Doctors without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams in Tanzania have raised concern over the threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, noting that people living in refugee camps are more likely to be vulnerable to the virus as they have limited access to health care services.

In an open letter by the Head of Mission of MSF in Tanzania, Pete Clausen, he urged the international community to act fast before it became too late. He said, ‘[O]ur teams run a 150-bed hospital and four health centres in Nduta refugee camp, near the border with Burundi. Nduta is home to over 73,000 Burundian refugees who fled their homes due to violence and unrest in 2015. If a [Covid-19] outbreak happens here, the spread could be impossible to stop’.

‘As the sole health care provider in Nduta, MSF’s main concern for the past month has been how vulnerable these people are to a [Covid-19] outbreak, how rapidly it would spread in the camp, and how fatal it could be to our patients with co-morbidities, such as HIV, sickle cell disease, and tuberculosis. If not controlled quickly, the spread of [Covid-19] in Nduta could grow exponentially in a matter of weeks and lead to an excessive number of deaths’, he added.

Clausen said, ‘[T]he luxury of self-isolation and physical distancing adopted by some societies is simply not possible in Nduta as more than five family members can share one small room’. Hence, ‘a [Covid-19] outbreak in this setting could lead to a high number of patients with severe infection, putting extreme pressure on MSF’s hospital and the overall health system in the camp’.

‘MSF teams in Nduta have been implementing preparedness measures for various scenarios, but with shortages of supplies and staff, there is only so much we can do. We are calling on the international community to ensure support in the [Covid-19] response here in Tanzania, in order to protect vulnerable refugees and the host community. There is an urgent need to increase isolation and treatment capacity as well as reinforce testing across Kigoma. This neglected group of people, who have been all but forgotten by the world, need our help now before it is too late’, he concluded.

Source: Doctors without Borders

Photo source: Ron Cogswell

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