17 Apr Second Tree keeps working during coronavirus lockdown
It’s a strange and tense time on the ground these days. The threat of Covid-19 has led our programs to a halt, but work continues behind the scenes! Being a grassroots NGO, run by a hand-full of people – mostly international volunteers – there is always work to be done. As the lockdown measures approached, we discussed the consequences of staying here versus going “home”, and all of our long-term team members decided that this is where they wanted to be. This is home now and life continues here, alongside the lockdown. It’s difficult to be away from the camps and the people we see every day. The conditions of the refugee camps are a very real and serious threat to people’s wellbeing; they are ripe for a public health disaster.
The threat of Covid-19 entering refugee camps cannot be taken lightly. These places exist in conditions that violate a person’s ability to take the necessary safety measures to protect themselves, their families and the wider community from the spread of Covid-19.
Refugee camps are overcrowded and living spaces are cramped. There are many children, and children cannot be contained. This makes social distancing impossible.
There are constant issues with running water, and access to it varies from camp to camp. This complicates the ability to wash hands, clothes and surfaces frequently.
Refugees can’t self-isolate in over-crowded camps.
Refugees can’t stock up on resources due to limited cash flow.
Refugees can’t fully respect travel restrictions when camps are located far from pharmacies and supermarkets.
Refugees have limited access to the Internet, which limits their flow of and access to accurate and timely information.
Once Covid-19 enters the refugee camps, it will be a catastrophe. It has already exposed glaring gaps in healthcare infrastructure across the world. Greece (and the EU) cannot afford an outbreak in the camps: the spread will be uncontrollable and potential for deaths high.
There needs to be a preparedness plan for all refugee camps and facilities, in order for the eventual outbreak to be properly managed. Without it, the outcome will be devastating.
We know that this too shall pass, and while we wait on tenterhooks to get back on the ground, the waiting won’t be passive. We’ll continue to improve our programs, complete those tedious admin tasks, write those looming grant proposals and – most importantly – continue to share positive stories of life from places far from home, where despite all circumstances, hope still exists.