Two refugees look out over the Mediterranean Sea above Ventimiglia, Italy. December 2020.
When the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic shifted to Europe, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) supported the response in Italy. We also continued to provide medical and psychological assistance to migrants.

Italy was the first European country to be hard hit by COVID-19. In early March, at the request of the health ministry, we started working in hospitals in Lombardy, the region with the highest number of cases, sharing our epidemic expertise in infection prevention and control, and patient care.

We extended our activities to other regions, focusing on vulnerable groups. Our teams worked in care homes, prisons, migrant centres, shelters for the homeless, informal settlements and squats, supporting civil society groups providing assistance, and running multilingual health promotion and online mental health activities.

Although our emergency response ended in July, we continued to carry out COVID-19 activities. On the outskirts of Rome, we supported the early detection and management of cases, while in Palermo, we responded to outbreaks in shelters for the homeless and migrant centres.

In the summer, our team in Lampedusa, Sicily, responded to a sharp increase in the number of migrants arriving from Libya and Tunisia. For two months, we supported and trained national health service medical teams in triage at disembarkation and offered psychological first aid to people traumatised by experiences during their journey.

Throughout the year, our teams continued to monitor the situation of migrants in transit at Italy’s northern borders. We denounced the dire living conditions and the harsh treatment to which they were exposed, including physical abuse and pushbacks across the borders. We also worked with civil society groups to distribute relief items such as blankets and winter clothes.

No. staff in 2020: 27 (FTE) » Expenditure in 2020: €2.7 million MSF first worked in the country: 1999

 
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