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Concern Worldwide teams are preparing to assist communities in some of the world’s poorest countries to battle COVID-19, amid growing fears of the substantial human impact the arrival of the virus could have as it continues to spread in Africa and Asia.
“We can see how COVID-19 is stretching the capacity of health systems in some of the world’s richest countries, therefore we are deeply concerned about the impact it could have in places where conflict and chronic poverty have left hospitals and clinics decimated,” Concern Worldwide CEO Dominic MacSorley said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified insufficient intensive care facilities in Africa as being the biggest challenge it faces if the virus spreads. It confirmed at an Africa health briefing today (March 19) that it is exploring the option of importing “field hospital type facilities” in the region should the number of critically ill people swamp local health systems.
While the numbers of confirmed cases have not reached the scale of those experienced in China or Italy, the numbers are beginning to rise in northern and southern Africa and are also increasing in countries such as Pakistan and Lebanon.
“If COVID-19 strikes at scale where we work in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Caribbean, millions of lives will be at risk,” Mr MacSorley warned.
Concern is currently working to ensure the safety and wellbeing of over 3,900 staff in the 23 countries where it operates and ensuring they can continue to deliver programmes to their fullest extent possible in the event of the virus spreading.
Our teams are also keen to use their expertise such as that gained tackling Ebola epidemics in west Africa and DRC to help detect and prevent the spread of COVID-19. They are on high alert and are prepared to respond as needed. We are training our staff to protect themselves from infection and reduce the risk of spread.
Concern staff will draw on their expertise in water, sanitation and hygiene, community education, and healthcare worker training — and above all, preserving the safety and dignity of those infected.
“We have contingency and response plans in place and are in contact with partners and local health authorities to ensure coordinated action,” he said. “We are only able to respond with speed and agility to crises like these because of the commitment of our donors and supporters.”
Meanwhile at home in Ireland and the UK, Concern has implemented work from home and social distancing arrangements for its staff and postponed various public engagements.
For media enquiries contact Darren Vaughan, Senior Communications Officer, at [email protected].
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