Lesbos, COVID-19 center
COVID-19

Our response to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic

Update 14 January 2022: Two years on since the start of the pandemic, teams are still responding to COVID-19 in countries across the world. However, most COVID-19 activities have since been integrated into our regular programmes, with few COVID-19-focused projects remaining. With this in mind, the information on this page will no longer be kept updated. For information on our latest COVID-19 activities, please see the latest articles published on the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic page. 

Activities information last updated 26 September 2021.

Highlights of our COVID-19 response activities can be found in the interactive map below; click on a country to read brief information.

To read detailed information on our activities per country, scroll down to the list below, or click on the regions on the menu to the left.

(Note: neither map nor detailed activities list below are exhaustive of all of our COVID-19 response.)

MSF response to coronavirus disease COVID-19

We started our first activities in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic in January 2020. As the new coronavirus spread, touching virtually every country in the world, MSF adapted or scaled up our ongoing activities and started new activities in many countries over the course of the first six months of 2020.

We committed substantial resources to developing dedicated COVID-19 projects, maintaining essential healthcare in our existing programmes, and accompanying ministries of health in preparing and/or facing the pandemic. This support was often in the form of training in infection prevention and control, health promotion and organisation of healthcare services. Since the middle of 2020, this training has largely concluded.

Most COVID-19-related activities have been integrated in our regular projects, although we are maintaining some COVID-19-focused projects. Over the last 12 months, our COVID-19-specific activities have been opened (or reopened) and closed as subsequent waves of infections determines the need to scale up. Where we are doing so is very much dependent on the context: the local epidemiological situation, the local health needs, and our own resources.

It is still difficult to provide a global narrative on our operations, as the pandemic is affecting every country in the world, with different consequences, in different places. Therefore, our approach can also be very different from country to country or even from project to project.

Americas

Bolivia
MSF launched a COVID-19 intervention in Bolivia in March 2021. Our activities consist of infection prevention and control measures in health structures, mental health services (for patients and medical staff), and capacity building for frontline workers. 

We have also developed health promotion activities in several districts of the country, sharing information with the communities on health practices and preventive measures. Since the beginning of our intervention in the country, the team has organised more than 800 awareness sessions on COVID-19.

Brazil
In Brazil, MSF is working in north Amazonas, in Atalaia do Norte and Benjamin Constant municipalities, where we prepare local health staff in case a new wave of cases strikes the area. Our teams are working on patient flow, rapid testing, mental health and health promotion, with a focus on prevention training in clinics and hospitals.

Other MSF response activities in the Americas:

Honduras
In Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, we support five health centres with a mobile team, including a nurse, psychologist and health promoters, who provide psychosocial support to the community and in two hospitals with COVID-19 units. Our teams also reinforce health promotion activities in the hospitals. 

Mexico
In Mexico, MSF teams have incorporated COVID-19 prevention measures and testing into our regular activities in the shelters we work in across the migration route. 

MSF teams have also responded to the pandemic in Oaxaca, Chiapas, Tabasco, Veracruz, Nuevo Laredo, Nuevo Léon, Coahuila, Tamaulipas, and Guerrero states. 

Peru 
In Peru, our activities have shifted to setting up vaccination sites in Cusco City and in Arequipa to scale-up vaccination efforts, as the Delta variant is circulating widely and rapidly. We are also supporting the Ministry of Health’s vaccination campaigns by providing data-entry staff materials for reporting. These activities will come to an end in early/mid-October.

Venezuela 
COVID-19 cases remain high in Venezuela, and vaccination coverage remains low. MSF’s response plan includes assisting with medical supplies and staff recruitment, as well as strengthening triage, diagnosis, treatment, infection prevention and control, and secondary care services in Amazonas, Anzoátegui, Bolívar, Sucre, Táchira and Caracas.

In Vargas hospital in Caracas we are supporting a unit of 24 beds (including four for ICU) and 36 beds in Hospital Lidice in the west of the city, where we are seeing an increase in patients. We already scaled up our intervention in Bolivar state, in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the state.

Closed countries 
Throughout the Americas, MSF teams have responded to the pandemic in: Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, and the United States.

 

Africa

Burundi
In Burundi, we launched our first dedicated COVID-19 activities in the country, following an increase in cases in July. Our teams are working in Kinyinya district, Ruiygi province, where we are reinforcing preventive activities through health promotion with community members and leaders. We are also providing medical training in health centres and at the district hospital to guarantee the quality of care and support patients with a nutritional programme. 

Cameroon
We have restarted activities in Cameroon, where we provide home-based care and follow up of COVID-19 patients, contact tracing at Buea Regional hospital. We are also constructing a new laboratory to improve the capacity for testing.

Côte d’Ivoire
In Côte d’Ivoire, MSF teams are working in a telemedicine project to help diagnose illnesses that could lead to complications with COVID-19.

Democratic Republic of Congo 
In South Kivu province, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), we are working at the Clinique Universitaire de Bukavu to provide training, additional staff, and improvement of infection prevention and control measures, including an isolation circuit. We also ensure the availability of tests and treatment at the hospital. 

MSF teams work at the Hôpital Provincial de Reference and Kyeshero Hospital in Goma, North Kivu province, where we provide health promotion and IPC technical support.

MSF teams have also responded to the pandemic in the capital, Kinshasa, and in Ituri province. 

Other MSF response activities in Africa:

Eswatini
In Eswatini, we have provided treatment to critical patients sick with COVID-19 in a home-based care approach, where patients with comorbidities are visited at home to ensure continuity of care. With health facilities being overwhelmed with high numbers of sick patients during the current third wave, there has been an extension of the COVID-19 ward at the Nhlangano health centre, which has now been fully equipped with oxygen concentrators. 

Ethiopia
In Gambella region, Ethiopia, MSF has set up a 20-bed COVID-19 isolation centre and another one with a capacity of 10 beds in two camps for South Sudanese refugees (Kule and Tierkidi). In Gambella town, a team provides support to the COVID-19 triage and temporary isolation centre in Gambella hospital.

Since May, a team in Addis Ababa has been providing mental health support to migrants who have returned mainly from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Lebanon, and have been placed in three COVID-19 quarantine centres in the capital. MSF is supporting the MoH’s medical and non-medical staff who work in the quarantine centres by training them on migrants’ mental health needs.

Our teams support the regional health authorities in our different project locations in Amhara and Somali Region in their isolation and treatment centres and with health education.

Guinea
In Guinea, we support the Ministry of Health to provide care to patients with COVID-19 at the Gbessia Epidemic Treatment centre, on the outskirts of the capital Conakry, with a specific focus on people coinfected with HIV/TB. 

Kenya 
In the city of Homa Bay, in Kenya’s southwest, we follow up COVID-19 patients after their discharge from Homa Bay county hospital. At the hospital we also continue to test suspect patients in the outpatient and adult inpatient wards.

In Dadaab, we continue to maintain a COVID-19 isolation ward.

MSF teams in Kenya have also responded to COVID-19 in Embu, Nairobi, Kiambu, Dadaab and Mombasa counties.

Lesotho
In Lesotho, following a recent acute shortage of nursing staff for COVID-19 wards, we are supporting Jhpiego, an international partner, to implement the ward attendant programme that we first implemented in the country during the second wave.

Malawi
In Malawi, we have reopened our field hospital of 60 beds in Blantyre, following the start of the third wave in June. We provide medical staff, staff trained in infection prevention and control measures, manage patient flow, treat severely ill patients and provide oxygen supply. At the Blantyre Youth Centre, we provide logistics support for vaccination efforts. 

At the South Yunzu health centre, we conduct COVID-19 testing and provide logistic and medical supplies.

MSF has also responded in Neno, Dedza and Nsanje districts in Malawi. 

Mali 
In the capital of Mali, Bamako, we provide human, financial and technical support to the MoH’s inpatient COVID-19 unit in Hôpital du Mali.

We run outpatient activities in three communes of Bamako, such as improving dedicated COVID-19 patient flow, testing and triage areas in health centres, medical follow up of COVID-19 positive patients at home, health promotion sessions and targeted distribution of prevention kits.

Niger 
In Niger, our teams support with logistics and human resources in Lamordé hospital in Niamey, where people with moderate cases are treated. 

We are also supporting health centres in Magaria, Dungass and Tillaberi with water and sanitation activities, distributing masks, organising the triage of patients, and helping the investigation and response team. 

MSF teams in Niger also worked on the COVID-19 response in Zinder, Maradi and Madarounfa.

Nigeria 
In Ebonyi state, southeastern Nigeria, we are supporting the MoH and Nigerian disease control centre with testing, in the state’s first COVID-19 testing centre. 

Our teams have set-up isolation units in Gwoza and Pulka where suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19 are treated. The capacity of the unit has been reduced to five beds in each facility. In Ngala, we have increased epidemiological surveillance and are implementing IPC measures and running health promotion activities.

Across Nigeria, we have responded in Ngala, Sokoto, Maiduguri, Benue, and Zamfara.

Sierra Leone
MSF teams support the ministry of health in Sierra Leone with treatment, surveillance, IPC measures and testing strategies. We are part of an oxygen technical working group at the national Emergency Operations Centre, as well as district level operations centres in Kenema, Tonkolili and Bombali districts. 

In Tonkolili district, our team is supporting the district health authorities with cold chain support and logistics for COVID-19 vaccinations. 
 
In Freetown, the capital, we have started rehabilitation work in Connaught Hospital to increase treatment capacity, as well as installing an oxygen production plant to support the treatment of moderate and severe COVID-19 patients. 

Somalia 
In Somalia, a specialised biomedical engineer is assisting all Somaliland MoH COVID-19 centres with the repair and maintenance of specialised biomed equipment, such as oxygen concentrators. The engineer also provides training on how to service, maintain and operate them. 

Our teams in the country have also worked in Hargeisa, Galcayo, Las Anod and Baidoa.

South Africa 
In South Africa, MSF is supporting public hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces with the placement of extra doctors and nurses, in Ngwelezane hospital and Livingstone hospital, respectively. 

In Eshowe in KwaZulu-Natal, where MSF has a long-term HIV/TB project, we have a community-based activity that aims to identify individuals at high risk of severe COVID-19. People enrolled in the programme self-monitor using a pulse oximeter, reporting daily to MSF. We also launched a task shifting intervention in Ngwelezane hospital in KwaZulu-Natal and in Livingstone hospital in Eastern Cape, recruiting and training enrolled nurse aides to cover basic care tasks, taking pressure off nurses and ensuring that the lifesaving basics get done. 

In Khayelitsha in the Western Cape, a team of MSF health promoters supports a mobile vaccination site in collaboration with the City of Cape Town Health Department. 

In addition to previous projects in KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape provinces, MSF teams have also worked in Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg, and in Gauteng and North West provinces.

South Sudan 
In Juba, the capital city of South Sudan, MSF teams are providing technical support to the MoH, with a laboratory supervisor based at the National Public Health Laboratory. 

Outside of Juba, four MSF facilities in Agok, Bentiu, Lankien and Malakal run COVID-19 testing.  

In addition, in all projects across the country we continue to isolate and treat patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. 

In places where MSF is the only health partner, such as in Ulang in Upper Nile State, we are supporting the MoH in the rollout of vaccination activities.

MSF teams previously responded to the coronavirus in Yei, Old Fangak, and in Doro refugee camp in Maban.

Sudan
Just over the Nile River from Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, MSF is supporting the Ministry of Health with screening, testing, triage and IPC support for COVID-19 in Omdurman Teaching hospital. We rehabilitated the hospital’s laboratory and provided furniture.

Our teams also responded in East Darfur and South Kordofan states.

Tanzania
In Tanzania, our health promotion team in Nduta refugee camp, is undertaking health promotion activities, raising awareness among the community on hygiene and best health practices. MSF has built four triage/isolation areas at each of our health clinics at Nduta refugee camp, and a main isolation centre at our hospital, with a 100-bed capacity, where people suspected of having COVID-19 are referred.

Tunisia
Following an explosion of cases, we started working in Tunisia in July 2021, to support the MoH with the opening of a field hospital in Beja Governorate, in the country’s west. Our medical staff support the hospital with patient treatment, and we improve oxygen capacity through training on maintenance and quality. 

We’re also helping to transfer patients from the regional hospital and other health facilities in the area to this new facility, to reduce the burden on those structures. We also provide training, so staff members are prepared if a new wave occurs. Additionally, we’ve started supporting the MoH’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Beja and in Manouba Governorate (close to the capital city, Tunis).

Uganda 
In Uganda, MSF has been supporting the intensive care unit at the 140-bed Entebbe hospital, managing the triage and patient flow, ensuring oxygen supplies, while training staff in infection and prevention control measures. 

In the Arua District, we also run a 35-bed COVID-19 treatment unit, which conducts testing and treatment for the Arua Regional Referral hospital. 

In the Kasese district, MSF has set up a 24-hour ambulance service for the transfer of critically ill patients between Kasese and the Regional Referral Hospital in Fort Portal.

Zimbabwe 
The number of new COVID-19 cases continues to decrease in Zimbabwe, while few patients are hospitalised. As a result, we have scaled down our intervention at Beitbridge’s Screening and Referral Unit, our isolation ward and quarantine centre, but continue to provide support to Beitbridge hospital.

Closed countries
Across Africa, MSF teams had been working in Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mozambique, and Senegal.
 

Middle East and North Africa

Iraq
In June 2021, a third wave of COVID-19 outbreak was declared in Iraq. With a peak of confirmed infections reaching over 13,000 a day on 28 July - the highest recorded daily infections in the country since the beginning of the pandemic - and a daily death toll exceeding 50 deaths per day during the last week of July and first week of August, the country’s already-weakened health system has been hit harder than in previous waves. 

MSF teams are continuing to work in hard-hit Baghdad, where we provide intensive care to severely and critically ill COVID-19 patients. We run the COVID-19 intensive care unit in Al-Kindi hospital, which is constantly full, with new COVID-19 patients often having to wait in the emergency room for a bed to become free. 

In Sinjar, in Nineveh governorate, we provide care to people in a seven-bed unit of Sinuni General Hospital dedicated to observing and stabilising suspected COVID-19 patients.

Elsewhere in Iraq, our teams have also responded in Mosul, Erbil, Dohuk and in Laylan camp.

Lebanon
Across Lebanon, MSF’s Medical Response Teams (MRT) support the Ministry of Public Health in its COVID-19 testing strategy - taking PCR samples based on the contact-tracing scheme of the authorities. Our Rapid Response Teams have also been part of the testing campaign, notably in Tripoli and in the Bekaa Valley. The MRT also supports home isolation assessments and provides follow up for confirmed COVID-19 patients in home isolation. 

We also support the Ministry of Public Health on the COVID-19 vaccination roll out, where we are currently vaccinating people in a COVID-19 vaccination centre in Bar Elias. 

In Lebanon, MSF teams have worked in a number of neighbourhoods across Beirut, plus in Hermel, Saida, Zahle, and Tripoli, among other places.

Other MSF activities in Middle East and North Africa:

Libya 
In Libya, we continue to support the Ministry of Health in one COVID-19 testing site in Tripoli, as well as providing COVID-19-related training to medical and healthcare staff. We also continue to reinforce IPC measures in detention centres (in Tripoli, Zliten, Zintan) - as much as possible given the inhumane conditions there.

Palestine 
To help combat COVID-19 misinformation in Palestine, MSF has been running a Facebook campaign, where we share accurate COVID-19 health messages across Gaza. 

In the West Bank, we operate a hotline offering remote counselling to medical staff and other first responders affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We carry out COVID-19 health promotion activities to affected communities. 

In Nablus, we support a Palestinian Red Crescent Society hospital with medical staff, and medical and logistic supplies. In Hebron, we work in Dura hospital on infection prevention and control measures, triage, support the intensive care unit, and assist with water and sanitation services. 

Syria 
In northwest Syria, MSF continues to provide care for patients with moderate and severe COVID-19 in Idlib National Hospital’s 30-bed COVID-19 treatment centre. We also run a 30-bed COVID-19 isolation unit in the vicinity of one of our co-managed hospitals in Idlib governorate, where rapid diagnostic testing is also conducted. In the camps where we work in northwest Syria, our teams conduct rapid diagnostic testing, spread awareness messages about COVID-19 and the vaccines, and distribute hygiene kits to displaced families. 

In the Afrin area, we support a 34-bed community COVID-19 treatment centre and a mobile surveillance clinic run by a local organisation; we also run a respiratory clinic within a basic healthcare centre run by a local partner. In Al-Bab, MSF is in charge of another 30-bed treatment centre. In all these health facilities, we treat patients with mild, moderate and severe COVID-19 symptoms and provide oxygen support to the patients who need it. 

In Syria’s northeast, in Al-Hol detention camp, both the number of cases and proportion of people tested who return a positive result have risen since the second half of August. We are concerned that this could potentially signal the beginning of another wave of COVID-19. In the camp, we offer home-based care for people with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, who are mildly or moderately ill. This allows people to be treated and followed up while isolating in their tent.

MSF teams in Syria have also responded to the pandemic in Raqqa and Hassakeh, in the northeast. 

Yemen 
In response to the current COVID-19 outbreak in Yemen, we support the 67-bed COVID-19 treatment centre at Al-Kuwait hospital and the 40-bed COVID-19 centre in Al-Jumhouri hospital, both in Sana’a, by providing oxygen therapy, other essential care and IPC measures. These two centres continue to receive patients on a daily basis; most cases come from far away, including other governorates like Hajjah and Al-Baydaa.

In Al-Sahul hospital in Ibb governorate, our teams support local health authorities at the COVID-19 treatment centre. We provide treatment, nursing care, support in provision of medications, health promotion, training on personal protection equipment use, and infection prevention and control measures in the hospital, which cares for both admitted patients and those in intensive care.

In Hajjah Governorate, we work in Abs hospital, where a team undertakes screening and refers people with suspected COVID-19 to treatment centres. 

In Aden, MSF is running Al-Sadaqa COVID-19 treatment centre. It remains the only functional facility to treat COVID-19 patients in Aden, with a bed capacity of 21 admitted patients and 9 in intensive care. 

In Khamer (Amran governorate), our COVID-19 treatment unit, in which we treat patients with respiratory infections and suspected moderate cases of COVID-19, is still regularly receiving patients. 

In Haydan (Saada Governate), we continue to treat people with moderate cases of COVID-19.

MSF teams have also worked in Abyan, Hodeidah, Lahj, and Taiz governorates. 

Closed countries 
MSF teams also responded to the pandemic in Iran and in Jordan.

 

Asia

Afghanistan
In Herat, in northwestern Afghanistan, we are undertaking testing and triage activities in Herat regional hospital.

In Lashkar Gah, Helmand province, the team is referring people with suspected COVID-19 to the province’s main COVID-19 hospital, Malika Suraya hospital. We are also treating COVID-19 patients with four identified risk factors: those with tuberculosis, surgical patients, children and pregnant women. 

In Kandahar, our teams treat DR-TB patients infected with COVID-19 in the MSF DR-TB centre. 

MSF teams have also responded to the pandemic in a number of areas across Afghanistan, including in Khost, and Kabul.

Bangladesh
During July and August, an alarming surge in infections and deaths occurred in Bangladesh. In response, MSF teams set up isolation and treatment wards in eight medical facilities in the Cox’s Bazar area for Rohingya refugees and the Bangladeshi host community. We also prepared two standalone intensive care centres, opening one with 16 beds ready to admit patients with moderate or severe symptoms referred from other facilities. 

We provide testing at all of our hospitals and basic healthcare centres, including at a specialised clinic. As of June, around 12,000 COVID-19 samples have been collected and more than 600 patients have received COVID-19 care. 

In Kamrangirchar, a crowded slum area in the capital, Dhaka, we support the government hospital with logistics and train staff in infection prevention and control measures.

Malaysia 
In Penang, northwest Malaysia, we are providing health education in different languages for vulnerable people, including Rohingya and Burmese, and translations in hospitals. We have started a COVID-19 health promotion campaign for Rohingya refugees via an online Rohingya news network. 

Other MSF response activities in Asia:

Myanmar
In Myanmar, MSF has opened COVID-19 treatment centres in Yangon, and in Myitkyina and Hpakant in Kachin state, with 70 beds available across the three locations for people with severe symptoms. 

In addition, we have been sharing prevention messaging at our clinics and through social media, providing home-based care, donating medical supplies, operating COVID-19 information telephone lines and providing telemedicine consultations, training frontline workers to prevent infection, and referring potential cases for tests from our existing clinics.

Pakistan 
In Pakistan, MSF provides cold chain management and maintenance to support the local health department’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Kemari district, Karachi.  

In Balochistan province, we also support the COVID-19 unit of the Department of Health’s (DoH) centralised Fatima Jinnah hospitals with nurses and a lab technician in Quetta. 

MSF provides sample transfers from the districts of Dera Murad Jamali, Jaffarabad and Chaman, to the provincial laboratory in Quetta. We support the DoH with information, educational and communication material for COVID-19 awareness and prevention, which is being disseminated in government facilities.

Papua New Guinea 
Since early March, the number of confirmed infections in Papua New Guinea has increased drastically. 

We support the Rita Flynn hospital in the capital, Port Morseby, with one lab technician and cartridges to analyse samples of PCR tests for coronavirus infections. We also carry out patient education and counselling sessions, as a lot of stigma and misinformation is reported from the communities.  

Uzbekistan 
In Uzbekistan, we support the implementation of IPC measures across the primary healthcare system. Additionally, we coordinate with the MoH for the treatment of patients co-infected with COVID-19 and tuberculosis (TB).

Closed countries 
In Asia, MSF teams responded to the pandemic in Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, the Philippines, and Tajikistan.

 

Europe

Belgium
In Belgium, an outreach team provides support to people who are staying in unauthorised places (e.g. squats) in Brussels, offering screening and medical follow-up in collaboration with two other NGOs. This team also provides health promotion, infection prevention and control, contact tracing and psychological support.

France
In France, since early June, MSF mobile teams have been providing COVID-19 vaccinations for people living on the streets or in precarious settings in Paris, and in the neighbouring departements of Seine-Saint Denis, Val-de-Marne and Yvelines. We also provide vaccinations at a dedicated site at Porte de la Villette in Paris. Our Paris-based mobile clinics provide COVID-19 antigen tests and carry out basic healthcare consultations.

In France, MSF teams have worked extensively in previous projects – especially in nursing homes –  across Paris and the Île-de-France region, plus in Marseille, Reims, the regions of Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur and Occitanie, and in the département of Haute-Savoie, in the country’s east.

Other MSF COVID-19 response activities in Europe:

Greece
In Athens, Greece, we collaborate with the 3rd Clinic of Internal Medicine of Athens University (NKUA-EKPA) by providing psychological support to frontline health workers, COVID-19 patients and their relatives. 

MSF teams have also responded to the pandemic on the islands of Samos and Lesbos.

Italy
In Rome, Italy, we are working in collaboration with the Ministry of Health to reach undocumented people and facilitate their access to vaccination programmes.

We previously responded to the pandemic in several areas in Italy, including on the islands of Lampedusa and Sicily. 

Portugal
In Portugal, our teams are providing health promotion in five areas of Lisbon and Vale do Tejo, which have a majority of people of Roma and African descent. We supplement the support of these groups of people on an ad hoc basis, through training and donations of hygiene materials, including soap and masks.

Russia
In Russia, MSF is distributing information leaflets on TB and COVID-19, which we developed for multidrug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant TB patients in Arkhangelsk region, in the country’s north. We are distributing food and hygiene packages during the patient visits. 

In addition, we partner with two community-based NGOs in Moscow and St Petersburg to support vulnerable people, where PPE (masks, gloves and hydroalcoholic gel) have been distributed with information on COVID-19, TB and HIV. 

Ukraine
In Ukraine, MSF teams are raising awareness about COVID-19 vaccination among communities and monitoring the situation as the country prepares for a third wave.

MSF teams previously responded to the pandemic in Donetsk and Zhytomyr oblasts (provinces). 

Closed countries
MSF teams across Europe have responded to the coronavirus pandemic in the Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

 

MSF Intervention in Leganés

Protecting people living in precarious conditions

Of particular concern is how coronavirus COVID-19 might affect people in precarious environments, such as the homeless, refugees living in camps in Greece or Bangladesh, or conflict-affected populations in Yemen or Syria. These people live under harsh, often unhygienic and overcrowded conditions, where their access to healthcare is already compromised.

How can we ask people to protect themselves when they don’t have easy access to water? Or to stay at home and self-isolate if they rely on daily jobs to make ends meet, or share a room with 10 other people? Nonetheless, it is very important to inform people of protective measures  (such as washing their hands often) and help ensure they have the means to protect themselves (including self-isolation in case of contact with a person infected with COVID-19).

If COVID-19 starts to be transmitted in fragile settings like these, it will be practically impossible to contain. Basic health screening and, ideally, decentralised testing for high-risk settings such as refugee camps (Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh or on the Greek islands, for example) or high-density slum dwellings (Kibera in Kenya or Khayelitsha) needs to be implemented immediately.

Keeping healthcare workers safe

Protecting healthcare workers from contracting the virus is paramount for ensuring the continuity of care for general and COVID-19-related health needs. However, global shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) pose a great threat. Healthcare workers must have access to the equipment they need to do their jobs safely and effectively.

As research and development is underway to find effective treatment for coronavirus COVID-19, we are closely tracking the trials and evidence concerning the potential medicines in the pipeline. 

Any drugs, tests and vaccines for COVID-19 should be made available to all those who need them. It is crucial that governments prepare to suspend or override patents for COVID-19 medical tools by issuing compulsory licences. Removing patents and other barriers will be essential in helping ensure that suppliers can sell tests and treatments at prices everyone can afford.
 

Challenges in ensuring continuous care in MSF projects

We want to ensure continuous care for all patients where we work today and prepare our medical teams to manage potential cases of COVID-19. Protecting patients and healthcare workers is essential, so our medical teams are also preparing for potential cases of coronavirus disease COVID-19 in our projects. This means ensuring infection prevention and control measures are in place, including setting up screening at triage zones, creating isolation areas, and providing health education.

Our projects are still able to continue medical activities, but ascertaining future supplies of certain key items, such as surgical masks, swabs, gloves and chemicals for diagnosis of COVID-19, is a concern. There is also a risk of supply shortages for other diseases due to a lack of production of generic drugs and difficulties to import essential drugs (such as antibiotics, antimalarial and antiretroviral drugs), caused by community lockdowns, reduced production of active pharmaceutical ingredients, and reduction in export movements.

We face additional challenges because travel restrictions linked to COVID-19 are limiting our ability to move staff between different countries. We are trying to find ways to manage this, to avoid heavily impacting projects needing specialist profiles, such as surgeons. However, international staff represent just eight per cent of our total global workforce, so most MSF projects are run by locally hired team members.

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