Despite facing countless challenges, refugees have been an essential part of the pandemic response.
Refugees flee conflict, disaster, and danger in their home countries to search for a better life. But over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented chaos and danger for everyone, regardless of where they live.
Despite facing heightened effects of the virus, such as difficulty accessing clean water and soap, health care services, and living in crowded conditions, refugees have been an essential part of the global effort to fight the virus.
Around the world, refugees are working as health workers, educators, and volunteers to help mitigate the pandemic’s effects. Their efforts speak to their ability to overcome crises and stay resilient.
Here are seven ways that refugees worldwide are helping fight the pandemic and protect others in 2020.
1. Working As Frontline Health Workers
Refugees often face barriers to employment in their new countries, which means those with medical backgrounds are often unable to practice medicine and need to work in lower-income fields.
However, the pandemic’s strain on the health care sector caused some countries to expedite the process for refugees, immigrants, and migrants with medical licenses from overseas to get their licensing requirements.
In the UK, hundreds of doctors, including refugees, originally from other countries joined a new medical support task-force to provide extra assistance during the pandemic.
“Refugees with proven professional competencies are ready to step in and contribute, if allowed to, under the supervision of certified health professionals,” Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, told the Guardian. “In this way, they can show their solidarity, and give back to the communities sheltering them.”
The program’s success has inspired other countries around the world to invite refugees and immigrants with medical training to help fight the pandemic.
Hussam Allahham was a surgeon in Syria before he fled to Cardiff, UK. After four years of living in the UK, he can use his medical and crisis training to help support the NHS.
“In Syria, you felt like you were fighting with death, trying to save lives,” Allahham told The Guardian. “People are scared, death is everywhere. The health service is overstretched, you don’t have the equipment. Loads of people would come into the emergency room at the same time.”
Allahham is just one of the thousands of refugees worldwide who used their medical knowledge to support those in their host country during the pandemic.