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Coronavirus Is Coming For The World’s Most Vulnerable

Kiwis urged to support efforts to help reduce the impact of Covid-19 among refugees

Aid agency Tearfund New Zealand is warning that we are yet to see the full extent of suffering and loss of life from COVID-19 unless we step in to urgently help.

“With the first cases of COVID-19 emerging among refugee populations, we know it will devastate the most vulnerable in refugee communities if we do nothing to help them prepare for, and respond to, the virus”, says Tearfund CEO, Ian McInnes.

“I know that Kiwis are having to adapt to the reality of this virus here and the effects it is having on families and incomes is hard; but I urge Kiwis to get behind all efforts to help the world’s most vulnerable who don’t have the resources and protections that we have in this country. We are truly in this together and this goes beyond our shores,” he says.

“I have been in many refugee settlements where people live in very basic conditions. Social distancing is just not an option for those in refugee camps. Add to this, soap for washing is scarce, access to medical care is limited, and undernourishment among the refugee population is often high, the immunity of these communities is compromised,” says McInnes.

According to the UN, there are 855,000 official Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar - all of whom are vulnerable. There are also more than one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon where Tearfund’s partner is working.

The first cases are rapidly emerging in refugees in Cox’s Bazar, and Lebanon is seeing a growing number of cases and the country is already in lockdown, so it is highly likely to now spread to Syrian refugees there too. Tearfund has launched an appeal to provide emergency relief and support to the most vulnerable refugees providing hygiene kits and emergency food in Lebanon and health clinics for Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

McInnes says it is in the interest of all to help to stop the spread of Covid-19 and reduce the death toll. “The more people exposed to the virus, the riskier it is for everyone.”


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