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Mexico faces triple burden: soaring COVID-19 cases and deaths, loss of jobs and rising femicides, warns IRC 

Last updated 
  • Last week, Mexico reported the highest death toll in one day from COVID-19. Mexico has nearly 43,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, while there are likely many more going untested and unreported. According to OECD, Mexico is only testing 0.6 people for every 1
  • Since the beginning of the quarantine in mid-March, at least 210 women in Mexico have been killed. This is approximately three times higher than the monthly average of female killings, or “femicides.” (1) 
  • The IRC has worked with local partners and with support from government actors to set up a hotel for asylum seekers to quarantine for 14 days before moving into a shelter in Ciudad Juárez.

As Mexico reports its highest single-day death toll from COVID-19, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has worked with local partners, with support from government actors and health authorities, to set up a hotel for asylum seekers in Ciudad Juárez to be tested for COVID-19 and quarantine for 14 days before moving into shelters. The hotel, which can hold 108 people, also ensures that women can stay safe while in quarantine, instead of on the streets where femicides are on the rise. In the shelter, women can receive virtual case management. This “Triage Hotel” also helps ensure COVID-19 does not enter into shelters, which can be poorly ventilated with asylum seekers eating and sleeping in close contact. 

Asylum seekers typically work in the informal economy or the service sector while waiting for their claims to be processed, yet most of these jobs are now nonexistent due to mandatory quarantine, causing a sharp increase in unemployment and homelessness. In an informal survey with the asylum seekers in the shelters we partner with, 100% said that there are “no jobs” and that there has been a “total loss of livelihood.” 

Paolo Lubrano, the International Rescue Committee’s Acting Country Director of Mexico, said, “Migrants in Mexico face a triple burden: increased violence, rising unemployment and the threat of COVID-19. To truly tackle COVID-19 in Mexico, we need a coordinated response where all actors think outside the box, such as the IRC’s joint effort with government actors and NGOs to open the “Filter Hotel” in Ciudad Juárez. We are excited about this effort because it gives dignity and power back to the asylum seeker to find shelter after completing quarantine. But the crux of the problem is not only the threat of COVID-19 and its spread. The international community needs to address the main cause of displacement: violence, especially against women. It will take an increase in funding, coordination and diplomatic leadership to beat the surge in violence and this deadly virus.” 

Since mid-March 2020, the IRC has been working on a public health awareness campaign, together with local authorities and civil society partners, for shelters at the Mexico-US border in Ciudad Juárez. The project supports 16 shelters and is reaching 3,000 individuals and surrounding host communities -- indirectly benefiting an additional 10,000 people. The program includes: Sessions on the transmission of COVID-19,  protective and preventive measures, signs and symptoms of COVID-19,  where to access help and support, and the dissemination of flyers. The IRC has been working in Ciudad Juárez since May 2019 to meet the immediate needs of primarily female migrants, asylum seekers and deportees in Mexico. 

The IRC has launched a US $30 million appeal (under review) 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.

(1) Between January and July 2019, official statistics report between 80 and 90 femicides a month. 

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.