Ohio: Refugee Agencies Scramble to Get COVID-19 Warnings to Those Who Don’t Speak English

“Advocates for immigrants and refugees say about 200 languages are spoken in the state.”


There are nearly 7,000 distinct languages in the world. Lucky Ohio has only 200! https://www.linguisticsociety.org/content/how-many-languages-are-there-world

Some refugees are in America for years and never learn to speak English, and indeed many arrive in America unable to read in their own language, so now refugee resettlement agencies are scrambling to get out instructions to immigrant communities while they close their own doors to avoid face to face contact with their “clients.”

So much for diversity bringing strength!

Here is a story explaining the problem in Ohio. It is from The Columbus Dispatch:

Language a barrier in getting coronavirus information to all

Those who don’t speak English may have trouble getting updates about what coronavirus is and its spread. Local and state immigrant and refugee advocates are working to get resources to people in the language they speak and read.

As many Americans try to absorb all the information they can on the coronavirus and its spread in Ohio, some are left out of the conversation entirely.

Advocates for immigrants and refugees say about 200 languages are spoken in the state, and many of those advocates are working to make sure the individuals who speak those languages can get information about the rapidly spreading virus in ways they can understand.


Advocates aren’t the only ones trying to make sure that everyone is reached.

The Ohio Department of Health is linking to CDC resources in other languages on its website, coronavirus.ohio.gov, spokeswoman Melanie Amato said. The agency is also reaching out to local organizations for translation resources and the Ohio Hispanic Coalition is working to translate press releases.


US Together is a Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society Subcontractor. https://www.ustogether.us

At US Together, a local refugee resettlement agency, staff members began being trained last week on how to prepare themselves and their clients for the virus, Emily Locke, a communications specialist with US Together, said in an email.

The training focused on what the virus is, how it spreads and which communities are vulnerable. They also addressed how to identify symptoms, prevent the virus and prepare food and supplies to deal with the outbreak.

On Monday, the resettlement agency closed its offices to the public and said its employees will work with clients by phone, email and other technology.  [So much for looking out for the newly arrived refugees!—ed]

More here.

By the way, yesterday I wondered if refugee agency volunteers were still meeting refugees at airports (new refugees were arriving up to last Thursday), but it sure looks like either the State Department has now wisely cut off the flow of new arrivals or those that do arrive are on their own!

Top Ten Languages spoken by refugees arriving in America.  

It’s been a long time since I reported on this information available at the Refugee Processing Center.  This is a good time to tell you about it.

Don’t forget!  According to a Clinton-era Executive Order your local and state governments are on the hook for the cost of interpreters.

(By the way, the growing cost of interpreter services, especially involving medical services, is something I never see calculated in any economic study of whether immigrants/refugees benefit the economy.)



Kiswahili is a Bantu language spoken in East Africa.  Kinyarwanda is a Rwandan language. Sgaw Karen is a Burmese language.

For my recent posts on COVID-19 see that I have a tag for it.


Editor’s note:  As RRW approaches its 13th birthday, there are over 10,000 posts archived here at Refugee Resettlement Watch. Unfortunately, it is just me here with no staff and so it has become virtually impossible to answer all of the basic questions that come into my e-mail inbox or to RRW’s facebook page every day. I don’t want to appear rude—I simply haven’t enough hours in the day.

Please take time to visit RRW (don’t just read posts in your e-mail) and use the search window in the right hand sidebar and see if you can find the information you need.  Also see my series that I wrote in recent months entitled Knowledge is Power which explains some basic principles of how Refugee Resettlement is carried out in the US.

And, lastly, I don’t write that much every day, so if you made a habit of reading my posts here on a daily basis, you would eventually catch on to what is happening because I do link back to previous posts as much as possible. LOL!  Thank you for helping me not go crazy!