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. You can donate to support our work here.
Editor's note: This article is no longer being updated. Please visit our coronavirus topic page for more information on our ongoing COVID-19 response.
Follow this space for the latest on our vital work around the world:
- Despite the pandemic, IRC clients across the world continue to pursue their dreams and support their communities. Hundreds of people on social media recently joined the IRC in congratulating Olivier, a refugee, nurse, and recent college graduate.
- Our dedicated team of health workers in Bangladesh spent Eid away from their families, working 24/7 to provide vital services to the refugee community. Below, they shared a meal together in the IRC health facility.
- Even before COVID-19, Libya suffered from critical shortages of healthcare workers, medicine and medical supplies. IRC is supporting twelve health clinics and one community development center, and delivering supplies to protect health workers and patients including masks, gloves and gowns for two health facilities in the city of Gharyan.
- Our health team in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya, do a dance while practicing hand washing techniques.
- The IRC released new data revealing an alarming testing shortfall in conflict-affected states. Yemen, for instance, has only 31 tests for every million people.
⚠️Our new data shows a #Coronavirus testing shortfall in crisis-affected states, risking undetected outbreaks -- and imperilling #COVID19 fight worldwide.— IRC - International Rescue Committee (@RESCUEorg) May 22, 2020
Yemen, for instance, only has 31 tests per 1 million people.
International support needed: https://t.co/bsEMEK8Wa8
- An IRC hygiene promoter provides training and critical information about COVID-19 to men, women, and children in Herat province, Afghanistan, one of the worst-hit provinces in the country during this outbreak. “I use all my strengths together to provide my clients and their families the best,” she says. “Combating the virus gives me hope.”
- Chef José Andrés visited a meal distribution site in Elizabeth, New Jersey run by his charity, World Central Kitchen, alongside the IRC. The staff in Elizabeth, which includes many refugees, has provided 81,000 meals for the community so far.
QUICK REPORT from Elizabeth, New Jersey! @WCKitchen is distributing fresh meals here to the community with our partner @RESCUEorg...81,000 meals served so far by our amazing staff...many who are refugees! #ChefsForAmerica pic.twitter.com/8RC5kMENUu— José Andrés (@chefjoseandres) May 20, 2020
- How do you explain an invisible virus to children? Watch how IRC Environmental Officer Katerina Sala teaches refugee children in Lesvos, Greece, about the importance of using soap and how it protects them from viruses like #COVID19.
How do you explain an invisible virus to children?— IRC - International Rescue Committee (@RESCUEorg) May 19, 2020
Watch how IRC Environmental Officer Katerina Sala teaches refugee children in Lesvos, Greece about the importance of using soap and how it protects them from viruses like #COVID19: pic.twitter.com/BKSBhOXXlz
- After thousands of Venezuelans became stranded at the Colombia-Venezuelan border, IRC teams mobilized quickly to implement triage medical care, including for COVID-19. Watch as IRC Voice and actress Morena Baccarin discusses the crisis and our response with IRC country director Marianne Menjivar.
- The IRC has made adaptations to our women’s protection and empowerment programs to slow the spread of COVID-19. Below, women in one of our safe spaces in Tanzania practice basket weaving while maintaining social distancing. Trainings like this are not only useful for economic empowerment, the programs also give women an opportunity to build networks and access other services provided at the women’s centers.
- Before the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Cox's Bazer, Bangladesh, on May 14 the IRC was already ramping up its response. Watch as our teams describe their work on a new coronavirus isolation and treatment center.
- On May 14, the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the world's largest refugee camp: Kutupalong camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. The IRC called for a rapid scaling up of funding to save lives.
BREAKING: The world’s largest refugee camp—Kutupalong camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh—saw its first confirmed case of #COVID19.— IRC - International Rescue Committee (@RESCUEorg) May 14, 2020
With health facilities already overcrowded and overwhelmed, we need to rapidly scale up support to save lives. Our statement: https://t.co/p6PcPXcfyN
- During the coronavirus pandemic, the IRC continues to offer essential health care. Below are midwives wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) at the reproductive health clinic in Bakassi Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camp in Maiduguri, Nigeria. The clinic offers sexual and reproductive healthcare 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Around 150 women give birth there each month.
- Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, is home to the largest refugee camp in the world. In anticipation of coronavirus reaching the camp, the IRC is building an isolation unit and treatment center for COVID-19 patients. Watch as the team begins building and the IRC’s Bangladesh country director describes the program.
- As part of the IRC’s continuing gender-based violence group programming for Venezuelan migrants in Colombia, new moms wrote how having a new baby made them feel. Verónica Andrade, who could not return to be with her partner in Venezuela due to the coronavirus, holds a sign saying “Maravilloso” (or “Wonderful”). When asked to share her hopes for her baby, she said “a stable home and a great love, and that someday they can know the country where their parents are from.”
- As part of COVID-19 precautionary measures, tents have been set up outside our clinics in northwest Syria, where patients go through a process of sanitization and having their temperature checked. Below, a health worker disinfects a patient’s shoes before he enters a clinic.
- Nine years of conflict have devastated Syria's health system, which now must face the threat of COVID-19. Hear from our doctors in the northeast about how they continue to serve displaced families at our health clinics—safely.
- Ahlan Simsim, the IRC and Sesame Workshop’s early childhood development program, has continued remotely during COVID-19. Watch as caregivers use Ahlan Simsim activities with their young ones.
- Accurate information is key to fighting COVID-19. Below, IRC educational materials are displayed in areas with high foot traffic in Sukkur, Pakistan.
- The Sotheby’s and Google auction to benefit the IRC began on May 1. The experiences up for auction include a virtual coffee with Hillary Rodham Clinton to discuss how the Covid-19 pandemic will change the way in which we view the world and how you can help create positive change amidst this crisis.
Millions of refugees and displaced people are now facing a double emergency with COVID-19 reaching their communities.— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) May 1, 2020
I'm proud to join this @Google & @Sothebys virtual auction benefiting @RESCUEorg's life-saving work.
Join us: https://t.co/Q7wv3U6cLr #MayDayForCovid
- The IRC has partnered with Chef José Andrés’s World Central Kitchen to provide New Yorkers in need with free meals. Watch below as an IRC staff member, Dina, explains why she is happy to help feed her neighbors in Brooklyn.
- In Mexico, we have launched, together with local authorities and civil society partners, a public health awareness and psychosocial support campaign for shelters at the Mexico-US border. Here, IRC staff deliver cleaning supplies vital to combating COVID-19.
- After a week of hard work preparing to combat COVID-19, our staff in Kakuma refugee camp took a much-deserved self-care dance break.
Something to brighten your day— IRC - International Rescue Committee (@RESCUEorg) April 29, 2020
After a long week of #COVID19 preparedness, our Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya staff were taken through a self-care dance session by our mental health lead. A little dancing can go a long way in ensuring a healthy mental state! #InternationalDanceDay pic.twitter.com/ZAfoPl6A4f
- Sotheby’s and Google have joined forces for an online auction of unique virtual experiences with leading figures from all walks of culture, business, politics and science—all to benefit the IRC. The unparalleled experiences up for auction include recording a song with Sting, a coffee and conversation with Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Shakespearean acting lesson from Sir Patrick Stewart, coffee or tea with Madeleine Albright, and a hang out with Sacha Baron Cohen.
ANNOUNCEMENT❗We’ve joined forces w/ @Google to help @Rescueorg’s front-line efforts to combat COVID-19From 1-8 May we’ll be hosting a charity auction of virtual experiences w/ support from the biggest names in culture & public affairs: https://t.co/Fktt3qsOQr#MayDayForCovid— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) April 27, 2020
- Game of Thrones actor and IRC Voice Lena Headey, at home in London, caught up with IRC psychologist Kiki Michailidou in Greece to hear how refugees she had met on her visits there were coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. Lena asked Kiki how anyone could self-isolate in a crowded refugee camp—it must be impossible. “It is impossible,” Kiki told her.
- In a column on how to help during the coronavirus pandemic, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof urged his readers to donate to the IRC. “As the son of a refugee,” he wrote. “I feel particular admiration for an aid group that tries to save the lives of people who have already endured so much.”
Readers keep asking me about Covid-19: How can I help? This column is my answer. I list five organizations doing wonderful work responding to Covid, who could scale up even more if they had the cash. https://t.co/SPgm1M00Of— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) April 25, 2020
- The IRC has provided personal protective equipment (PPE) to health workers at the seventeen clinics we are supporting in northeast Syria. Below a pharmacist dispenses medication to a mother at a primary health care clinic.
- In David Miliband’s latest message to supporters, he stresses the value of our education work during the pandemic.
- Michael Bloomberg’s foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, announced a $10 million contribution to support our efforts to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on vulnerable populations across the globe, and for additional work that will be needed to protect these peoples.
Thank you, @MikeBloomberg, for your commitment to supporting our #coronavirus response—and for your support of our work for over two decades.— IRC - International Rescue Committee (@RESCUEorg) April 23, 2020
As you say, there’s no time to waste. We must protect the millions of people displaced by conflict and crisis as the pandemic spreads. https://t.co/Krs6UqeoiG
- Around 104,000 people uprooted from Myanmar live in refugee camps in Thailand. IRC's response to the coronavirus includes setting up triage, screening and isolation rooms at health facilities within the camps and informing the camp leadership on the situation. Below, a refugee medic in Umpiem Mai camp practices safe donning of personal protective equipment (PPE) and our camp-based staff designs face shields for frontline workers at our health clinics.
- The IRC responded to the Trump Administration's planned Executive Order to ban immigration to the U.S., pointing to the immense contributions immigrants have made to the fight against the coronavirus.
Immigrants are making huge contributions to America’s response to the #coronavirus, and historically, to America’s economy. But the Trump administration is planning an Executive Order to halt immigration to the US. Our statement: https://t.co/XBDIUekew1— IRC - International Rescue Committee (@RESCUEorg) April 21, 2020
- Watch as Tamara, an IRC pharmacist, provides Syrian women at the Azraq refugee camp in Jordan with medicine for reproductive health.
- The IRC continues to provide maternal health care and cash programming to Venezuelan migrants in Colombia. Here, patients wait outside—six feet apart—for their appointments in the IRC's maternal health clinic in Cúcuta, Colombia.
- The IRC’s health clinics in Jordan in the Azraq and Zaatari Camps and in Mafraq and Ramtha remain open in spite of a national lockdown, and we are committed to continuing our services safely. Here an IRC midwife speaks with a patient.
- When the coronavirus hit Dallas, TX, Isabella Chamberlain knew IRC clients may have trouble accessing food. She found a solution: Working alone for safety, each week she distributes food—including fresh vegetables—to refugee and low-income families.
- Handwashing is a key tool in the fight against the coronavirus. By the beginning of April, the IRC team in Helmand province, in southern Afghanistan, had installed 20 hand-washing stations in multiple locations to encourage hand-washing in crowded areas. Below, a woman washes her hands at the main entry gate to the city of Lashkar Gah.
- On April 15, IRC president and CEO David Miliband gave another update to supporters, including on the grave lack of supplies many fragile countries are facing and the urgent importance of international action.
- The IRC remains committed to continuing to serve and support refugees in the U.S. while maintaining the safety of our staff, clients, and community. Below, staff in Tucson, Arizona, deliver emergency care packages to refugee families.
- The IRC is working with our clients and with communities to ensure they are aware of how to protect themselves from the coronavirus and know where to seek support if they become ill. In Burkina Faso, for instance, our preventative work includes distributing soap and holding community trainings.
- Yemen, which is experiencing the world’s largest humanitarian crisis after five years of war, confirmed its first case of COVID-19. The IRC released a statement calling for humanitarian and health actors to have the unfettered access they need to reach all those impacted by the virus.
Breaking: Yemen—the world’s largest humanitarian crisis and entering its sixth year of war—confirmed its first case of #COVID19. Humanitarian and health actors must have the unfettered access they need to reach all those impacted. Our statement: https://t.co/0HYnuVfr7D— IRC - International Rescue Committee (@RESCUEorg) April 10, 2020
- Conflict-affected and fragile countries face a “double emergency” from COVID-19 as the virus’s health effects couple with escalations in conflict and political and economic instability provoked by the outbreak. They also face a grave lack of medical supplies; the country of South Sudan, for instance, has only four ventilators. A new IRC report delved into the threat these countries are facing—and the urgent need to act.
Our new report reveals grave shortages of ventilators and ICU beds in fragile countries like Venezuela, South Sudan, Somalia. #COVID19 will hit countries in crisis the hardest – if we don’t act now. RT to help us raise awareness – and learn more here: https://t.co/mm5QLmlrrt pic.twitter.com/Oga93MisHq— IRC - International Rescue Committee (@RESCUEorg) April 9, 2020
- Accurate information is key as we combat the coronavirus. Here health workers trained by the IRC conduct an education session for members of the community at Arif Health Clinic in Mogadishu, Somalia.
- To mark World Health Day, the IRC spoke to four of our health care workers around the world about how their lives have changed during the coronavirus pandemic and what gives them hope even at this unprecedented time.
The dedication and sacrifices of health care workers have rarely been more apparent.— IRC - International Rescue Committee (@RESCUEorg) April 7, 2020
For #WorldHealthDay, we asked 4 IRC #HealthHeroes how their lives have changed during #COVID19 and what gives them hope even at this unprecedented time. Their stories: https://t.co/dkdFjApyfn
- IRC president and CEO David Miliband gave an update on our response to the coronavirus, including the spread of the virus in countries experiencing conflict such as Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Libya.
- 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.
- 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:
Forced to live in conditions even more densely populated than those of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, many refugees face a heightened risk of #COVID19.— IRC - International Rescue Committee (@RESCUEorg) April 1, 2020
Data journalist @MonaChalabi partnered with IRC to illustrate the risks. RT to get the facts out. https://t.co/QlysCEp3RG pic.twitter.com/JSPp0yk3av
- 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.
Community trust, mental health care, a consideration of women’s unique needs, multilateral coordination, and preparedness. Our Senior Director of Health @Mesfinteklu explains what the Ebola outbreak can teach us as we combat #COVID19: https://t.co/JEKrqaLuXD— IRC - International Rescue Committee (@RESCUEorg) March 27, 2020
- 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.
- 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.
Also in Colombia: staff in Medellín practiced "foot greetings" in between sessions. pic.twitter.com/UA7Z8tq8CC— IRC - International Rescue Committee (@RESCUEorg) March 25, 2020
- 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.
- 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.
Today marks 5yrs of conflict in #Yemen. Latest from: @RESCUEorg @RESCUE_EU Coronavirus pandemic threatening to overwhelm an already broken health care system. Ceasefire and aid needed. #YemenCantWait https://t.co/rTtDOyIKFN— Kelly Razzouk (@KellyRazzouk) March 26, 2020
- Community Health Volunteers in Bangladesh are going door to door to tell people about COVID-19 prevention measures like hand washing and social distancing.
- 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."
"I stayed at work for you, you stay at home for us". #COVID19 @RESCUEorg frontline health workers in Za'atari camp in #Jordan providing essential health services for #Syria refugees pic.twitter.com/30nXtgFuej— Marco Aviotti (@marcoaviotti) March 25, 2020
- 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.
As #COVID19 spreads globally, our work continues in NW Syria, where recent fighting displaced almost a million people. Here our teams take precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus while helping families rebuild their lives. Our work: https://t.co/A0HHRUEKY1 pic.twitter.com/oXKtoeaorn— IRC - International Rescue Committee (@RESCUEorg) March 24, 2020
- 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.
- On Monday, March 23, COVID-19 was confirmed in Syria.
#COVID19 in Syria could lead to one of the worst outbreaks in the world. In Idlib, for instance, there were 85 attacks on health facilities last year, and the majority of hospitals still open are unable to cope with needs that already exist. Our statement: https://t.co/XQRnx2TuqV— IRC - International Rescue Committee (@RESCUEorg) March 23, 2020
- 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.
- 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.
- “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.
“Our teams are doing an amazing job – but they need to do an even bigger job. And for that we need your help.”— IRC - International Rescue Committee (@RESCUEorg) March 20, 2020
A message from IRC president & CEO @DMiliband about our #COVID19 response and how you can make a difference. pic.twitter.com/irbYS3sOG4