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Press Release

COVID cases in Pakistan surpass 180,000; IRC calls for support to mitigate the spread amongst vulnerable Pakistanis and Afghan refugees

COVID-19 is spreading rapidly through Pakistan which has seen more than 180,000 confirmed cases, a 257% increase in the last month, and is now recording its highest daily death rate. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is strengthening health systems in Pakistan, which has the highest number of cases in the Asian countries where we work, in order to help mitigate the spread among the most vulnerable. But, we must do more. The IRC is calling on international actors to step up support for local communities displaced by violence and natural disasters, as well as Afghan refugees as they face the health and economic impacts of the pandemic amidst deteriorating living conditions. 

Adnan bin Junaid, Pakistan Country Director at the IRC says, “Pakistan needs help to beat this deadly disease. The country is home to more than 1.5 million Afghan refugees in addition to highly vulnerable Pakistani people who mostly live in overcrowded homes with poor access to water and sanitation, making it nearly impossible for these people to socially distance and protect themselves from the disease. The 3 million people in the country who face severe food insecurity may have compromised immune systems and be more susceptible to the virus. COVID-19 restrictions have impacted access to food for Afghan refugees, leaving them hungry and putting their lives at risk.

“To compound these challenges, the health system in Pakistan is weak, and refugees have severely limited access to healthcare. Pakistan has one doctor for every 963 people and at least 3,635 healthcare workers have already tested positive for the virus, of whom 35 have died. The IRC is working to contain the disease and minimize excess mortality due loss of income and increased food insecurity in the country. We have developed information to distribute as part of mass media awareness campaigns to inform Pakistanis on how to protect themselves, and we are providing mental health services to those impacted and stress management training to health workers.” 

The IRC is closely working with national and regional health and disaster management departments of the government of Pakistan by supporting and running the isolation centres in three hospitals in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Baluchistan and Sind. The IRC is also adapting our work to ensure our life-saving programming can continue to reach those in need. Still, the virus shows no sign of slowing, and the most vulnerable populations are the most at risk. With immediate flexible funding, we can do more, save lives and help stop the spread.

The IRC has launched a US $30 million appeal to help us mitigate the spread of coronavirus among the world’s most vulnerable populations. We are working across three key areas: to mitigate and respond to the spread of coronavirus within vulnerable communities; protect IRC staff; and ensure the continuation of our life-saving programming as much as possible across more than 40 countries worldwide.

The IRC first began working in Pakistan in 1980, providing emergency relief, health care, education, job training and other essential services in affected communities. Since then, the IRC has expanded to support communities in all eight provinces and territories of Pakistan.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and over 20 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.