Claire Hanna: Why we should act now to help the millions facing the deadly threat from the virus in the world’s most vulnerable states
The past few months have been tough for all of us. Many, unfortunately, have lost loved ones in the most tragic of circumstances. Some have lost their jobs and for all of us, our normal daily lives are turned upside down. Fortunately, we are now in a phase where restrictions are relaxed and the appearance of normality is restored.
adly, this is not the case all over the world. For millions of refugees and people in the world’s most vulnerable states such as Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan to name just a few, the fight against the corona virus has only just begun.
It is said that in these fragile states, there are a total of 24 million displaced people and 850,000 Rohingya people in Cox’s Bazar – the world’s largest refugee camp in Bangladesh. This is the scale of the humanitarian challenge that we are all facing.
These are families and people who have to flee their homes after years of war and instability, now facing the deadly new threat of Covid-19. The World Health Organization has found that in Yemen, where 50% of health services have been destroyed, one in four people contracting Covid-19 dies.
Even with the best facilities and our great NHS, we struggled to contain the virus. Imagine how vulnerable these people who live in tight circumstances with limited access to adequate health care or even hand washing facilities for this virus. Reports from Somalia about people in refugee camps using ashes to wash their hands because of the lack of soap reflect the reality of the situation of the poorest in these vulnerable places. An essential part of our success in controlling the virus at home is social distance, but how do you achieve social distance in crowded refugee camps such as Bangladesh’s Rohingya camp, which is one and a half times more populated than New York City? Millions of lives would be at risk without the urgent aid of relief agencies if we collectively allow this virus to remain uncontrolled and spread freely.
The Emergency Disaster Committee (DEC) plays a crucial role here. Bringing together 14 of the largest aid charities from across the UK with extensive field experience, they are well placed to respond to this challenging environment and protect the most vulnerable.
Having previously worked for Concern, I am deeply passionate about international development and humanitarian issues. I witnessed firsthand the remarkable efforts that this organization has made in vulnerable places around the world. The same goes for the work of Tearfund and the Red Cross and others.
Despite our own difficulties, we all now have a greater responsibility than ever to support the millions of people facing this new deadly threat in incredibly difficult circumstances. The consequences of our inaction in these places are inconceivable. As World Health Organization Dr. Mike Ryan rightly pointed out, “None of us are safe until we are all safe.”
Visit www.dec.org.uk/appeal/coronavirus-appeal to help fight the coronavirus in the most vulnerable places in the world.
Claire Hanna is the MP for South Belfast and previously worked for Concern Worldwide. To donate, go to dec.org.uk; telephone 0370 60 60 900; SMS: Send SUPPORT to 70150 to donate £ 10. Lyrics cost £ 10 and the entire £ 10 goes to the DEC CORONAVIRUS APPEAL. You must be 16 years of age and ask the bill payer for permission. Or send a check to DEC Coronavirus Appeal, PO Box 999, London EC3A 3AA