DRC will remain and continue support to displaced people during COVID-19 crisisAs one of the world’s leading displacement organizations with a presence in 40 countries, DRC will remain and continue to serve and deliver to the extent possible during the COVID-19 crisis.
While developed countries are struggling to respond to COVID-19, the virus has spread to countries with already fragile national health systems. Many of these countries host refugees and displaced persons.
These communities are among the most vulnerable and likely to be disproportionally impacted due to existing vulnerabilities and weakened coping mechanisms.
Many displaced persons are already living in overcrowded camps and settlements with inadequate sanitation facilities and limited access to healthcare. In these areas, conditions for the uncontrolled spread of the virus are prime.
Remain and deliver
Although the prospects look dire, DRC – one of the world’s leading displacement organizations and present in 40 countries – will remain and do all that is in our power to continue to serve and deliver to refugees and displaced persons to the widest extent possible.
This entails, that existing essential program activities will be continued to the extent possible and amended where relevant. However, we will also initiate new activities targeted towards the COVID-19 response. Our response covers both Prevention and Response, and we are mindful of avoiding and limiting the risk of amplifying transmission of the virus through our programmatic activities.
Our response is based on an integrated, multi-sector approach, building on our global sector expertise and the existing focus. These include Protection, Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH), Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) and Basic Needs including multi-purpose cash assistance where feasible.
Protection, WASH, CCCM and basic needs
As part of our protection activities we will provide psychosocial support to address anxiety and stress, we will help ensure access to services and legal aid and provide support to survivors of gender based violence resulting from isolation and stress related to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Our Water, Sanitation & Hygiene activities will promote good hygiene practices, we will enhance distribution of hygiene items such as soap, we will initiate rapid construction of sanitation facilities and increase hand washing stations.
In areas where we oversee Camp Coordination and Camp Management, we will initiate improvement and maintenance work in order to ameliorate access, we will coordinate between service providers and engage and mobilize the communities.
Furthermore, given the fact that we anticipate that many displacement-affected people will likely experience partial or complete loss of income, we will increase the provision of cash and vouchers to help meet basic needs. We will also carry out in-kind distributions of non-food items, in situations where cash and vouchers are not feasible.
In many countries we are already amending our programmes and initiating new activities.
In Bosnia-Herzegovina, where we are responsible for the overall COVID-19 response for migrants and asylum seekers in reception centers, we have established isolation areas for both preventive isolation of newly registered beneficiaries and symptomatic beneficiaries. We have procured essential medical equipment for healthcare facilities for COVID-19 readiness, and we are communicating with communities, providing information and conducting psychosocial support activities.
In South Sudan, we have managed to adjust key activities to ensure that we continue to deliver critical services to displaced populations. We have been delivering WASH Kits and sanitizers in every center, and we have amended individual protection assistance packs to include additional sanitation items such as soap – with door to door distribution to the most vulnerable. We are limiting numbers of people at distribution points and ensuring social distancing, and we are monitoring and mitigating increased gender-based violence and human rights violation risks as a result of increased isolation and social distancing.
In Nigeria, we maintain delivery of planned programmes in three states in the northeast of the country where conflict continues even while COVID-19 infections spread. We are providing hand washing points at distribution sites, and we are conducting temperature checks for all programme participants with referral to a health provider if a fever is detected. Also, we are communicating the need for new modalities with all community leaders before distributions to explain why the new measures are necessary.
In Ethiopia, we focus primarily on camp-based settings where we are adjusting planned shelter and hygiene activities. We are supporting construction of isolation centers in camps and we are supporting construction of new food distribution points, upgrading existing points with social distancing crowd control mechanisms such as shades, barriers, controlled walkways. We are also conducting awareness raising at household and community level and we are distributing mass awareness posters in all local language. In Shire, we utilize our refugee-led radio production center to disseminate messages on hygiene.
In Bangladesh, we are not conducting medical relief ourselves, however, we are supporting organizations which provide health care services. We are conducting information campaigns and messaging on COVID-19 – dissemination of information is done verbally in small groups or meetings when spacing is allowed. We are still undertaking monsoon preparedness leading up to the coming monsoon season, and we provide critical protection support for the most vulnerable beneficiaries, including psychosocial support.
In Yemen, where we assist 800.000 people per month with food distribution, we are ready to scale up activities and are exploring avenues to mobilize partners and communities on the ground for action. We have started door-to-door mobilization and messaging on prevention and hygiene awareness. We are also focussing on water provision activities to ensure that more people have access to clean and safe water, and finally, we have activated emergency shelter distribution to resettle some of the affected households where social distancing is not possible.