now, many are using it to stay informed about the latest in COVID-19 information. For refugees and other vulnerable populations, having a reliable source of information is critical to ensuring their own safety.

World Vision

Finally, the nonprofit World Vision is fighting against COVID-19 in vulnerable communities by supporting hygiene education and clean water initiatives in the developing world.

Villagers in developing countries often spend hours each day collecting water that is frequently contaminated by pollutants. That includes several types of bacteria, most of which originate from the fecal matter of humans and livestock. The result is the extreme prevalence of waterborne illnesses like diarrhea, cholera, typhoid and dysentery. By building sustainable water systems in the countries that need them the most, World Vision ensures that these communities can both avoid these diseases and use the water for handwashing and other sanitary needs.

This also ties into the organization’s educational work, which includes teaching villagers about the importance of handwashing in preventing illness. As COVID-19 is transmitted primarily through respiratory droplets, frequent handwashing and avoiding contact with the face are necessary to keep communities safe.

It is tempting to think of the COVID-19 pandemic in purely local terms. However, the impact of the virus cannot be contained to any one place or time. What is happening in refugee camps and elsewhere has the potential to affect the entire world. That is why the work these nonprofits are doing to fight COVID-19 in vulnerable communities is so important to ending the pandemic.

– Rhea Ferrer
Photo: Flickr


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