© MSF/Vincenzo Livieri

COVID-19 (coronavirus disease)

MSF is currently responding to the new coronavirus on four continents

COVID-19 is a new viral disease that affects the respiratory system

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic on 11 March 2020. More than 200 countries are now reporting cases.

{{ ctaright.node.field_explanation }}

As COVID-19 continues to spread, MSF teams are racing to respond to the pandemic in the more than 70 countries in which we run programmes, while opening projects in new countries as they become pandemic hotspots.

Our COVID-19 response focuses on three main priorities:

  • Supporting health authorities to provide care for patients with COVID-19 
  • Protecting people who are vulnerable and at risk 
  • Keeping essential medical services running

For comprehensive information, including how to protect yourself against the disease, please visit the NHS website on COVID-19.

DONATE to our covid-19 appeal >

Where is MSF responding? 

Information as of 14 May

Africa

Burkina Faso

In Burkina Faso, we are providing patient support in Fada health centre. We are also training MoH staff and undertaking disease surveillance and health promotion activities. In Ouagadougou, MSF teams started the construction of a 50-bed hospital centre for the care of COVID-19 patients.

MSF has started activities in Bobo-Dioulasso, in the country’s west, where the second-biggest outbreak in the country is located. We are providing care for COVID-19 patients in a dedicated facility, in collaboration with the national health authorities. We have also installed an oxygen production unit, which can provide oxygen to dozens of people, direct to their beds, at once.

Cameroon

In Yaoundé, we have started receiving and treating patients with moderate COVID-19 in Djoungolo health centre, where we increased the capacity in building four rooms with 20 beds. Our teams have also improved IPC measures, triage, and staff and patient flow in the General hospital and we set up a systematic triage service at Jamot hospital.

MSF teams have set up a 20-bed isolation ward in Buea regional hospital to treat people with the new coronavirus.  Our staff are providing training for IPC measures and providing treatment to people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 disease. We are also providing health promotion to local people on hygiene measures. 

MSF is providing support to Bamenda Regional hospital – the referral centre for COVID-19 cases in northwest Cameroon – where our teams are training hospital staff on IPC measures and have installed a pre-screening tent at the entrance.

Côte d’Ivoire

In Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, MSF and Ministry of Health teams are now treating people with moderate COVID-19 in a treatment centre at Grand Bassam, just outside the city. In Bouaké, we have trained health workers and are screening at the different entry points to the city are underway. Water and sanitation activities are also being implemented.

Democratic Republic of Congo 

In Kinshasa, DRC, our teams are supporting medical staff at St Joseph hospital and Ministry of Health staff with training on detecting people with COVID-19 and on IPC. A team is also installing a 40-bed isolation ward (tent).  Also in Kinshasa and Goma, MSF has started production of tens of thousands of reusable masks. These masks were manufactured to protect patients and their carers in the structures that we support, as well as our non-medical staff.

In Masisi, North Kivu province, we’ve set up a 20-bed isolation ward at the General Reference hospital.

In South Kivu province, MSF is supporting with laboratory and sample analysis. We are also establishing isolation centres in Baraka hospital, Kimbi hospital and Nyange heath centre for suspected COVID-19 patients, with 80 beds total capacity, and mental health support for patients.

In Ituri province, with the commitment of the indigenous and displaced communities, MSF is building isolation rooms for the handling of COVID-19 cases in structures where we are already present.

eSwatini

We are providing support to the ministry of health by assisting with infection prevention and control and triage at health facilities. We are also part of technical advisory groups to the ministry of health. MSF teams are conducting health education and promotion in the community.

Guinea

In Kouroussa, Guinea, an 8-bed isolation ward has been put in place at the Hopital Préfectoral de Kouroussa. MSF is caring for COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms of the disease but who need hospitalization in the Nongo Epidemic Treatment Centre, in the capital, Conakry. We had set up this structure in 2015 as part of our response to the Ebola epidemic, before handing it over to the authorities, and in recent weeks, we have rehabilitated the structure to bring it up to standard and increase bed capacity.

Guinea-Bissau

In Bissau, the capital of Guinea-Bissau, we have provided different training at the National hospital Siamo Mendes including on the treatment of people with COVID-19, on IPC measures, water and sanitation improvement, and have provided support with hygienists on waste management.

Kenya

MSF is part of Kenya’s National Taskforce on COVID-19. At Kibera South Health Centre, in the slums of Nairobi, the team is boosting infection prevention and control, triage, screening and managing referral of people suspected of having COVID-19 to a nearby hospital.

In Dagahaley camp, in Dadaab, Kenya’s largest refugee camp, MSF has set up a 10-bed isolation unit for COVID-19 patients.

In Mombasa, we have set up isolation rooms at the Mrima health centre in Likoni subcounty, which will allow women who have COVID-19 to give birth safely.

Liberia

MSF is providing support to the MOH COVID-19 treatment centre, improving patient flow and the quality of care for patients. Our teams completed a month-long COVID-19 hygiene awareness and soap distribution campaign in April, reaching more than 78,000 households in four of Monrovia’s most vulnerable neighbourhoods; we continue to undertake health promotion activities on prevention measures in and around Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. We are also providing technical support at the city’s Military hospital, run by the Ministry of Health, where COVID-19 patients are being treated.

Mali

In Bamako, Mali’s capital, MSF is supporting the management of a COVID-19 unit within the grounds of Point G hospital, where we run our oncology programme. The unit includes a triage and isolation area, and a ward, where we are working to increase the capacity to up to 100 beds. We have renovated and improved the hospital’s oxygen distribution network.

MSF is providing the COVID unit with medical, nursing and hygiene control staff, some coming from our regular project in Koutiala, as well as logistical and technical support. We are also helping with IPC, staff training, and revising patient flow in two other hospitals in Bamako which are receiving COVID-19 patients. We are reinforcing the MoH’s community outreach and contact tracing activities in communities in the city. Cloth masks are also being produced and distributed to contacts of contacts in the community.

In the centre (Niono, Tenenkou, Ansongo, Douentza, Koro), south (Koutiala) and north (Kidal and Ansongo) of the country, our teams are conducting health promotion activities with local people, are training local staff and have established handwashing points at the referral hospital in Niono and surrounding health centres.

In Tominian, near the border with Burkina Faso, we have installed a tent for isolating people suspected of having COVID-19, and a handwashing point.

In Mopti, MSF implemented patient flow and provided training to staff where a case was confirmed. Training was also done for 45 medical staff from the Gao region.

Mozambique

In Mozambique, we are implementing infection prevention and control measures – including 16 new hand washing points – and triage for people with respiratory symptoms in all health facilities where we work. Our teams are also working with local authorities to improve patient flows by providing logistic and technical support for two referral hospitals in Maputo. In Pemba we helped local health authorities to install an isolation centre.

Niger

In Niamey, our teams are constructing a 50-bed COVID-19 treatment centre close to the Hôpital National Lamordé. We are also providing health promotion to local people in both Niamey and Magaria. A response team composed of MSF and MoH staff are monitoring people with simple COVID-19 cases at home.

Nigeria

MSF teams in Nigeria are establishing isolation facilities and improving staff and patient flow. Teams are also setting up handwashing points and isolation areas, plus providing health promotion information, in local communities and IDP camps. In Ngala, MSF teams are focusing efforts on reinforcing infection prevention and control, and in Ebonyi state, we are supporting the Ministry of Health and Nigeria Centre for Disease Control in setting up the state’s first COVID-19 testing centre.

Senegal

In Dakar, we are supporting the health authorities in the Hopital Dalal Jamm, in the northern part of Dakar, where we are providing training as well as support for water and sanitation activities, and simplified triage protocols.

We are providing advice on patient flow, IPC measures, logistics, and training at a treatment centre in Guediawaye district, in Dakar’s northern suburbs, where a recent increase of positive cases was recorded. Our teams are also supporting the MoH on community engagement, case surveillance and testing mechanisms to adapt to the pandemic.

Sierra Leone

MSF is part of the national emergency preparedness task force and MSF epidemiologists are providing support with contact tracing and surveillance. We are providing health promotion to local people and supporting improved IPC in MoH basic healthcare units.

In Freetown, MSF water and sanitation and construction specialists have begun work on repurposing a government facility into a 120-bed COVID-19 treatment centre. In Makeni Regional hospital, Magburaka hospital and Hinistas Community health centre, our teams have set up isolation wards.

Somalia and Somaliland

We are providing health promotion to communities and technical advice or logistic support to set up isolation structures in some places. In Hargeisa, we have trained emergency room staff and ambulance drivers in assisting the Ministry of Health to set up a COVID-19 centre.

South Africa

In South Africa, we have sent staff from all four of our existing projects to COVID-19 responses in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape provinces. MSF staff members are assisting with physical and telephonic contact tracing, and the development and dissemination of health promotion materials.

In Johannesburg, a mobile team conducts primary healthcare consultations and screening for COVID-19 cases in three homeless shelters, as well as links to an MSF testing and tracing team. In Eshowe and Rustenburg, we have set up triage tents and handwashing points, and continue to provide health promotion messages.

South Sudan

In South Sudan, MSF is assisting the Ministry of Health with the training of healthcare workers in infection prevention and control measures and triage for symptoms compatible with COVID-19. In the capital city, Juba, MSF teams are installing handwashing points in several locations with high concentrations of people, including around hospitals and healthcare centres. Teams are also carrying out community assessments and engagement in the city.

In Yei, MSF is supporting the management of the COVID-19 isolation facility, at the request from the Ministry of Health, given constraints in staffing and supply.

Sudan

MSF teams across Sudan are conducting health promotion and awareness sessions with the local community. We are also providing mentoring and training on a daily basis to health workers in the health facilities we support. We also run a mobile COVID-19 unit that supports other facilities, working on early detection and prevention of the disease.

At the Omdurman Teaching hospital, the largest hospital in the country, where MSF has a team of more than 60 staff, we are working closely with the MoH in the emergency department and to prepare to cope with COVID-19. We are also supporting the MoH to set up and manage isolation centres in two towns in East Darfur and South Kordofan states (Ed Daein and Dilling).

Tanzania

In Tanzania, our health promotion team in Nduta refugee camp, is undertaking health promotion activities, raising awareness among the community on hygiene and best health practices. MSF has built four triage/isolation areas at each of our health clinics at Nduta refugee camp, and a main isolation centre at our hospital, where people suspected of having COVID-19 will be referred. Currently we have 10 isolation beds available and are currently constructing another 50, with the ability to scale up to 100 beds if needed.

Zimbabwe

We are supporting COVID-19 patient care in Harare, while our water and sanitation team provides additional support in communities.

Americas

Brazil

In São Paulo, MSF teams are triaging patients at the Missão Belém homeless shelter, referring people suspected of having the new coronavirus to hospital. Teams are working with homeless people – in shelters and on the streets – youth in adolescent detention centres, and with heavy drug users providing health promotion and IPC education, and running a mobile triage clinic in the downtown area. Screening and health promotion activities with the homeless have also started in Rio de Janeiro.

In Manaus, an MSF team has started training local health professionals on infection and prevention control.

In Boa Vista, in Roraima state, the team has visited informal shelters where migrants and refugees from Venezuela have gathered, providing hygiene and physical distancing guidance to residents. The team has also assisted in expanding access to water in formal and informal shelter and has distributed hygiene kits.

Haiti

MSF has also reorganised the Emergency Centre in the Martissant neighborhood of Port-au-Prince in order to isolate and refer COVID-19 suspect cases. A separate patient/staff flow is in place, in addition to triage and five isolation beds. Our teams are carrying out health promotion activities in communities, via mass media such as radio and social networks but also through training of health workers and community leaders, and in health institutions.

In the South of Haiti, MSF supported two public health facilities (in Port-à-Piment and Port Salut) for the set-up of triage systems, isolation beds, referral systems and training of medical staff. Teams report supply as a major stumbling block. In Artibonite and Port-au-Prince, MSF is also doing health promotion, community awareness and prevention activities.

Also in the country’s south, our team has set up a triage and an isolation unit in the departmental referral hospital in Cayes.

Mexico

MSF teams have established an auxiliary hospital unit in a basketball stadium in Tijuana, in the far northwestern corner of Mexico. MSF medical staff are providing treatment to non-critical COVID-19 patients, relieving the burden on local hospitals.  

United States

MSF has been partnering with local service organisations in New York to improve infection prevention and control (IPC) measures in facilities serving the homeless and housing insecure. Teams have been donating over 80 handwashing stations to key locations, including soup kitchens and supportive housing facilities in New York. MSF has also distributed 1,000 mobile phones to vulnerable New Yorkers who lack the essential technology needed to contact emergency and support services, including telemedicine providers. MSF teams opened a shower trailer in Manhattan to give people who are currently homeless or housing insecure a place to bathe while public restrooms and facilities are closed due to COVID-19. We’re also supporting New York City authorities in developing a webinar training on IPC practices. 

In Immokalee, Florida, where approximately 10,000-20,0000 migrant farmworkers have continued to work during the pandemic with minimal access to healthcare and testing, we are working closely with Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), the Department of Health and local organisations and healthcare providers. MSF is running a public health education campaign and mobile ‘virtual’ clinics, which provide COVID-19 testing and remote medical consultations for COVID-19 and other health issues. 

In New Mexico and the Navajo Nation, an MSF team is working with local officials, healthcare providers and organisations that directly address needs related to COVID-19 in Native American communities. We are focusing on providing infection prevention and control technical guidance to healthcare facilities and communities. We are also actively engaged with community leaders to increase access to health promotion and practical education.

MSF teams are on the ground assessing local needs and our capacity to offer support to organisations and health care providers serving vulnerable groups in Puerto Rico.

Our team has also been remotely advising non-profit organisations throughout the United States working with the homeless and migrant workers on infection prevention and control measures and hospital triage set up.  

Asia

Afghanistan

In Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, MSF has provided infection prevention and control training, and improved patient flow and triage at the Afghanistan-Japan hospital, which is the referral hospital for COVID cases in the country.

In the COVID-19 treatment centre in Herat, MSF is supporting the Ministry of Public Health with infection prevention and control measures. In Lashkar Gah, the team is providing technical support for the management of the COVID-19 facility set up in Malika Suraya hospital.

Bangladesh

Teams in the Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, southeastern Bangladesh, are undertaking health promotion activities among those in the camp. We have also built dedicated COVID-19 wards and isolation rooms in our field hospitals in different locations.

Cambodia

Staff in health facilities in three provinces in Cambodia – Pailin, Bantey meanchey and Oddar Meanchey – have received training and technical support. MSF has also contributed to the development on national treatment protocols.

Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, where the outbreak is winding down and restrictions are being relaxed, we have shifted our focus to providing mental health support – via a website with tips and face-to-face sessions – for people caused by prolonged exposure to uncertainty.

Indonesia

In West Java, Indonesia, health promotion activities, including leaflets on disease prevention measures, and setting up hand-washing points, have been carried out. Our staff have also undertaken training sessions via webinar on IPC measures and PPE use with local doctors.

Japan

An outbreak of COVID-19 among crew members on a cruise ship docked for repairs in Nagasaki, in western Japan, led to 149 out of 623 staff on board testing positive for the new coronavirus. MSF sent a team of one doctor and two nurses to provide onshore medical assistance. The team are assessing patients and are assisting with referrals to further health facilities, depending on patients’ condition and the urgency of medical care.

Kyrgyzstan

In Kyrgyzstan, we are working closely with the MoH, with a specific focus on Kadamjay raion (district) and Batken oblast (province). MSF mobile teams are supporting with contact tracing and community surveillance. Our teams will also provide training in infection prevention and control measures. 

Malaysia

In Penang, in Malaysia’s northwest, we are providing health education in different languages for vulnerable people, including Rohingya and Burmese, and translations in hospitals.

Pakistan

In Timergara, northern Pakistan, the MSF team is running a 24-bed isolation ward for people with mild and moderate cases of COVID-19, referring serious patients to university hospitals. Our teams are also screening over 1,000 people a day for symptoms of the virus and providing consultations to those who have suspected cases of the new coronavirus.  MSF is also collecting COVID-positive patients in Lower Dir district to bring them to the isolation ward by ambulance, but only under specific conditions.

Papua New Guinea

In Papua New Guinea, staff in health facilities have received training on infection prevention control, and screening and triage of people with potential cases of COVID-19 in 22 provinces. Our teams have also set up a large facility for treating COVID-19 patients in the capital, Port Moresby.

Philippines

In Manila, capital of the Philippines, the MSF team is supporting our partner organisation Likhaan with health promotion activities. In Marawi, a “mobile information drive” to pass health promotion messages to vulnerable people has launched.

Tajikistan

In Tajikistan, we have developed a tuberculosis+COVID health education leaflet and shared the document with the health ministry to ensure accurate information is disseminated. In Dushanbe, we are working with TB patients, their families and their communities to explain how to prevent the transmission and infection of COVID-19.

Uzbekistan

In Karakalpakstan, in Uzbekistan’s west, we have started a health promotion campaign aimed at TB patients on how to prevent contracting COVID-19.

Europe

Belgium

In Belgium, our activities for COVID-19 covers the following areas:

Eight mobile teams are supporting nursing homes for the elderly – so far, 115 homes across Brussels, Flanders, and Wallonia – including with psychological support and webinars for staff and assessing residents for potential coronavirus cases.

support for vulnerable groups such as homeless people and undocumented migrants: MSF has set up a 150-bed facility for isolation and patient care, and – with increased testing – is treating increased numbers of people with confirmed cases of the new coronavirus supporting other collective living centres through outreach teams.

MSF teams had been supporting 10 hospitals to increase their admission capacity and on IPC measures; however this support – which included providing technical and strategic advice, plus operating post-intensive care units – has now wound down and needs have decreased.

There are currently more than 100 full-time staff working on the COVID-19 response in Belgium.

France

In France, we are helping to detect people with, and provide care for, coronavirus COVID-19 among the most vulnerable populations in Paris and the surrounding region. Activities include mobile consultations and screening of vulnerable people, and support with diagnosis, isolation and patient care in both existing and prospective shelters.

MSF teams are working in some of these shelters to evaluate their health and identify potential COVID-19 cases. Our teams are also working with homeless people living on the streets, evaluating people for COVID-19 and other illnesses. We are running two COVID centres for homeless and migrant people infected with the new coronavirus – where they can self-isolate and where our teams provide some medical assistance –in Châtenay-Malabry and in Aulnay-sous-Bois, in Paris’s southwest and northwest suburbs, respectively.

We are also providing more support to hospitals and health centres. On 4 April, we set up inflatable tents to temporarily increase the ICU bed capacity at the hospital in Reims, east of Paris.

On 8 April, we started working at Henri-Mondor hospital in Créteil, in Paris’s southeastern suburbs, to increase capacity treating patients with severe COVID-19 who are well enough to leave intensive care, but still require inpatient medical care. MSF provides organisational and technical support as well as staff – five nurses, five assistant nurses, two doctors – in charge of managing a 10-bed care ward.

Screening, counselling and testing activities in support of health centres in impoverished neighbourhoods in Marseille are underway.

We have started providing support to nursing homes: teams are working in care homes across Paris, providing medical and psychological care assistance to residents, and IPC support to staff; while a team from MSF Switzerland has crossed the border to assist nursing homes, providing advice on IPC and medical awareness to staff, in the département of Haute-Savoie, southeast of Geneva.

Germany

An MSF team is supporting the authorities in the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt, northeastern Germany, in a centre for asylum seekers in the city of Halberstadt. Hundreds of the centre’s inhabitants are under quarantine and some inhabitants were earlier infected with COVID-19. Our teams are carrying out health education activities, implementing IPC measures and providing psychological support.

Across other parts of the country, including in Berlin, we are advising organisations, volunteer groups and state institutions working with the homeless, migrants and other vulnerable groups on IPC measures, to enable them to continue their services.

Greece

MSF is providing support to migrants and asylum seekers on the migrant hotspot islands of Samos and Lesbos in Greece, including through health promotion activities and increased water and sanitation supplies and services.

Italy

In Italy, we supported three hospitals in the Lombardy region, in the country’s north, the original epicentre of the outbreak, with infection prevention and control (IPC) measures, as well as providing care to patients. Outside the hospitals we are doing outreach activities in order to reach vulnerable people, and supporting a telemedicine programme (medical assistance via video conference), which is assisting people under isolation at home.

We are also working in one of the most affected regions, the Marche region in central eastern Italy, where we are supporting 30 nursing homes across several cities to prevent the virus spreading in such vulnerable locations, which have no specialised medical staff to manage patients. Our doctors, nurses, and hygiene experts are supporting staff and local municipalities with the implementation of infection prevention and control measures.

In Rome, we are undertaking health promotion and medical care through a clinic at Selam Palace, a building hosting more than 500 refugees, mostly coming from the Horn of Africa.

There are currently about 50 MSF staff involved in the response to the coronavirus pandemic in Italy.

The Netherlands

We are providing mental health support to frontline workers. This includes a short video with a highly experienced and well-known MSF clinical and health psychologist that has been widely shared in hospitals and nursing homes across the country.

Portugal

MSF teams in Portugal are visiting nursing homes, and supporting authorities and management teams in order to train staff and establish basic IPC measures.

Spain

The elderly and aged care homes have been hit particularly hard, and are not receiving priority attention. We are focusing many of our activities in Spain on aged care homes. In the last weeks, our teams have worked in more than 300 aged care homes with a wide range of activities, including supporting management teams and authorities, implementing emergency measures to separate COVID-positive or symptomatic residents from the rest, supporting disinfection, and training of staff in IPC and risk mitigation. We are specifically working with steering committees that manage aged care homes, to help protect the elderly through patient care and infection prevention and control measures.

These activities in Madrid, and the Catalonia region (including Barcelona) are being handed over, while activities continue in the Basque country, Castilla y Leon, in Andalucia, Tarragona, Palencia and Asturias.

MSF has set up two health units to support hospitals around Madrid, with a total capacity of 200 beds. These units receive patients with moderate cases, helping decongest the hospitals’ emergency and intensive care services, providing support to services on the brink of being overwhelmed. These units are run by hospital staff, while our teams are providing them with logistical and infection prevention and control advice to protect healthcare workers and patients.

In Barcelona and the Catalonia region, MSF has advised hospitals on staff and patient flow to manage infection control.

Switzerland

In Geneva, where MSF's international headquarters are located, our staff are providing logistical and sanitation support to areas where vulnerable people are living – reaching 1,300 families in the canton (administrative division) of Geneva – and providing training for staff and volunteers working with these groups. Once a week, a logistician is supervising a food distribution organised by different NGOs to 2,500 people.

We are also exchanging medical expertise with Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève (HUG), the university teaching hospital in Geneva. MSF medical staff detached to HUG focused on patient care and managing medical teams. In partnership with HUG, our teams are testing people for free based on their symptoms; we’re also undertaking contact tracing among vulnerable groups of people who have confirmed cases of COVID-19. We have a mobile team ready to provide home-based care for patients who don’t meet hospitalisation criteria. We have also provided recommendations to public and private mortuary services on procedures to avoid any post-mortem transmission of the disease.

In neighbouring canton Vaud, we are undertaking IPC and health promotion activities with staff working in structures that support vulnerable groups, such as the homeless, in Lausanne, Vevey and Yverdon-les-Bains.

Ukraine

In Ukraine, MSF has expanded health promotion activities, providing people with information on how to prevent transmission of the virus. In Mariinka, Donetsk region, we have two mobile teams collaborating with the MoH to provide contact tracing, screening and home-based care for people with mild coronavirus symptoms, in order to prevent health structures from being overwhelmed.

We have provided infection prevention and control training – focusing on the proper use of protection equipment, infection control, and the flow of patients – at Central District Hospital in Krasnogorívka. We are also undertaking screening and isolation activities, plus waste management, in four health facilities and a nursing home.

Our teams are providing psychological support to patients by phone. We have also launched a psychological support hotline in eastern Ukraine, covering Mariinka and Volnovakha Rayons, in Donetsk region, to help people living close to the contact line to cope with the additional stress of COVID-19.

United Kingdom

Our staff are providing nursing and logistics support at the London COVID CARE Centre, in partnership with the University College London Hospital Find & Treat team. The project provides rapid testing, accommodation in which to self-isolate, and medical care for homeless people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. 

Middle East and North Africa

Iraq

In Iraq, our teams are supporting Baghdad’s Ibn Al-Khatib hospital with improving infection prevention and control measures and providing training on patient triage procedures.

In Mosul, MSF has equipped a 50-room building in the MoH-run Al-Salam hospital complex to isolate patients. Another hospital located in the same complex, Al-Shifaa, was rebuilt by MSF in 2019 and is now being used as the main COVID-19 referral point for patients in Ninewa province. We are supporting Al-Shifaa by setting up 40 isolation beds and 30 beds for treating people with mild and moderate cases; MSF will work in cooperation with local health authorities to treat the patients.

In Erbil, MSF has also been helping local health facilities by providing technical support, logistic support and training for their staff on infection prevention and control.

Triage has started in Laylan IDP camp (Kirkuk province) and in Abbasi, Hawija province. MSF staff in Hawija are also undertaking disease surveillance, and are building two COVID-19 mobile hospitals, in caravans, with 10-bed capacity in each, to treat mild coronavirus cases.

Lebanon

In Zahle, central Lebanon, where MSF runs a paediatric ward in the Elias Hraoui Governmental hospital – now a COVID-19 referral hospital – our teams are supporting the hospital staff by setting up a COVIID-19 emergency room in tents outside the premises, and managing triage and screening of adults and children. We are also treating people suspected of having COVID-19 in the inpatient ward and the paediatric intensive care unit. 

We have trained hospital staff in Hermel, Saida and Tripoli including on IPC measures, and have provided hospitals in these areas with logistical support. 

Awareness campaigns have been conducted by the MSF teams from Akkar to Tripoli, South Beirut, and in the Bekaa valley. We are engaging with community leaders and partner NGOs to spread awareness about general protective measures, especially in crowded refugee camps and informal tented settlements.

Libya

In Libya we have delivered training on infection control and case management to nurses and doctors in hospitals in Tripoli. Teams are providing training to medical staff in Zliten, Misrata, Khoms, Yefren and Bani Walid, and reinforcing IPC measures in detention centres, including installing handwashing points, distributing soap and cloth masks, and undertaking health promotion with migrants and refugees, and detention centre guards.

Palestine

In Hebron, Palestine, the MSF team launched a hotline service to provide remote counselling in support to some of the people most affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, such as patients and their families, medical personnel and other first responders, and families of detainees. Our team is also distributing hygiene kits to remote villages and food parcels to families that need it as a result of the outbreak-related movement restrictions and loss of income.

Syria

In northeast Syria, we are providing training and preparedness measures in Al-Hassakeh National hospital and in Al-Hol camp. This includes creating a 48-bed isolation ward, introducing surveillance measures, identifying and treating people with COVID-19, and patient flow and triage processes. We are providing training on infection prevention and control measures and personal protective equipment usage training. MSF is also rehabilitating hospital wards to receive patients. 

In the country’s northwest, we are reviewing the triage systems and patient flow in some MSF-supported hospitals and health centres, to ensure fast detection and isolation of people suspected of having COVID-19. In Deir Hassan camp, we have engaged with internally displaced people on IPC measures via health promotion, and distributed hygiene kits, which include soap, to more than 6,800 families. MSF supported the Idlib National hospital with the design of a COVID-19 isolation unit. An MSF team also delivered a COVID-19 training to staff from other NGOs and the Department of Health. In Azaz, our team has set up a COVID-19 triage tent.

Yemen

In Yemen, we have provided support to the Ministry of Health (MoH) and have set up a COVID-19 isolation unit in Aden. Also in Aden, MSF is now running the COVID-19 treatment centre at Al-Amal hospital.

In Hajjah Governorate, teams have been working in Abs and Al Jambouri hospitals, including setting-up screening points in both hospitals and establishing a 16-bed capacity isolation unit in Abs hospital. We have also improved IPC measures provided training to MoH staff on COVID-19 symptoms and case definition, treatment, and IPC measures. An MSF-supported COVID-19 isolation centre is now officially part of Al-Gumhouri Hospital and will be the referral hospital for COVID-19 for Hajjah governorate.

In Sana’a, we are supporting hospitals, including Sheikh Zayyed hospital, with technical expertise for screening set up, triage and infection prevention and control. In Ibb governorate we supported local authorities to build two COVID-19 treatment centres, putting in place IPC measures, and assisting with technical support, triage and screening, facility management including workforce planning, and waste management. Teams also provided training on health promotion for MoH staff and private carers.

We have conducted training on, and have implemented, IPC measures, in hospitals across Hodeidah, Taiz Houban and Taiz city. Our teams have also set up an isolation unit in Al-Salakhana hospital in Hodeidah, and triage, screening and identification for potential cases at the hospital in Taiz city.

MSF and COVID-19

What is the new coronavirus disease?

COVID-19 (short for "coronavirus disease") is caused by a virus discovered in early January in China. It appears to be transmitted through droplets spread by coughing.

The virus affects the respiratory system. The main symptoms include general weakness and fever; coughing; and in later stages sometimes pneumonia and difficulty breathing.

Identified by Chinese scientists, the virus is now called SARS-CoV-2 because of its similarities to the virus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

The coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, most of which are harmless to humans. Four types are known to cause colds, while two other types can cause severe lung infections (SARS and MERS – Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), similar to COVID-19.

Like all viruses, SARS-CoV-2 needs the cells of living beings to multiply. This virus seems to target cells in the lungs and possibly other cells in the respiratory system, too. 

Cells infected by the virus will produce more virus particles, which can then spread to other people, by coughing for instance.

How is MSF responding? 

Providing care for patients with COVID-19

In Europe and the US, which are currently the epicentres of the pandemic, MSF’s response focuses on improving care for the most vulnerable and at risk, such as elderly people in care homes, homeless people and migrants living in precarious circumstances where mortality rates have sometimes reached extraordinary and shocking levels.

In most countries where we have programmes, such as in Colombia, Iraq, and Nigeria, we have been opening dedicated wards inside hospitals and health structures to help separate COVID-19 patients from non-COVID-19 patients and to extend the hospitals’ capacity to provide care.

Helping people protect themselves, and reduce transmission

Worldwide, the response to COVID-19 has relied heavily on largescale lockdowns of the population and physical distancing measures, with the aim of reducing transmission and to prevent health systems from becoming overwhelmed. However, for people dependent on daily activities for their survival, such as day labourers, and those living in precarious or overcrowded settings, self-isolation and lockdowns are not realistic.

In some places, hundreds of thousands, sometimes even millions, of people live in such conditions, without any social safety net. It is crucial to provide people with the means and tools they need to be able to protect themselves and help protect others.

To help people protect themselves, MSF teams are running health promotion activities so that people understand the steps they can take to reduce the chances of contracting COVID-19 and to stop the further spread of the coronavirus.

Where possible, we are distributing soap and setting up water points so people can regularly wash their hands.  These measures, and additional assistance such as the provision of reusable cloth masks, are even more crucial for people at risk of developing serious complications, including elderly people and those with other diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer, HIV or TB.

Keeping essential services running

Faced with suddenly having to treat huge numbers of new patients, countries with already fragile health systems, that have fewer health staff and weaker infrastructure, can quickly collapse under the pressure and the impact can be disastrous. If medical care were to falter, then common childhood killers, like measles, malaria and diarrhoea, would go untreated.

Other essential services we provide, such as sexual and reproductive care, emergency room services, maternity and surgical wards, and treatment of patients who have HIV or TB, would go unmet. This would have a terrible impact on the people we serve and would surely increase the number of deaths in the community.

In the hundreds of health facilities MSF works in around the world, our teams have been rolling out infection control measures and re-organising services to prevent transmission. 

Across the world, our teams are training and supporting local health authorities on infection prevention and control methods and detection and triage of patients with COVID-19 to prevent health facilities from becoming amplifiers of the pandemic.

What needs to be done?

We must do everything to prevent and delay further spreading of the virus. It is already straining some of the world’s most advanced healthcare systems. 

Access to healthcare

Preserving access to healthcare, both for COVID-19 patients as well as for any other patient, is paramount. This means ensuring that hospitals don’t become overwhelmed and that health staff can cope with the number of patients requiring intensive care and continue providing treatment to other patients who need it too.

Protecting healthcare staff

Infections of healthcare staff can happen easily in places that are overwhelmed by large numbers of patients. Places dealing with limited supplies of personal protective equipment for staff and a probable reduced workforce (as healthcare staff will also be part of confirmed cases through transmission in the community) are also at risk. 

Infected healthcare staff will further reduce the capacity to admit and treat patients. Safety for healthcare workers should be a top priority in every healthcare facility.

Ensuring trust

We know from our experience that trust in the response and health authorities is an essential component for outbreak control. Clear, timely, measured and honest communication and guidance is needed. People need to be empowered to protect themselves.  

To ensure that the medical tools urgently needed to respond to COVID-19 are accessible, affordable, and available concerned stakeholders including governments, pharmaceutical corporations and other research organisations developing treatments, diagnostics, and vaccines should take the necessary measures to: 
 

  • prevent patents and monopolies from limiting production and affordable access;
  • guarantee access to repurposed drugs for patients suffering from disease;
  • prioritise the availability of the medical tools for the protection and treatment of frontline healthcare workers; and  
  • improve transparency and coordination, making sure an evidence-based approach is put in place to continuously monitor the risk of the potential supply chain vulnerability on essential medical tools

  • {{ fact.node.field_facts }} {{ fact.node.field_facts_units }} {{ fact.node.field_post_fact }}

    {{ fact.node.field_facts_explanation }}

We must do everything to prevent and delay further spreading of the virus. We know from our experience that trust in the response and health authorities is an essential component for outbreak control.

Clear, timely and honest communication and guidance is needed. People need to be empowered to protect themselves.

{{{ labels.voiceson }}} {{ issueon }}