Refugees join the fight against COVID-19

Everyone counts in the response to COVID-19. All over the world, refugee communities are showing solidarity and joining the fight against coronavirus through different initiatives.

Refugees and Iranian women join the fight against COVID-19 in #Iran with partner HAMI (Association for the Protection of Afghan Women & Children) producing masks to help doctors and nurses stay safe. Photo: @IFreijsen

The coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 2 million people worldwide. Refugees and forcibly displaced families who had to flee from their homes due to conflict and violence are at heightened risk. But they too are doing what they can to step up during this time, when solidarity is the key to beating this pandemic.

In different parts of the world, refugees have set up support groups to help older people and have cooked meals for health care workers on the front lines of fighting this pandemic. Refugee doctors and scientists are stepping up to contribute to the health emergency response. Refugees also play a critical role in sharing accurate information and contributing to prevention efforts in their communities.

Here are some of the many ways that refugees are giving back to the places that welcomed them:



Refugees are keen to help in the countries where they now live, and many of them are now at the forefront of the global fight against COVID-19.

“Medical professionals and health workers across the continent have responded to the pandemic with selfless determination, and all available help is needed at this time of crisis. Refugees with proven professional competencies are ready to step in and contribute if allowed to, under the supervision of certified health professionals. In this way, they can show their solidarity, and give back to the communities sheltering them.” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.


Moheyman, a 24-year-old Iraqi refugee nurse, studied nursing at university thanks to a UNHCR DAFI scholarship and graduated a year and a half ago. Today he finds himself at the forefront of the global fight against COVID-19, and is working in the quarantine unit of his local hospital in Iran. © UNHCR/Hassam Dezfouli


“Coronavirus knows no borders; neither does love.” After fleeing war in Syria four years ago, Hassan Akkad found safety in the UK. Now he's joining cleaners disinfecting wards at a London hospital in the fight against #coronavirus. via @hassanakkad


Hadir, a refugee and research scientist resettled from Iraq, volunteers at an oncology unit at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport in the United Kingdom, in this January 2020 file picture. © UNHCR/Laura Padoan


Introducing Bahati: a Rwandan refugee, a graduate nurse, and a hero. She is currently working at Kenyatta National Hospital, Kenya on night shift as part of her medical internship, treating patients with coronavirus. Thank you, Bahati! via @Fathiaabdalla


"This is my way of giving back to the community that welcomed me as a refugee." Saymu is an ICU nurse and former refugee from Liberia. She is caring for patients on the front line of the coronavirus crisis in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, USA.


Luis is a surgeon and an oncologist from Venezuela. In 2015, he was invited to work in a cancer clinic in Medellín, Colombia, and due to the growing insecurity in his country, he accepted the offer. As the pandemic continues, he is treating all cancer patients as a priority and provides them with clear and science based information. Photo: Luis Palacios


Meet Rita, an internal medicine specialist and epidemiologist. Originally from Venezuela, Rita arrived in Medellin, Colombia in 2015 with her family as her husband, also a doctor, received a job offer. Given the growing insecurities in Venezuela, they knew it was best to start again in neighbouring Colombia. She works with older patients, and is keeping particular track of those with diseases such as diabetes or hypertension.


After fleeing insecurity, widespread violence, and shortages of food and medicines in Venezuela back in 2018, Samuel Suárez is now in Ecuador, and he is going door to door to give the local population – including the refugee community – the information they need to stay safe. Photo: © UNHCR/Jaime Giménez


Before Yasin fled Somalia three years ago, he studied medicine and qualified as a doctor. In France, he founded an NGO, Network of Exiles in France, where refugees and asylum seekers participate in language exchanges and volunteer to translate documents. The COVID-19 pandemic has given the charity an opportunity to contribute directly and has also made them extra busy.



If given the chance and the skills, refugees can and do positively contribute to their communities.


Refugees in Iran are supporting the coronavirus response! At @iliacharity_official, Afghan refugees are putting their sewing skills to good use by making hospital gowns for the doctors and nurses working tirelessly to treat Iranian and refugee patients.⁣


Salem is a refugee from Afghanistan. Now a New Yorker, he is giving back to his community by sewing masks at home for healthcare providers working on #coronavirus response. via @hhrefugees


Women from the host and the refugee community in Turkey are joining forces in the Covid-19 response. Turkish and Syrian women, while protecting themselves and others, volunteer in the production of masks at a community center in Mardin. Photo: UNHCR Turkey / @anadoluajansi


Refugees in Iran play a vital role in the fight against #coronavirus. In Torbat-e-jam settlement, 35 refugees produce some 10,000 masks per day to protect nurses & doctors. Photo: @IFreijsen


Refugees and Iranian women join the fight against COVID-19 in #Iran with partner HAMI (Association for the Protection of Afghan Women & Children) producing masks to help doctors and nurses stay safe. Photo: @IFreijsen


To boost hygiene, Syrian refugees at Za’atari camp in northern Jordan are making and distributing soap. Refugees from Nigeria living in Niger are also making beautiful soap, doing their part to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.







Shadi, 34, is originally from Daraa, south of Damascus, and came to Switzerland in 2013. Seeking practical ways to help others, in the country that gave him safety, Shadi swiftly mobilized a network of volunteers in Geneva and Lausanne to shop and run errands for the elderly, the infirm and others at greatest risk in the pandemic.

The Syrian refugee community swung into action, drawing on a deep sense of responsibility for those in greatest need and years of experience surviving danger and uncertainty.



In Maryland, USA, this community kitchen run by refugee chefs is joining the fight against coronavirus by cooking thousands of free meals for healthcare workers.