Lots of Stories Raising Alarm, but So Far No COVID-19 Outbreaks in Refugee Camps

Hope all of you are doing well and taking this time to appreciate home and family during this challenging period.

I’ve been monitoring stories from around the world as alarm bells are being rung about a catastrophe (“carnage” seems to be the operative word) that has not yet materialized that refugees housed in crowded camps will be consumed with the virus and that someone (government?) has to do something.  Of course, what governments might do is not clear.

I told readers here that NGOs that should be expected to help are concerned with protecting their staff.

Here is one headline from the Washington Post on Friday:

As epidemic menaces refugee camps, the Middle East’s most vulnerable face a deepening nightmare

Many paragraphs in we learn this:

Egeland of the Norwegian Refugee Council is ringing alarm bells, but what is any country supposed to do. In his case, Norway is closed as cases rapidly mount there. https://www.lifeinnorway.net/coronavirus-in-norway/

“When the virus hits overcrowded settlements in places like Iran, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Greece, the consequences will be devastating,” Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said this week. “There will also be carnage when the virus reaches parts of Syria, Yemen and Venezuela, where hospitals have been demolished and health systems have collapsed.”

Health experts hope that the relatively young average age of the displaced will help keep the death rate low. (In some centers, more than 60 percent are children.) And for now, no camp outbreaks have been reported. In some cases, the camps’ very isolation may be slowing the appearance of the virus within their fences and walls.

Access to Gaza, for example, is tightly controlled by Israel, which has largely sealed the enclave’s crossings to Israel and Egypt. Aid workers there are using the time to prepare for what they view as the virus’s inevitable arrival. [So can we say for a change that Israel is doing something good by sealing borders?—ed]

More here.

At NBC on Thursday, the answer is supposedly that governments should be testing in the camps.  Heck, governments are having enough trouble testing their own citizens.

Coronavirus could cause ‘carnage’ among the world’s refugees, aid groups say

WASHINGTON — The coronavirus outbreak threatens to inflict “carnage” on refugees around the world who often live in cramped conditions, lack access to clean water and are in countries with failing or stretched medical systems, humanitarian aid groups say.

Muhammad Zaman, a professor of bioengineering at Boston University wants testing in camps. That would be the UN’s job right?

From Syria to Bangladesh to Uganda, the risk posed to people who have fled war and persecution is potentially dire, and only urgent international action can avert a catastrophe, aid organizations told NBC News.

As of Tuesday, only 10 cases had been reported among refugees and displaced persons, and all of those were patients in Germany, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

But in the absence of extensive testing at refugee camps in the Middle East, Africa or Asia, it’s unclear whether the fast-moving virus has already reached them, medical experts and humanitarian workers said.

“We don’t know, and that’s largely because we haven’t done any testing,” said Muhammad Zaman, a professor of bioengineering at Boston University. “We need to know how acute the problem is before we come up with an intervention.”

Continue reading here.

See that I have a tag for COVID-19 posts.

I see this morning that the flow into the US has stopped for the regular refugee program, but am waiting to see data indicating we have shut off the Iraqi and Afghanistan special visa spigot as well.

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