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Coronavirus

Live updates: Go inside the IRC’s response to COVID-19

Get the latest on our work.

Last updated 

What does it look like to protect the world’s most vulnerable from the novel coronavirus?

The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, continues to spread globally and has reached countries with weak health systems which are less prepared to combat the disease. Vulnerable populations and those living in crisis will be hit the hardest by this outbreak.

That’s where the IRC comes in. We’ve launched coronavirus preparedness and response programs in over 40 countries, including the United States, Greece, Syria and Yemen. From sharing crucial information in Italy to training health care workers in Syria to continuing our vital work with refugees in the U.S., our teams are on the ground responding to the outbreak every day. 

Follow this space for the latest on our vital work around the world:

  • Through our telemedicine service in our clinic in Cúcuta, Colombia, people can call in to describe their symptoms and be referred to our clinic or other service providers. In just one morning, the doctors and nurses staffing the center saw twelve patients and took fifty calls.
Doctors and nurses sit at a table and take phone calls at the IRCs telemedicine clinic in Cúcuta, Colombia.

Doctors and nurses at our telemedicine clinic in Cúcuta, Colombia.

Photo: IRC
  • A new IRC analysis reveals refugees and displaced people in camps in Syria, Greece and Bangladesh face a heightened risk of coronavirus owing to conditions that are even more cramped and densely populated than the Diamond Princess cruise—the ship where the virus spread four times faster than Wuhan at the outbreak’s peak. Illustrator and data journalist Mona Chalabi helped us bring that critical information to life:
  • The IRC health clinic in the Za'atari refugee camp remains open amid a national lockdown in Jordan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meet an IRC volunteer delivering vital medicine to refugees while following heightened safety measures.
  • IRC offices in New York and New Jersey are partnering with World Central Kitchen and Chef José Andrés to provide free grab-and-go meals to local families in need. See our work in action in Brooklyn:
  • From handwashing to personal protective equipment (PPE), the IRC is dedicated to combating COVID-19 while continuing to help those we serve. Our new video highlights our work in Kenya's Kakuma camp, home to some 194,000 refugees.
  • There are many lessons from the response to the Ebola outbreak that can and must be applied in our response to the coronavirus. The head of the IRC’s health unit, Dr. Mesfin Teklu Tessema, outlined these critical lessons in Newsweek.
  • The IRC is working to train staff and our clients to protect themselves and mitigate risk of disease spread in communities where we work. Here an IRC doctor demonstrates the proper way to put on gloves for health care workers and volunteers in an IRC health facility in Bangladesh.
An IRC doctor demonstrates the proper way to put on gloves for health care workers and volunteers in an IRC health facility in Bangladesh.

An IRC doctor demonstrates the proper way to put on gloves for health care workers and volunteers in an IRC health facility in Bangladesh.

Photo: Maruf Hasan
  • In Cúcuta, Colombia, the IRC set up a health call center run by doctors and nurses. Below, medical staff take a quick selfie in between appointments.  Also in Colombia, staff in Medellín practice "foot greetings" (to limit physical contact and maintain distance), after distributing cash programming to 68 beneficiaries.
  • In Kakuma Refugee Camp in Northern Kenya, the IRC has trained health workers on COVID-19 and how to protect themselves, and reinforced proper hygiene and self isolation procedures. Here a Community Health Worker gives a presentation to the community.
A Community Health Worker speaks to the community in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.

A Community Health Worker speaks to the community in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.

Photo: IRC
  • As the world marked five years of war in Yemen, the IRC raised the alarm about the threat that a COVID-19 outbreak poses to the country and the need for international aid and a ceasefire. 
  • Community Health Volunteers in Bangladesh are going door to door to tell people about COVID-19 prevention measures like hand washing and social distancing.
Community Health Volunteers in Bangladesh hold a poster and talk to a community member about COVID-19.

Community Health Volunteers in Bangladesh put up posters and talk to their community about COVID-19.

Photo: Maruf Hasan
  • IRC frontline staff in Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan are providing essential health care services to Syrian refugees. Here they share a message from health care workers that has become famous around the world: “I stayed at work for you, you stay at home for us."
  • Below our team works in northwest Syria, where recent fighting forced nearly a million people to flee their homes and where the IRC provides cash grants to assist the most vulnerable families in rebuilding their lives. The precautions we are taking to ensure that COVID-19 is not spread include limiting the number of people and time spent at our centers, ensuring that our staff are wearing personal protective equipment, and ensuring that hand hygiene gel is widely available.
  • Italy has been one of the hardest hit by COVID-19 as it sweeps across Europe. Refugees and migrants in the country are especially vulnerable. In the midst of the country's lockdown, the IRC is using its Refugee.Info platform to share vital information with Italy's refugee population. Here a moderator updates the platform with new information. 
Henry, a Refugee.Info moderator, poses in front of his computer while sharing vital information with refugees and asylum seekers in Italy.

Henry is one of the Refugee.Info moderators, sharing vital information with refugees and migrants living in Italy.

Photo: IRC
  • On Monday, March 23, COVID-19 was confirmed in Syria.  
  • The IRC remains committed to continuing to serve and support refugees in the U.S., even as our offices move to remote work. Here our team in Denver is working hard to put together and deliver essential supplies—including food—to clients across the Denver metro area. 
  • Ever before COVID-19, our interactive service mapping and information platform CuentaNos.org provided information on shelter, health, education, and legal assistance for users in El Salvador and Honduras. Today, the platform is used to provide crucial information about COVID-19 to over 140 partners and all users who visit the site.
CuéntaNos, an IRC platform, is shown on a phone in a neighborhood in San Salvador.

CuéntaNos, an IRC platform, is shown on a phone in a neighborhood in San Salvador.

Photo: Neil Brandvold, IRC
  • In Boise, Idaho, our teams have translated COVID-19 guidance into eight languages, including Swahili, Russian, Spanish, and Arabic, and are sharing the resources with the community.
  • On March 18, Jordan completely shut down because of COVID-19. But IRC’s frontline workers in Jordan continue to provide essential health services in refugee camps in the country.
An IRC staff member in Jordan looks over paperwork.

IRC’s frontline workers in Jordan continue to provide essential health services in refugee camps in Jordan.

Photo: Marco Aviotti, IRC
  • “For the ten of millions of people who the IRC serves around the world, self-isolating, washing their hands, and getting to a health center if they are in need, is practically impossible.” Our CEO and president David Miliband released a special message on our response and how you can make a difference.