Moheyman Alkhatavi is a Iraqi refugee nurse working in Iran
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Refugees step up on coronavirus

How refugees and UNHCR teams are tackling coronavirus

There are so many in our refugee communities with the skills and experience to combat this virus, and they are working together with UNHCR field teams to do just that.


Zeinabou, a refugee from Mali, sews up to 40 face masks a day at her new home in Niamey, Niger.

“Local merchants and concerned neighbours asked me to make masks to protect them against the virus, so I went to the main market and bought material,” she says.

Moheyman Alkhatavi is an Iraqi nurse and refugee in Iran, working 12-hour shifts in the quarantine ward of his local hospital.

“I remember people telling me that, because I was a refugee, I shouldn’t dream to go to university and instead focus on learning an easier trade,” he says. “But I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.

For many displaced people like Zeinabou and Moheyman, joining the response to coronavirus is a natural step.

In Afghanistan, for example, people who received financial support last year to start transport businesses are taking the message about coronavirus prevention out to the streets of Kabul on their tuk-tuks.

Malian refugee Zeinabou sews up to 40 face masks a day in Niger.
Zeinabou sews up to 40 face masks a day for neighbours and local works in Niger. ©️ UNHCR

Rohingya artists in Bangladesh are creating colourful and informative signs on prevention and management, though a partnership between UNHCR and NGO Artolution.

Ernestine Bahati, a graduate nurse with a UNHCR scholarship is working at Kenyatta National Hospital in Kenya on night shift as part of her medical internship, helping patients with COVID-19.

Meanwhile, our humanitarian teams continue their essential work to slow the spread of coronavirus among some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

In Sudan, we are working with WHO and UNICEF to spread awareness campaigns and distribute soap for more than 260,000 people and are using surveillance systems in camps to monitor progress.

In Niger, we are supporting the government by donating 50 mini-housing structures that can be used for isolation rooms. They are being erected in the national stadium in Niamey.

Bahati is a graduate nurse with a UNHCR scholarship and is working in Kenya
Ernestine Bahati is a graduate nurse who studied under UNHCR’s higher education scholarship programme, and is helping COVID-19 patients ©️ Ernestine Bahati

Distributions of food, jerry cans and soap are underway to curb potential outbreaks in camps in Kenya, which is the second biggest refugee-hosting country in Africa.

And in Yemen, already experiencing the world’s largest humanitarian crisis after five years of conflict, our teams are helping refugees in the Kharaz camp by distributing soap and hygiene kits, training on safe behaviour, identifying the most at-risk refugees and planning logistics around suspected cases.

Given the overcrowded conditions in many refugee settlements, where hygiene is a challenge and medical facilities are overstretched, there is no time to lose.

Stand with refugees like Zeinabou, Moheyman and Bahati, and UNHCR and support the world's vulnerable.  Donate to help support and safeguard refugees from COVID-19

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