2 ways to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable communities

covid 19 sanitizers

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Mazen S. Darwazeh, Executive Vice-Chairman; President, Middle East and North Africa, Hikma Pharmaceuticals & Alexandre Raffoul, Head of Business Engagement, Middle East and Africa, World Economic Forum


  • The spread of COVID-19 comes with a tragic outlook for vulnerable communities around the globe.
  • Here are two priority areas for global and regional stakeholders: building trust and awareness; and supporting government response through innovative partnerships.

As wealthy countries with strong healthcare systems struggle to detect and contain COVID-19, the challenge of tackling an emerging disease in low-income countries, as well as in low income community pockets in wealthy parts of the world, could prove to be the challenge of our time.

The global infrastructure for fighting outbreaks is tenuous. The pervasive and widespread nature of the COVID-19 outbreak is forcing governments to build on existing imperfect and often fragile healthcare systems, to which large swathes of the population do not currently have access.

To date, according to Google News, #coronavirus has received well over 1.1 billion mentions, compared to 56.2 million mentions for SARS, 40 million for HIV, 23.2 million for MERS and around 11.1 million for Ebola.

Lost in the ongoing media frenzy and despite the exacerbated risks of infection, vulnerable populations globally have been missing from the coronavirus focus.

Here are here are two priority areas for global and regional stakeholders.

  1. Building trust and awareness

If you have recently discussed the spread of COVID-19 with a forcibly displaced person or with someone living in an area hobbled by conflict, you might have come across a relatively stoic, detached answer; “It is God’s will” and “we have bigger issues here” are some of the most typical.

Among the harsh socio-economic realities for refugees, Internally Displaced People (IDP) and the forcibly displaced among other vulnerable communities, the spread of the coronavirus might not necessarily rank highest. A mindset shift is needed. Aid groups, civil society organizations and governments have an opportunity to join and intensify efforts to instil a sense of urgency, engagement and accountability within these communities.

How has the World Economic Forum helped initiate a more effective response to natural disasters and humanitarian crises?

In 2005, the World Economic Forum helped to establish the Logistics Emergency Teams (LET), a network of representatives from four of the world’s largest logistics and transport companies (Agility, DP World, Maersk and UPS) who work together in partnership with the World Food Programme-led Global Logistics Cluster to deliver free humanitarian assistance.

To date, the LET has responded to more than 20 large-scale natural disasters and humanitarian crises, providing critical logistical support for hurricane victims in Haiti, Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, tsunami victims in Indonesia, civilians in war-ravaged Yemen and many more.

In 2018, 1,943 employees of LET member companies were trained in humanitarian logistics, contingency operations and disaster response to ensure that they were better prepared for future crises.

https://www.weforum.org/videos/logistics-emergency-teams-8f95e397a4

Read more about how the LET initiative continues to be an exemplary model for public-private partnerships.

Contact us if you’re interested in getting involved in impactful initiatives as a member or partner of the World Economic Forum.

Designing customized communication campaigns that focus on symptoms identification and provide simple hygiene and sanitation directives – while remaining particularly mindful of local language, culture and customs – would be key for trust and adoption.

The message needs to be carefully tailored to the audience as global prevention advice might not apply to the most vulnerable.

How do you regularly wash your hands if you don’t have access to soap or running water? How do you maintain social distancing and group-size minimums if you live with a family of 7 in a small space?

In terms of delivery, leveraging trusted local-community initiatives, faith and spiritual leaders could help credibly ensure that illiterate people are not left out of critical awareness-raising efforts. Special campaigns targeting children and teenagers should be prioritized as well, as about 50% of the world’s 25.9 million refugees globally are under the age of 18.

It is also crucial to see that people are aware that they can report their own or a neighbours’ symptoms and get access to healthcare without the fear of prejudice, social stigma, deportation or arrest. This would be particularly key in the countries of the Middle East, home to many urban refugees who tend to be more integrated into the local population but with no healthcare access.

Have you read?

In parallel, most governments are understandably focused on ramping up their local healthcare production and delivery systems, targeting dense urban centres and high traffic areas and infrastructure.

Vulnerable communities can become a second thought for governments focused on dealing with nationals that have not been displaced and whose voices might be stronger at the ballot box when the time comes. With the IMF pledging $50 billion to fight the spread of the coronavirus, the World Bank pledging $12 billion, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) launching a $17 million strategic plan and the Global Fund providing donors with the ability to switch grants towards COVID-19, there is an opportunity to ensure that funds are earmarked for ramping up the prevention and diagnostic efforts in camps in key countries in Asia, the Middle East and Sub-Sahara Africa.

  1. Supporting government response through innovative partnerships

Governments around the world have taken a range of macroeconomic measures to cope with the pandemic, providing tax incentives and cash grants to firms, tax rebates to households, cutting interest rates and launching lending schemes and Quantitative Easing programmes.

Global shocks require a global response. As no country has the fiscal capacity to stand alone, an inter-governmental response network should be explored to expand intensive care capacity in areas close to refugee communities. This can be done by repurposing underused buildings as Intensive Care Units where available, supporting the retooling of underutilized manufacturing capacity towards intensive care equipment, or by recalling medical staff out of retirement. Random testing pockets of asymptomatic communities in vulnerable settings would also help ensure that the most exposed don’t fall victim to a second wave of infection.

How can we collaborate to stop the spread of COVID-19?

Governments cannot work alone in responding to the crisis on behalf of vulnerable communities; they need the support of the private sector now more than ever. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) often produce innovative solutions to pressing global health issues that are more than the sum of their parts.

They can aid in the quick development of work by bringing together the best of what the public and private sectors have to offer, merging expertise from different sectors, driving innovative diagnostic approaches and making resources available that can be used to aid the fight against these emerging threats.

Have you read?

A number of private companies have stepped up efforts to address the spread of COVID-19 with innovative ways to communicate preventative measures and symptoms to the wider public. Customizing the use of existing technologies for the benefit of exposed communities makes sense. An example is the PPP that Hikma Pharmaceuticals formed with the Ministry of Health in Jordan to fund a dedicated COVID-19 hotline offered through a digital health platform connecting millions of users with licensed and certified doctors in real-time for free medical consultation and advice related to the spread of disease.

Tools such as those developed by Bluedot, a Toronto-based digital health company that uses AI to detect the spread of the pandemic, could be scaled up and exploited to better inform predictions of an outbreak in select refugee camps. Veredus Laboratories, a Singapore-based biotech company, could be incentivized to provide its newly developed portable Lab-on-Chip detection kit to vulnerable communities to enable a fast and portable detection solution. With the proper license to operate, companies such as Flirtey – a US-based drone delivery firm – could be leveraged to deliver suveillance and medical test kits, food, medicine and water to particularly vulnerable populations.

Such solutions would require governments to give incentives to the companies involved in producing specialized equipment needed for COVID-19 detection and treatment in fragile contexts and to promote partnerships that devote time and resources towards preparedness and relief for the most vulnerable. Finally, an old English proverb finds itself particularly relevant. “Necessity is the mother of invention”.

This type of innovation and flexibility in responding to the crisis can play a key role in the fight against the spread of diseases in vulnerable communities, providing access to medical consultation at this critical time but without the burden of healthcare costs.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Terrorism ‘spreading and destabilizing’ entire regions, Guterres warns States, at key Kenya conference

Here’s how we get businesses to harmonize on climate change

Drones are saving lives in Tanzania’s remote communities

Dignified health for all who live here

Austria, Italy, Portugal, Spain receive €279m after natural disasters in 2019

China, forever new adventures

A day that Berlin and Brussels would remember for a long time

I cycled over 6,000km across the United States to document climate change. Here’s what I learned

Climate action ‘both a priority and a driver of the decade’: Guterres

Antitrust: Commission consults stakeholders on guidance for national courts when handling disclosure information

No more lead in PVC to protect public health, say MEPs

Commission reviews relations with China, proposes 10 actions

Available mental health services: is it only about professionals or institutions?

UN rights experts ‘gravely’ concerned at spike in civilian casualties in north-west Myanmar following internet shutdown

COVID-19: Single market must emerge stronger from the crisis, say MEPs

Europe and the tragicomic ‘black sovranismo’

Humanitarian migration falls while labour and family migration rises

Facebook has built an AI-based tool that fixes the social network when it crashes

Africa’s future is innovation rather than industrialization

UN rights expert calls for civilian protection as fighting escalates between military and armed group

East Africa locusts threaten food insecurity across subregion, alerts UN agriculture agency

Migration crisis update: What are the chances of a fair deal at this EU Summit?

2021 EU budget must focus on supporting a sustainable recovery from the pandemic

David McAllister underlines the need for rapid progress in EU-UK negotiations

Prisons are failing. It’s time to find an alternative

This tool shows you which cities will flood as ice sheets melt

How to build a digital infrastructure that benefits emerging economies

A rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the war-torn Yemen

Banking Union: ECOFIN and Parliament ready to compromise

4 ways family businesses can lead the pandemic recovery

Could electric vehicles pose a threat to our power systems?

GSMA Announces Final Event Lineup for Highly Anticipated 2019 “MWC Los Angeles, in Partnership with CTIA”

Summer 2018 Interim Economic Forecast: Resilient Growth amid increased uncertainty

“The winner is who can accelerate the transition to a new digital era”. The Sting reports live from EBS 2015: a Digital Europe 4.0

EU mobilises €21 million to support Palestine refugees via the UN Relief and Works Agency

EU: Divided they stand on immigration and Trump hurricanes

Under-fives’ daily screen time should be kept to 60 minutes only, warns WHO

Preventing the Pandemic of Mental Illness

COVID-19: Emerging technologies are now critical infrastructure – what that means for governance

Mario Draghi quizzed for last time by Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee

MEPs and European Youth Forum call on EU to Invest in Youth

EU to host international donors’ conference for Albania to help with reconstruction after earthquake

Manufacturing is finally entering a new era

Business could learn plenty about cybersecurity from the secret state

In Bali, UN chief Guterres outlines importance of international financial cooperation for sustainable development

Detecting online child sexual abuse requires strong safeguards

The ‘yellow vests’ undermined Macron in France and the EU

UN conference agrees better ways for Global South countries to work together on sustainable development

How India is solving its cooling challenge

Meet Alice, the battery-powered plane that could herald the age of electric air travel

Kids who live in the countryside have better motor skills, a study in Finland has found

Cohesion Policy after 2020: preparing the future of EU investments in health

MEPs demand an end to migrant deaths across the Mediterranean Sea

Search Engine neutrality in Europe in danger: Are 160.000 Google filtering requests good enough?

Our children’s career aspirations have nothing in common with the jobs of the future

World Editors Forum President: Credible media vital in the fight against COVID-19 and fake news epidemic

Coronavirus: here’s what you need to know about face masks

Donor countries set international standard for preventing sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment in development sector

Can medical students be prepared for Global Health ethical issues?

Merkel refuses to consider the North-South schism of Eurozone

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s