How WHO is supporting refugees and migrants during the COVID-19 pandemic

A new agreement between WHO and the UN Refugee Agency will strengthen and advance public health services[1] for the millions of forcibly displaced people around the world.

It adds to the agreement signed in 2019 with The International Organization for Migration and is the latest in a series of efforts to prevent public health emergencies and address health needs in refugee and migrant populations.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency have signed a new agreement[2] to strengthen and advance public health services for the millions of forcibly displaced people around the world.

A key aim this year is to support ongoing efforts to protect some 70 million displaced people from COVID-19. Around 26 million are refugees, 80% of whom are sheltered in low and middle-income countries with weak health systems.

“The principle of solidarity and the goal of serving vulnerable people underpin the work of both our organizations,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “We stand side by side in our commitment to protect the health of all people who have been forced to leave their homes and to ensure that they can obtain health services when and where they need them. The ongoing pandemic only highlights the vital importance of working together so we can achieve more.”

The statement comes alongside the news that refugees and no migrants or refugees have tested positive for COVID-19 in Serbia. Extensive collaborative efforts from WHO and the Government of Serbia have seen refugees and migrants provided COVID-19 protection equal to that of the host population in the spirit of universal health coverage.

“WHO is working with governments around the world to ensure supply chains remain open and lifesaving health services are reaching all communities,” said Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Health education materials in 7 languages were distributed to all migrant centres and NGOs that work with migrants in Serbia. Personal protective equipment (PPE), personal hygiene products and disinfectant were delivered to asylum and migrant reception centres throughout the country.

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