March 24, 2020
COVID-19 control in low-income settings and displaced populations: what can realistically be done?
Last week, the Governor of New York State, Andrew Cuomo, declared a major disaster in New York, and called on all New Yorkers to “practice humanity” by adhering to social distancing to reduce the spread of infection, doing our part to save lives.
The Covid-19 virus is a threat to humanity because it has no borders and does not discriminate. Although the most vulnerable include the elderly, healthcare workers, and people with underlying health issues, each of us is at risk of infection, and of spreading infection to those around us.
But there are other vulnerable groups that will need our help as well, often forgotten in a time of crisis. The homeless, with no way to self-quarantine, with limited access to health care, and often with underlying health or mental health issues, are at extreme risk with this virus. So too are the incarcerated living in crowded prisons, as well as undocumented immigrants who will be fearful of seeking medical attention if they need it. And then there are the thousands of asylum seekers locked up in private detention centers, which have absolutely no capacity for medical care and no plan to deal with an outbreak when one occurs.
For forty years, Doctors of the World has prioritized caring for the most vulnerable people around the world, often in places where there is armed conflict or where health systems are fragile and access to health care is limited.
The most urgent issue facing us in this moment is to do everything we can to stop the spread of infection. But we know that another humanitarian crisis is lying in wait, here in New York City and around the country, but also in the places we work around the world, whether it’s among the 1 million newly displaced by the conflict in northwestern Syria, in refugee camps in Turkey and Greece where there is no health infrastructure, or in sub-Saharan Africa where health systems are dangerously under-equipped for the surge in cases that are coming.
If you are at home, like us (and we hope you are), wondering what you can do to ensure that we leave no one behind, we encourage you to connect with organizations like Coalition for the Homeless in New York City, the New York Immigration Coalition, or the ACLU National Prison Project.
In the coming days we will be sending updates on the response of the International Doctors of the World network in Europe and in the countries where we work as we respond to this global pandemic.
As we prepare for the next wave in the low income countries where we work, please consider making a secure online donation to Doctors of the World.
In the meantime, we hope you stay safe, healthy, and that you are “practicing humanity” by taking the necessary steps to protect yourself, and your community from Covid-19 infection