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Crisis Info #05 – Preparing for the next wave of the pandemic

Preparing for the next wave of the pandemic - Africa, Middle East, Latin America

We see this virus has crippled some of the most advanced health systems, in countries that have a social safety net where most people have access to running water and space to self-isolate. This is simply not possible for people in many of the countries where we typically work. Our greatest concern is if the virus takes hold in places with weaker health systems with vulnerable people who can’t protect themselves. International solidarity will be crucial, whilst the response to COVID-19 will have to be tailored to every setting, community, and local capacities. 

Keep healthcare workers safe

We must protect healthcare workers, everywhere. Without them, there is no response to the pandemic, or to general health needs that must be met, so keep them safe and free from infection - both to treat patients and avoid them spreading the virus further themselves so they don’t become amplifiers of the pandemic. They need to be able to keep all health services running too. The global shortages of personal protective equipment pose a grave threat. Healthcare workers must have access to the equipment they need to do their jobs safely and effectively.

In the COVID-19 projects we’ve opened in Europe, we see healthcare workers today facing dilemmas that are common in humanitarian settings where we work. Where to focus energy? Who gets care and who doesn’t? How to make choices with scarce resources? Mental health support for healthcare staff is needed to get through this pandemic.

MSF, Doctors Without Borders, COVID19
We must protect healthcare workers, everywhere. Without them, there is no response to the pandemic. Photo: Olmo Calvo/MSF

Protect people at risk of severe disease (elderly, comorbidity)

We also must protect those most at risk of severe forms of the illness. With COVID-19, that in large part means the elderly, so many of our projects focus on strengthening the infection control measures and protection of the elderly in nursing homes. It also concerns those who have another illness, such as diabetes or tuberculosis.  We do not know yet what the impact will be for children who suffer from severe malnutrition, or for communities that have been hit hard by measles epidemics, such as in the DRC or Chad.

Protect the vulnerable living in precarious settings – those who can’t self-isolate, or no access to water, overcrowding

People living in overcrowded conditions, on the streets, in makeshift camps or in substandard housing are at particular risk. Many are already in poor health, often as a result of their poor living conditions and the virus thrives in such settings, without adequate water or sanitation. In addition, many of these marginalised groups are excluded from the formal healthcare system.  In some places this means that hundreds of thousands if not millions of people are vulnerable, living in slums or in camp settings, in precarious living conditions without a social safety net to help them.

Visit the South African National Department of Health’s online resource and news portal for more information regarding COVID-19: