Refugees Lives On The Line Amidst The COVID-19 Pandemic

Photo showing Rohingya refugees reaching for food aid at Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhiya near the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. Photo Credit: AFP PHOTO/STR.

While most of us may find some days boring as we stay at home amid the fight against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, only a few may recognize the additional challenges faced by the refugee communities during this outbreak. From the government to health workers, everyone is preaching how washing hands, staying at home and maintaining social distance will flatten the curve. Indeed, this is very practical and after a few weeks of the World Health Organization (WHO) and other recognized world leaders calling upon all of us to practice hand washing and sanitizing, most of us are doing great. But remember, this has only been possible because we have that constant supply of running water in our houses. Furthermore, many of us have access to the food stores that we’ve recently taken advantage off. After learning about the pandemic, we ran to the stores and left toilet paper shelves empty, bought as much food as we could in addition to the big fridges within which we have stocked our food. With this, most of us can afford to stay indoors for weeks or even months.

But how about some of our brothers and sisters in refugee camps? How are they expected to cope up with this whole crisis without food stores and running water? How will they frequently wash their hands when the only way of getting water is topping by that well shared by the whole village? How will they maintain social distancing and stay at home without the fridges stocked with food? 

Undoubtedly, it’s a very unprecedented time for humanity, but for sure a time period that could be a defining moment for refugees’ families and communities. They too still hold the responsibility of washing their hands, staying at home, and maintaining social distancing, but in addition to the daily basic needs to survive.

Our prayers and hopes are that this pandemic won’t find its way within refugee camps, but above all, we hope that as the governments and other responsible institutions such as the World Health Organization continue the fight for humanity, refugees won’t be left out. They are the people that are constantly fighting for daily basic necessities. And with the current times, they are dealing with a double-edged sword, and as such, they could be the most vulnerable.

While in his article, Refugees Are Especially Vulnerable To COVID-19. Don’t Ignore Their Needs, Prof. Zaman emphasized the need for partnerships between health agencies or local authorities to be strengthened, and the necessity to work hand-in-hand with refugee community leaders to effectively help refugees. We hope during a time like this when it seems like life is about survival for the fittest, the needs for humans like refugees in tough living conditions won’t be ignored. They need to be considered and if anything, they need more help because they are the most vulnerable during such a crisis!

Opinions by;

Anson Liow & Joel Baraka –Concerned Students at the University of Wisconsin Madison

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