Unprepared for the worst: the world's most vulnerable virus brace

<pre><pre>Unprepared for the worst: the world's most vulnerable virus brace

"To think it's not in the refugee and displaced populations is a little naive," said Coutts.

If the virus is present, the camps are deeply ill-equipped to handle it.


Many camp clinics are already struggling to combat outbreaks like dengue and cholera, leaving them without the resources to treat chronic conditions like diabetes or heart disease. The coronavirus, which does not have a vaccine or an agreed treatment regimen for Covid-19, the respiratory disease it causes, could be even more devastating, medical experts warn.

"We are preparing for the worst," said Avril Benoit, executive director of Doctors Without Borders in the United States, which has deployed teams to work with refugees around the world. "We know that where we work we don't have enough equipment or personnel."

Daily life in a refugee camp is an ideal incubator for infectious diseases. Many lack running water and internal sanitation. People often queue for hours to get water, which is insufficient for frequent showers, let alone washing hands carefully.

"If I entered the camp, it would be a disaster," said Ahmadu Yusuf, a community leader in Bakassi camp in northeast Nigeria, most of whose residents fled Boko Haram, the militant group. "It would be more devastating than the insurgency that brought them here."

Refugee life also makes social distancing, the mantra of health in the West, impossible.

In crowded and poor places like Gaza or the urban slums of Indonesia and India, which started the world's largest blockade in response to the virus this week, it's hard to keep six feet away from others. Refugee settlements are often even denser.

A refugee camp was built in Lesbos, Greece, for 3,000 people, but now it has 20,000 and there is almost no sanitation.


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