© MSF/Vincenzo Livieri

COVID-19 (coronavirus disease)

MSF is currently responding to the new coronavirus in five 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.

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

Help our teams: donate today

Where is MSF responding? 

Information as of 25 March 2021


Burkina Faso

MSF is still working at the COVID-19 treatment centre in Ouagadougou with out-patient follow-up, surveillance and contract tracing and awareness raising activities within the community. In Bobo-Dioulasso, the country’s second biggest city, we started a six-week, one-off support to local health authorities in one of the city’s community treatment centres.

The team ended their work at the end of February, but the oxygen machine remains in place to produce oxygen for the patients in need.

In our areas of intervention in several parts of the country, we continue to follow up the epidemiological situation, as concerns remain high in the northern, north-central and eastern parts of the country, where large numbers of displaced people are.

We have adapted triage and infection prevention and control measures in the health facilities we support, set up isolation units and trained staff in prevention and treatment. Within our projects, our teams are still providing awareness sessions to the communities.


The number of people with COVID-19 is increasing with the pandemic’s second wave. We are currently in discussion with the Ministry of Health on how to provide further support to the national response in Yaoundé. 

Central African Republic

In Bangui, MSF built a COVID-19 treatment centre for patients suffering from acute respiratory distress syndrome. However, given the low number of severe cases, the centre did not open and the facility remains ready to be used. MSF continues COVID-19 related health promotion work with the communities.

Teams also launched shielding activities for people living with HIV in four outpatients’ treatment centres of Bangui, benefitting approximately 9000 people. A similar strategy, including soaps and masks distribution, food support and awareness raising sessions is implemented in Paoua and Carnot in collaboration with UNICEF and WFP, targeting around 4000 patients and their families.


In July, we provided support to Farcha hospital, in N’Djamena, since the facility is the referral hospital for COVID-19 treatment. MSF provided clinical training to the staff, and installed an oxygen generator to provide oxygen in large quantities and for several patients at once. Given the low number of severe cases, this hospital didn’t require further support from us. In the capital, our teams also supported to laboratory activities at central level to draw up biosecurity procedures.

Activities in N’Djamena also included surveillance support, as well as health promotion and community engagement across the capital, including with marginalised groups with lesser access to health information such as nomadic people in the outskirts of the city. We added COVID-19 related health promotion, medical screening and distribution of soaps and locally-produced cloth masks to our community-based activities in the three districts where we run malnutrition programmes.

Côte d’Ivoire

Activities closed

Democratic Republic of Congo

Across all our projects in DRC, our teams are working on awareness raising and health promotion and implement preventive measures, such as providing masks and handwashing stations, setting up triage and isolation areas, as well as contact tracing.

With the second wave hitting Kinshasa in December, and a lack of ICU beds available in the capital, we started supporting the Cliniques Universitaires de Kinshasa (CUK) – the Kinshasa University clinics – in January 2021 to treat people with moderate and severe cases in the CUK’s 40-bed COVID unit.

In addition, the MSF-supported Hospital of Kinshasa, dedicated to HIV/AIDS patients, has been equipped with isolation tents for people with suspect and confirmed cases and a reference system put in place. The same approach was implemented in Kasai province, in Kananga, where MSF supports the General Hospital with triage and donations to the hospital and health centres according to their needs.


The number of COVID -19 patients has significantly decreased in the country. Patients with comorbidities are visited at home to ensure continuity of care. Additionally, the home-based care team is being trained on critical care in preparation of the anticipated third wave.     


In Gambella region, in two camps for South Sudanese refugees (Kule and Tierkidi) MSF has set up a 20-bed COVID-19 isolation centre and another one with a capacity of 10 beds. In Gambella town a team provides support to the COVID-19 triage and temporary isolation centre in Gambella Hospital.

Since May, a team in Addis Ababa has been providing mental health support in to more than 5,000 migrants who returned mainly from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Lebanon and are placed in three COVID-19 quarantine centres in the capital. MSF is supporting the MoH medical and non-medical staff who work in the quarantine centres by training them on migrants’ mental health needs.

Our teams support the regional health authorities in our different project locations in Amhara and Somali Region in their isolation and treatment centres and with health education. We have also been working on preparedness in all our projects putting in place preventive and hygiene measures.


Activities closed

From end of April to early August, MSF has been supporting the provision of care to more than 350 COVID-19 patients in the Nongo Epidemic Treatment Center in Conakry. We had set up this structure in 2015 as part of our Ebola response epidemic, before handing it over to the authorities.

In April 2020, our teams rehabilitated a large area of the centre to bring it up to standard to have a proper 75-bed COVID-19 isolation and treatment unit to provide care for patients with mild and moderate symptoms of the disease, but also patients in need of oxygen therapy.

Beyond the provision of care, our teams also disinfected several homes of patients admitted to hospital, provided psychosocial support, and managed the tracing and following up on their contacts. The Nongo COVID-19 treatment centre and its equipment were handed over the authorities mid-August.


Activities closed

In Bissau, the capital of Guinea-Bissau, we 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 provided support with hygienists on waste management.

Ivory Coast 

In January, the country authorised the use of several vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna and Astra Zeneca). A vaccination campaign was launched in early March with a target of 500,000 people to be vaccinated in Abidjan, where more than 95 per cent of COVID-19 positive cases are recorded.

In order to support this campaign, MSF restarted our telemedicine project in partnership with a local NGO. Based in a testing centre in Abidjan, the team is now helping the diagnosis of illnesses that could lead to complications with the COVID-19 vaccines. 


The country is experiencing an intense third wave. While the country preparedness to handle the new wave and the lack of testing capacity are causes for concern, many isolation facilities remain closed.


MSF is carrying out ongoing awareness activities on prevention measures in communities in and around Monrovia.


Following a peak of cases in February, numbers dropped back to much lower levels. MSF is still providing oxygen and technical support to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Blantyre, but the opening of an additional 40-bed COVID-19 ward was not necessary. Health workers in the country are now being vaccinated.


In Bamako, we ended our COVID-19 support to the MoH’s inpatient care facility in February due to decreasing cases. We continue to strengthen outpatient activities, such as improving dedicated COVID-19 patient flow and triage areas in health centres, medical follow up of COVID-19 positive patients at home, raising awareness.


COVID-19 cases in Mozambique doubled in January alone. MSF reacted by scaling up our national response: 

Maputo: We set up two tents able to accommodate 16 people with moderate or severe symptoms in Mavalane Hospital. We installed GeneXpert machines to improve testing and diagnosis and provided technical support for the organisation of the new COVID-19 treatment centre and IPC training to local front-line health workers. 

Montepuez: cholera outbreaks prevented the implementation of the COVID-19 contingency plan. MSF donated cleaning materials and continues to support the hospital, setting up pre-triage points there and in three health centres. Training for health staff is planned to open a COVID-19 treatment centre.

Beira: We assist the MoH with triage in two health facilities and at Central Hospital. We are also supporting the isolation centre with 20 beds and are providing IPC and case management training to MoH front-line health workers. The capacity of health staff was also scaled up with one doctor, five nurses, six health promoters and 14 cleaners.


MSF is supporting with logistics and human resources in Lamorde hospital in Niamey, where people with moderate cases are treated.

We are also supporting health centres in Magaria, Dungass and Tillaberi with water and sanitation activities, distribution of masks, organising the triage of patients and helping the investigation and response team. 

We continue the epidemiological surveillance and community awareness. In Diffa and Agadez, we have set up isolation centres in our facilities. 


We continue to support health promotion and provide local authorities, hospitals and healthcare centres with technical support, staff training and IPC in all projects. Our teams have set-up isolation units in Gwoza and Pulka where suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19 are managed. The capacity of the unit has been reduced to 5 beds in each facility. In Ngala, where cases have been confirmed for the first time in mid-February, we have increased epidemiological surveillance and started to run IPC and health promotion activities.

In Ebonyi state, we are supporting the MoH and Nigerian CDC with testing, in the state’s first COVID-19 testing centre, and are currently supporting the re-opening of a 25-bed MoH facility in preparation for a second wave of COVID-19 in the state.

In Sokoto, we have supported the MoH to renovate a 32-bed isolation and treatment centre. With the local authorities we helped conduct a community awareness campaign on COVID-19, reaching 370 settlements. We have carried out health promotion, installed water points and distributed soap to displaced communities in Benue and Zamfara.


At the end of September 2020, given a clear reduction both on transmission and severity of cases, MSF decided to end our COVID-19 intervention and closed our projects in Dakar, in Guediawaye district (northern suburb of Dakar Region), and at the Hospital of Dalal Jamm.

All activities were handed over to the ministry of health. An increase in positive cases and deaths has been observed since the beginning of December 2020. MSF continues to monitor the situation and discussions are ongoing with the health authorities.

Sierra Leone

MSF is part of the case management and surveillance pillars at the national Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), and at district level EOCs in Kenema, Tonkolili and Bombali Districts. An MSF epidemiologist continues to work with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS) on surveillance, IPC and testing strategies. 

From July 2020 until December 2020, in close collaboration with the district health management team, Western Area Urban, we worked with 10 community health workers from the Thompson Bay wharf area in Freetown, characterised by informal settlements. We organised health promotion and hygiene kits distribution. As the months progressed, the district medical team reported a higher number of people coming to the clinic, which was a great sign of the impact of the messages. The health promotion activities stopped at the end of December 2020, with handover to the community healthcare workers and District health management team. We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation in Freetown and can respond in future if needed.

Somalia and Somaliland

There is a lot of stigma surrounding COVID-19 so people who feel sick are reluctant to go to a health centres out of fear of discrimination. The testing capacity is also extremely low due to shortage of testing kits and lack of funding. 

In Somaliland, we train members of the MoH’s Rapid Response Teams on prevention of COVID-19. Due to infection prevention and control measures put in place to prevent the spread of the infection, regular programmes are affected, like routine immunisation and nutrition programmes. 

South Africa

At the end of February we closed our activities in Ngwelezana Tertiary Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal Province, where a team of our doctors and nurses worked in a 113-bed COVID-19 field hospital. Anticipating a new wave, our teams across the country are now actively working towards a state of readiness in areas already hit hard – drawing on our experience and focusing on care inside hospitals.

South Sudan

MSF continues to support the Ministry of Health in the Juba Teaching Hospital with WATSAN materials donations and IPC training. We also continue to support the National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL) - the primary testing facility in the country - including with an MSF Laboratory Supervisor.

MSF is also in discussions with the MoH on possible technical support to the NPHL warehouse to help ensure improved and efficient stock management for COVID-19 testing.

Outside of Juba, with the completion of an MSF testing facility in Lankien, there are now four MSF testing facilities (one each in Lankien, Agok, Bentiu and Malakal Protection of Civilian sites) which add to the 23 facilities country-wide.

In addition, in all projects across the country we continue to isolate and treat patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, although the numbers of confirmed patients remain low. 

We also continue to support and implement preventive measures, including screening and reinforcing IPC, awareness raising and health promotion, and training.


MSF has received approval to conduct a seroprevalence survey in Omdurman, and we are discussing with MoH to begin a home-based support system for COVID-19 patients, covering the same area.

We are supporting four main public hospitals in Khartoum to strengthen their screening and triage system and the isolation areas. The objective is to protect or reopen lifesaving services and to reinstate confidence among health workers.

MSF teams are supporting with trainings, reinforcement of infection prevention and control (IPC) measures, weekly donations of PPE. We also trained staff from 10 primary healthcare centres, donated IPC items and provided technical on-site support, which continues in different facilities in Khartoum. We are also supporting the MoH to manage isolation centres in East Darfur and South Kordofan states.


MSF is the sole healthcare provider in Nduta refugee camp, which hosts some 70,000 Burundian refugees. More than 250 MSF staff have been trained on COVID-19 preparedness and response measures to respond to a potential outbreak, and our teams continue to organise simulation exercises to maintain rapid response capacity.

We continue to have triage structures in the four health posts including 100 beds in the main hospital. Our community health educators in Nduta camp regularly sensitise the community on hygiene and best health practices. We also continue with temperature screening at the triage of the main camp gate and maintain handwashing points.


Uganda has reported a low number of confirmed cases and no COVID-19 deaths so far. MSF teams have helped with logistics and hygiene measures in 3 MoH isolation units in Arua and Kasese.

We are raising awareness among the communities where we and distribute masks to patients and staff in MSF-supported health structures, as well as protective equipment to medical staff working with COVID-19 patients. In Adjumani district, in the North, an MSF team intervened to improve living conditions in a transit centre used to quarantine and test refugees, where conditions were particularly poor.


Since February, we have been supporting Parirenyatwa Hospital Isolation Centre, the country’s main referral site for COVID-19 cases in Harare - to help them prepare for the next potential surge in COVID-19 infections. We work towards improving infection prevention and control (IPC) measures, improve patient flow and tackle shortages of PPE, essential medicines and medical supplies.

Additionally, MSF has recruited and deployed medical staff to support the hospital. The support is based on the needs assessment we have undertaken and includes increasing the hospital’s capacity to manage admitted COVID-19 cases.

MSF is also preparing to extend the COVID-19 support to a second COVID-19 isolation centre, the Wilkins Hospital in Harare.



Activities closed

Between April and July, MSF offered technical support and advice to health authorities in the provinces of Buenos Aires and Córdoba. We helped to design protocols, circuits and infection prevention and control measures in health structures, alternative treatment structures, and nursing homes.

In Córdoba, we provided technical support to the province’s Emergency Operations Committee working group for enclosed structures (which includes nursing homes, haemodialysis units and prisons), and participated in training the staff.

In Buenos Aires, we collaborated with the secretariats in charge of the response to COVID-19 in the city’s vulnerable neighbourhoods on possible intervention strategies, definition of priorities, and in the trainings.

Overall, MSF teams provided direct training (in person and online) to more than 550 people who work with some of the most at-risk groups: staff from nursing homes, organisations for people with disabilities, homes for children and adolescents, and community representatives from vulnerable neighbourhoods. MSF also worked with the National Penitentiary Office, providing advice on general aspects of the disease, prevention measures in detention centres, psychosocial aspects and promotion of mental health.


A team assessed needs in the Beni region, a rural Amazonia-basin area in the northeast of the country. Our activities focused on training on IPC measures and medical training in six COVID-19 centres covering five municipalities. MSF also donated PPE and medicines.


With Brazil becoming the world’s COVID-19 epicentre, MSF teams keep their focus on the country’s north, where there’s a historical lack of material and human healthcare resources.

In mid-March, we started activities in Rondonia’s capital, Porto Velho, with medical support and training in five emergency care units. Such facilities now keep patients, from moderate to critical, for long periods, as overcrowded hospitals cannot accommodate them. 

In March, we started activities in the state’s second city, Ji-Paraná, where the local 75-bed COVID-19 facility is overcrowded, understaffed and poorly supplied.

In Roraima, we provided training for health professionals in Pacaraima and Caracaraí, to improve care for patients.

We continue to provide mental health support for professionals from the biggest public hospital and one emergency care unit in Manaus, Amazonas.


Activities closed

MSF used its expertise in emergency outbreak response to provide valuable guidance to medical organisations, government agencies and remote indigenous communities to prevent and manage COVID-19 outbreaks. Teams created and shared two eBriefings related to COVID-19, one on infection prevention and control (IPC) and another on adapting and developing medical facilities. MSF also facilitated experienced field staff in Canada to other front-line organisations. MSF teams conducted several IPC assessments in shelters in Toronto for people experiencing homelessness and long-term care facilities in Montreal, providing recommendations to improve staff and clients’ overall safety.

The Canadian COVID-19 emergency highlighted systemic health inequalities in Canada that existed before the pandemic. Those living in remote locations continue to experience challenges in accessing secondary and tertiary levels of health care. Many communities still face challenges accessing primary health care and necessities, such as clean water. The economic barriers and unstable employment confronting too many Canadians before COVID-19 have been worsened. Canadians facing difficulties accessing medical care, because of insecure, inadequate, or nonexistent housing conditions, or geographic isolation remain vulnerable. The tragedies in Quebec and Ontario’s long- term care facilities highlighted the province’s catastrophic failure to care for a segment of Canada’s elderly population.

Despite existing and exasperated disparities in Canada, there is no need for MSF’s specific expertise currently. Although slow to start, generally, Canada's healthcare systems have not been overwhelmed by COVID-19. With lessons learned from the pandemic's first wave, systems and organisations should be better positioned to prevent and respond to future COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada. MSF Canada's COVID-19 activities ended on July 15, 2020.


MSF is working closely with health authorities in Norte de Santander and Tumaco to support the local response. We are currently participating in outpatient triage and supporting the area for patients with respiratory symptoms at the Tibú hospital.

In Tumaco we are carrying out medical and mental health activities in the two public hospitals in the city. In each of these places we are also focusing a large part of our efforts on promotion and prevention activities in towns, villages and neighbourhoods through different community strategies and the media.

In Norte de Santander we continue to follow up on patients with chronic diseases, and we have maintained our mental health and sexual and reproductive health activities with Venezuelan and Colombian populations without access to the health system, as well as emergency attention for sexual violence and termination of pregnancy.

We have deployed a small technical team, the Flying COVID Team, which has been supporting local hospitals in Atlantico, one of the regions most affected by COVID-19. The team’s work, which is now supporting Erasmo Meoz Hospital in Cúcuta, has focused on rapid assessment, technical training, mental health care for health staff, and donations of medicines and supplies to help health facilities keep COVID-19 services safe at the peak of the outbreak.


A testing campaign was launched in Quito. MSF is supporting the health centres, to make sure they can follow-up on positive tests. MSF gives training and support for IPC, health promotion and mental health to mobile teams and to health posts.

In the Temporary Attention Center (CAT) in Quito, MSF will provide palliative care from mid-September, and train staff in this field. This is a pioneering project for whole country and will be implemented gradually.

The interventions in nursing homes and shelters for homeless people continue, with on-site support and trainings on IPC, mental health and health promotion.

El Salvador

MSF has strengthened our ambulances service in areas that are difficult to reach due to violence, in order to alleviate the workload of the emergency system that is dedicated to the transport of COVID-19 patients. MSF continues mobile clinics in communities of San Salvador and Soyapango affected by violence.


After the initial steady increase of admissions at MSF's Drouillard COVID-19 treatment centre in Cité Soleil, Port-au-Prince, the number of hospitalised patients stabilised and decreased in July. A similar situation was observed in other COVID-19 centres managed by the Ministry of Health or other organisations in Haiti. From its opening in mid-May to its closure on 9 August, MSF teams in Drouillard centre screened 333 people and provided care to 192 patients who were hospitalised with severe symptoms.

MSF's emergency centre in the Martissant neighbourhood has also screened 69 people for COVID-19 since the epidemic was declared in March, referring patients to Drouillard when needed. A total of 66 deaths have been recorded by MSF (59 at Drouillard and 7 in Martissant) while more than 100 COVID-19 patients were discharged from Drouillard. Since 27 August, Drouillard hospital has reopened to treat patients with severe burns, which was its focus prior to COVID-19.

In several neighbourhoods of Port-au-Prince, community awareness and mobilisation activities on prevention measures and timely admissions continue through door-to-door health promotion, radio spots and training for community organisations and leaders. In Port-au-Prince, Les Cayes, Port-à-Piment and Port-Salut, our teams have also supported several hospitals and medical facilities in implementing infection prevention and control measures, triage and isolation.


In Tegucigalpa, MSF is starting on April COVID-19 activities due to the increase of cases in the city. These activities will have three different phases and will have its objective is to support to the health system with comprehensive care in the communities, primary health centres and hospitals.

In the community level, MSF will support 5 health centres with a mobile team with a nurse, psychologist and health promoters, these will do psychosocial support to the community through psychoeducation and individual telephone psychological support. Also MSF will reinforce biosecurity measures in the health centres.

In the hospital level MSF will have psychosocial support in two hospitals with COVID-19 units. The support is for patients and families with psychogical support and social support if needed. Also MSF is going to reinforce the health promotion activities in the hospitals.

The third phase consists in donating 2 ambulances with drivers and nurses to the six triage centres of city. The ambulances will help the health system transferring patients to hospitals and isolation areas. 


MSF teams responded with a small home based-care intervention in Iguala during the peak of cases in February and March. MSF teams participate in the follow-up at home of the patients not admitted to hospitals that required a close follow-up due to possible complications.

In Guerrero state, we have integrated our COVID-19 response in the regular migrant project and in our mobile clinics. Since January 2021, we have seen an increasing number of migrants who are escaping from violence, extortion and struggling situation in their countries of origin across the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA).

The team supporting the migrant shelters on COVID-19 preparations ended activities in February and handed-over the activities to the regular team.

The MSF team based in Tenosique, in addition to activities in La 72 shelter, has extended their activities in a shelter in Salto de Agua (Chiapas) which is receiving 150 to 200 migrants per day.

In Reynosa, we supported the General Hospital with extra staff to care for COVID-19 patients with mild and moderate cases. This activity was completed at the end of March. The teams in Reynosa and Matamoros continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation in both cities and conduct health promotion activities.

PAEC-LAT Project (‘Proyecto de Asesoramiento Estratégico ante el COVID-19 en Latinoamérica’)

Due to the difficulties in responding to the pandemic with the traditional approach, and as a way to overcome the restrictions for face-to-face work and staff movements, MSF created a free online strategic and technical support service aimed at institutions and staff that are at the frontline of the pandemic in Latin America.

This innovative digital solution takes advantage of the possibilities of virtual visits and online trainings to reach multiple countries, regions and different audiences, including health professionals, administrative staff, cleaning staff, community agents and indigenous health teams, mainly in remote communities and areas with limited access to healthcare services.

Since May, the PAEC-LAT has responded to more than 1,500 requests from health personnel working against COVID-19 in 14 countries in the region (Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia and Puerto Rico), and conducted 130 trainings and 35 virtual visits followed by recommendations reports.


The new wave has been brutal in Peru, with overcrowded hospitals and overwhelmed medical staff. We are currently providing treatment for non-critical cases in an isolation centre in north Lima, as well as supporting the intensive care unit in nearby Huacho Hospital and offering community outreach to facilitate early detection of potential COVID-19 patients among people.

United States

In collaboration with local authorities and/or partner organisations, MSF teams worked with migrant farm workers in Florida; people experiencing homelessness in New York; Native Americans –particularly Navajo Nation and Pueblo peoples– in the southwestern states of New Mexico and Arizona; clinical and non-clinical staff in nursing homes in Michigan and Texas; and a range of people and communities in need in Puerto Rico.

MSF has completed its programmes in Florida, New York, Michigan, and the Southwest. Medical programmes continued in Puerto Rico up until the end of September. In Texas, the team continued to offer on-site infection-control and mental health support to nursing homes up until October.

In Puerto Rico, since May, MSF helped support medical facilities with the immediate needs for personal protective equipment (PPE), provided training on infection prevention and control (IPC) measures to health care workers. MSF is continuing to provide hand hygiene and COVID-19 health education workshops to high-risk groups.

MSF also currently works in close collaboration with local partners to provide primary care consultations in homes and at ‘pop-up’ clinics to people suffering from chronic health conditions who had been unable to or fearful of going to health care facilities due to COVID-19. The team also monitors the symptoms of COVID-19 patients or people who test positive, but are asymptomatic. MSF works across the island in and around San Juan or travel to remote areas in the East, West, South and the third largest island Vieques.

In August, MSF took its infection-control training and wellness support model for nursing homes to Texas. Nursing home deaths make up more than 30 percent of the state’s total coronavirus fatalities since March. MSF is also providing its infection prevention and control (IPC) training tool kit and staff wellness model to schools of nursing so students can develop this expertise.


MSF’s response plan includes assisting with medical supplies and staff recruitment, as well as strengthening triage, diagnosis, treatment, infection control and peri-hospital system services in the projects in Amazonas, Anzoátegui, Bolívar, Sucre, Táchira and the Caracas.

MSF is also supporting with staff recruitment, treatment and peri-hospital system services in Vargas Hospital of Caracas, where we have 24 beds (including four for ICU).

The incidence of COVID-19 has increased considerably in recent weeks in Caracas due to the new variant from Brazil. The capacity of public and private hospitals has already reached the limit and the occupancy rate of COVID-19 beds is at 100 per cent. The team is evaluating options to increase the number of beds available in the different structures of the city and we contemplate the option of starting a new emergency intervention. We already scaled up our intervention in Bolivar state.



We closed our Guzar Gah COVID-19 centre in Herat in March. Between December and March, the facility treated a total of 349 patients. 

MSF maintains activities at the COVID-19 triage unit in the Herat Regional Hospital, so that close surveillance and monitoring of the epidemiological situation can continue. In Helmand, MSF is continuing the referral of suspected COVID-19 patients to Malika Suraya Hospital. MSF agreed with the Ministry of Public Health to provide treatment and hospital care for four categories of patients infected with COVID-19 (TB, surgical, paediatric and maternity patients).

In our DR-TB centre in Kandahar, we care for DR-TB patients infected with COVID-19. 

In Khost, female caretakers are allowed back into the maternity wards but only during visiting hours.

Regular weekly health promotion visits to the five MSF-supported community health centres in the districts have resumed.


MSF has created isolation wards in all our medical facilities in Cox’s Bazar. All MSF health facilities maintain triage and screening for respiratory tract symptoms and enforce strict infection prevention measures, while returning as far as possible to regular activities. Our teams are treating a number of patients with COVID-19, as well as monitoring patients with suspected COVID-19. Our focus is on treating all of our patients and ensuring we can give the best possible quality of care for COVID-19 and other medical problems, as well as continuing to work together with the Bangladeshi authorities, WHO and other health actors to limit the spread of the virus.

We are seeing the secondary impacts of the sustained reduction in access to healthcare and the de-prioritisation of community-based healthcare and social support in the camps. MSF has seen an increase in severity of non-COVID-19-related conditions, including increased deaths. Our teams are also carrying out HP activities in the camps.

In Kamrangirchar urban project, MSF has reduced regular activities to focus resources on our main clinic, where we continue to provide sexual and reproductive health services and SGBV, as well as health promotion for COVID-19. We are also supporting the local health facilities with IPC training.

Activities Closed

Because of the lower-than-expected direct impact of the pandemic, MSF's two dedicated isolation facilities have now been put into hibernation, but remain available if COVID-19 peaks again or if they need to be repurposed for an outbreak of another infectious disease.


Activities closed

Last spring, MSF teams implemented triage infrastructures in six hospitals bordering Thailand. They also participated in training 300 staff of the ministry of Health in IPC and case management.

Hong Kong

As Hong Kong is currently facing its most severe local outbreak since July, MSF has extended its COVID-19 emergency response from health education activities to providing emergency shelter and basic medical consultations to the homeless people. Homeless people in Hong Kong are particularly affected by the closure of publicly accessible facilities and suspension of services by local service providers or organisations.

Our emergency team is working with Impact HK, a local NGO, that has been supporting the homeless for some years already. The teams visit the homeless people twice a week in various streets of Hong Kong. Apart from distributing food, drinking water and hygiene kits, our caseworkers also follow up on individuals’ needs. Since June, the team has conducted 25 medical consultations and has arranged temporary shelter for 15 vulnerable individuals.

The COVID-19 outbreak lasts since January. Prolonged exposure to uncertainty can cause stress and anxiety. Therefore, aside from conducting anxiety and stress management workshops for vulnerable groups for several months, we have created a website for the general public offering tips and tools to help cope with the situation:


The Patna COVID-19 project closed its IPD-based care, which provided health promotion, mental health, and psychological first aid activities for healthcare workers in government hospitals across the state.

In February, all medical activities were closed at the BKC Dedicated COVID-19 Health Centre, where MSF was working with the government in treating people with moderate cases. A month-long Facebook digital health promotion campaign was organised and reached a million people.

MSF also continued shielding activities for high-risk patients with hypertension, diabetes and TB. We provided them with masks, sanitiser and other health promotion material. These community activities ended in March.


MSF continues to provide training of trainers to staff of health facilities and targeted groups in Jakarta. People trained by MSF are therefore capable of conducting Health Promotion (HP) sessions in their communities, resulting in a higher coverage.

In Banten, we are also engaging with different village COVID-19 task forces, schools, etc. We have also continued PPE donations to two dedicated health centres there. MSF provides COVID-19 mental health and psychosocial support activities in Banten and Jakarta.


Activities closed

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 assessed patients and assisted with referrals to further health facilities, depending on patients’ condition and the urgency of medical care. In Suginami, a district of Tokyo, MSF teams provided epidemiological analysis, supporting local health authorities.


MSF is supporting regional health authorities in Batken and Chuy oblasts in providing home-based care for moderate and mild COVID-19 patients to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.

Our teams are also supporting health centres in Kadamjay raion to reinforce COVID-19 preparedness measures, while offering technical advice, providing logistics assistance, supporting health promotion initiatives, and assisting in epidemiological surveillance through data collection. We will scale down our home-based programme in May.


In Penang, we are providing COVID-19 health education in different languages, including Rohingya and Burmese, and translations in hospitals. Based on input from the community, MSF developed a COVID-19 health promotion campaign with R-vision, an online Rohingya news network. The videos produced reached the Rohingya in Malaysia, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, India, the camps in Bangladesh and elsewhere.

As Malaysia entered another Movement Control Order (MCO) or lockdown in early 2021, the teams are ready to scale up support for people who can’t access their livelihoods and use digital information campaigns based on last years’ experience. Our advocacy continues to focus on a more inclusive COVID-19 response, calling on the government to halt targeting migrants and refugees in immigration raids, which could risk further spread of COVID-19 in detention centres.


The MSF Myanmar Facebook page continues to share COVID-19 prevention and health promotion messages. MSF teams provided medical assistance at quarantine sites and worked with the Ministry of Health and Sports (MoHS) during the COVID-19 outbreak in Rakhine State, (which culminated in Aug-Sep 2020 and subsided in the following months).

MSF also closely worked with MoHS helping to screen, test and isolate patients suspected of contracting COVID-19, while monitoring and treating patients who tested positive and providing preventive equipment, as well as improving hand washing and education on proper mask-wearing with communities in Sittwe and Pauk Taw camps.

MSF medical staff, in Sittwe, in collaboration with the MoHS, also took sample swabs from people in Sin-Tet-Maw and Kyein-Ni-Pyin camps, in Pauktaw Township.


In Balochistan, at the end of the three-month agreement signed with the MoH, MSF stopped directly supporting the 32-bed isolation ward for COVID-19 in Killa Abdullah New DHQ Hospital in Chaman. MSF was supporting with the infection prevention and control (IPC), waste management, provision of PPE for medical and paramedical staff as well as water and 24/7 electric supply and referrals of critically ill patients to Quetta.

However, we continue with our regular activities close to the MoH isolation facility and are monitoring the ongoing situation with the District Health authorities as well as the MoH Hospital Medical Superintendent. This will allow us to immediately re-engage our support to the MoH should the situation require it. The team is facilitating COVID-19 sample delivery to Quetta for testing.

In Karachi, we continue our digital health promotion activities within Machar Colony Community to debunk myths and raise awareness. The team also screened people for COVID-19 symptoms at the hepatitis C screening camp in late December. We have extensive awareness-raising activities ongoing on ways for people to protect themselves and prevent spreading the virus, and the protective COVID-19 measures and isolation areas are in place in most of the facilities we support across Pakistan.

Papua New Guinea

Since early March, the number of confirmed infections in Papua New Guinea has tripled to 3,500. This outbreak includes a large number of healthcare workers as well as other key groups of concern, such as incarcerated people and people working in closed settings including mine sites. Around one-third of MSF staff working in the tuberculosis projects have tested positive, limiting our response capacity for the regular programme, as well as response to the outbreak of COVID-19. MSF is currently finalizing the plans to support a makeshift 43-bed COVID-19 treatment facility in Rita Flynn hospital.

MSF has supported the Rita Flynn hospital in Port Moresby with one lab technician and cartridges to analyse samples of PCR tests for SARS-CoV-2 infections since October 2020.


In Manila, the team is supporting its partner organisation Likhaan with health promotion activities. Teams are also supporting with contact tracing and COVID-19 prevention activities at community level and helping to implement IPC measures in the health facilities that are caring for COVID-19 patients. We distributed ‘quarantine kits’ – including hygiene materials - to 726 COVID-19 patients and contacts between early July and mid-August.

In June, we started supporting the COVID-19 ward and the hospital laboratory at San Lazaro hospital, in Manila, with PPE, biomed equipment and pharmacy. The MSF medical team now counts 25 staff members who provide patient care on the COVID-19 ward since July. Our team is seeing a steady increase of COVID-19 patients.

In Marawi, the team continues health promotion activities and has trained the local health teams in 60 of the 72 communities in charge of COVID-19 surveillance and contact tracing.


We prioritise the continuity of quality care for essential services for children and adults with TB, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Population (MoHSPP) via existing MSF programmes focused on diagnosis, treatment and contact tracing. Our team assessed the Republican Centre TB dispensary in the capital Dushanbe.

The objective is to set up a new triage approach to decrease the risk of transmission of COVID-19 between patients and staff. The proposal has been discussed and approved by NTP. It is the first time such an approach has been tried in the country. We have developed a patient questionnaire to help with triage, built an outdoor waiting area and improved the patient flow in the dispensary.

After a two-week pilot phase of the new triage system, we constructed an adequate triage booth for nurses. Another two outdoor waiting areas have been built in TB centres in Rudaki and Vahdat and on-the-job training has been provided for the nurses working there. With these measures in place MSF teams have observed a remarkable decrease in the number of patients waiting in corridors and an improvement in infection control in the TB dispensaries.


We continue to support IPC measures across the primary healthcare system and also training on IPC measures were provided for the staff in COVID-19 treatment facilities. Additionally, we coordinate with the MoH for the treatment of patients co-infected with COVID-19 and TB. Standard operating procedures approved by the MoH, have been developed and distributed to all medical facilities.



MSF teams continue to respond to COVID-19 in Belgium, focusing on the most vulnerable people. Our activities focus on: 
  • Two mobile teams support authorized structures, such as reception centres for asylum seekers, with awareness raising and infection control and prevention measures. 
  • In Brussels, MSF provides shelter and medical care to homeless patients who are COVID-19-positive or likely to be COVID-19-positive. This structure can serve to isolate, monitor or refer patients when necessary.  
  • An outreach team provides support to people who are staying in unauthorized places (e.g. squats). MSF offers screening and medical follow-up, health promotion, infection prevention and control measures, contact tracing and psychological support. Since 1 January 2021, the team has provided support to 800 people. 

Czech Republic

Activites closed

MSF is handing over our activities.


Our mobile clinics in and around Paris propose COVID-19 tests and referrals if needed. We provide medical assistance in a COVID-19 centre specifically dedicated to people who are COVID-19 positive but unable to self-isolate at home. 

In March, we ended our support to nursing homes, as requests for our activities decreased significantly, following the massive progress of vaccination in these facilities. MSF and Epicentre are working on the latest stages of a qualitative and quantitative study carried out in a dozen nursing homes during our intervention.


Activities closed

In Germany, MSF advised 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.

An MSF team had supported the authorities in the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt in a centre for asylum seekers in the city of Halberstadt, in which hundreds of inhabitants were under quarantine, with health education activities and psychological support. Activities in Germany ended by 8 May.


In Athens, we collaborate with the 3rd Clinic of Internal Medicine of Athens University (NKUA-EKPA) by providing psychological support to frontline health workers, COVID-19 patients and their relatives.

We also made PPE donations (gloves, masks, face shields, antiseptic fluids) to vulnerable social groups, including elderly, refugees, homeless, women/victims of gender-based violence, detainees, people with mental health problems as well as to the airlifting department of the National Emergency Aid Centre.


In Rome, we have been tasked by local health authorities to manage contact tracing and isolation for COVID-19 clusters in 10 buildings housing squats and one informal settlement, where migrants, refugees, and some Italian nationals live. Due to the increase of COVID-19 cases, our team refocused our operational strategy by giving more importance to response preparedness, rather than prevention. In collaboration with the residents of the spaces where we are responding, we have promoted the creation of hygiene and health surveillance committees that can monitor the presence of suspected COVID-19 cases, alert the authorities and act quickly to temporarily isolate suspect cases, and disinfect any contaminated spaces. This active surveillance system is proving effective.

In Palermo, MSF supports with IPC training and health promotion to the civil society organisations providing services for homeless and marginalized groups such as shelter, food and other essential goods distribution. We worked in four informal shelters for 800 migrants and marginalized Italian people, many with complex medical conditions, who were put in a severe lockdown without any support. An MSF team continues to run health promotion and IPC activities in many official migrant reception centres. 

The Netherlands

Activities closed

In the Netherlands, we provided mental health support to frontline workers. This included a short video with a highly experienced and well-known MSF clinical and health psychologist which had been widely shared in hospitals and nursing homes across the country.


Activities closed

In Norway, MSF provided strategic advice and IPC support to a hospital close to Oslo which was located in one of the main clusters of cases in the country.


Activities focus on health promotion through community workers in areas of in Lisbon and Vale do Tejo which have a majority of people of Roma and African descent. We also provide training on digital health promotion and provide donations of IPC materials and hygiene kits, including masks, soap, bleach, and hydroalcoholic gel.

Mental health activities will also be implemented.


We continue to support the MoH in the provision of health education about infection prevention of tuberculosis (TB) and COVID-19, including distributing MSF-developed leaflets on how to use face masks to all patients visiting the Arkhangelsk TB dispensary. MSF distributed hygiene kits and food parcels to multidrug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant TB patients in the northern region of Arkhangelsk, and these patients also receive health education from Ministry of Health nurses.

In Moscow and St. Petersburg, MSF continues the partnership with two community-based NGOs that support vulnerable people and people belonging to key populations.

MSF provides medical and paramedical staff with training on TB/HIV co-infection, COVID-19 and basic counselling. MSF also donates PPE (masks, gloves and hydroalcoholic gel) for the people accessing the services of the organisations. We have developed health information materials on COVID-19 infection prevention, TB and HIV that are being distributed.


Activities closed

Elderly and aged care homes have been hit particularly hard in Spain, and we focused many of our activities on aged care homes. Our teams 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 worked with steering committees that manage aged care homes, to help protect the elderly through patient care and infection prevention and control measures. These activities were undertaken in Madrid, the Catalonia region (including Barcelona), the Basque country, Castilla y Leon, in Andalucia, Tarragona, Palencia and Asturias.

MSF had set up two health units to support hospitals around Madrid, with a total capacity of 200 beds. The units received patients with moderate cases, helping decongest the hospitals’ emergency and intensive care services, and were run by hospital staff, while our teams are provided them with logistical and infection prevention and control advice to protect healthcare workers and patients.

MSF also advised hospitals on staff and patient flow to manage infection control in Barcelona and the Catalonia region.

All MSF COVID-19 operations in Spain had ended, closed or been handed over by 22 May.


Activities closed


Since the beginning of the pandemic, MSF has been supporting Ukraine's Ministry of Health in responding to COVID-19 in Kyiv city, Donetsk and Zhytomyr regions.

In Kyiv city, MSF trained staff in nursing homes on infection prevention and control (IPC), and provided psychological support for residents of these facilities.

In Mariinka raion, Donetsk region, two MSF mobile teams continue to provide screening and home-based care for people with mild COVID-19 symptoms. The teams also assess hospitalisation needs based on the severity of symptoms and conduct follow-up visits for patients who need further medical supervision. In Krasnohorivka hospital, MSF installed 22 oxygen points, conducted training on case management, donated medical and protective equipment, and supported triage and patient screening. MSF is also planning to support health authorities in increasing access to rapid diagnostic tests by integrating testing in its mobile clinics and donating rapid testing kits to primary health facilities. 

In Zhytomyr region, MSF strengthened our outpatient care activities to ensure continuity of DR-TB care. For this, MSF teams ensured access to medicines and psychosocial support for patients with TB during the length of the declared lockdown. MSF conducted training on infection prevention and control (IPC) for healthcare workers to improve infection control in the hospitals, including sessions on managing psychological stress due to the additional risks and workload.

In both Donetsk and Zhytomyr, MSF provided psychological support through telephone hotlines for patients, relatives and healthcare workers.

United Kingdom

Activities closed

Our staff provided nursing and logistics support at the London COVID Care Centre, in partnership with the University College London Hospital Find & Treat team. The project provided rapid testing, accommodation in which to self-isolate, and medical care for homeless people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19; with the decline in new cases, MSF staff ended their support on 8 June.

Middle East and North Africa


As a second wave sweeps through Baghdad, we have expanded the capacity of our COVID-19 centre from 36 to 51 beds. We are treating only serious and critical cases and are constantly full, with people waiting in the emergency room for a bed to become free. Iraq saw its highest-ever number of COVID-19 cases reported on 25 March – 6,513 – but even that number is likely to be largely underestimated. Only 386,000 doses of a vaccine have arrived in Iraq so far, a number barely sufficient to cover the country’s 216,000 doctors, nurses and paramedical staff. 

While Baghdad and the southern parts of the country are experiencing a peak, numbers in Ninewa province in the north have stayed low. Due to a lack of patients and the increased capacity of the local health authorities to deal with any eventual outbreak, we have taken the decision to close our 11-bed ICU in the city of Mosul.


Activities closed

In Iran, MSF had reached an agreement with authorities to provide care for patients with COVID-19 in the city of Isfahan. We had flown over cargo, including an inflatable hospital, and staff, and were preparing to start activities, before authorities unexpectedly revoked permission.

After the Iranian Ministry of Health rescinded the approval for our intervention in Isfahan, MSF was asked to participate in the response dedicated to foreign nationals in the northeast of the country. A team went to assess the possibility of setting up our inflatable medical unit in places located between Mashhad and the Afghan border, but after discussion with local authorities, it appeared there was no location in this area where our medical unit could be sent in support of an existing medical facility, as planned in the original design of our intervention.

In early April, when it became clear that we would not launch activities to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak in Iran, the international team who had arrived to start activities left the country. In mid-June, the inflatable medical unit and the medical supplies which we had sent to Tehran for the response were shipped to Afghanistan. They are being used in Herat, in the COVID-19 treatment hospital which MSF has opened.

Regular MSF activities in Iran are continuing in South Tehran and Mashhad.


MSF opened a dedicated 30-bed COVID-19 treatment centre, in collaboration with the Jordanian MoH, UNHCR and others, in Zaatari refugee campIn a dedicated ‘transition area’ of the camp, MSF teams also carry out daily screenings for asymptomatic COVID-19 patients (confirmed cases and/or people who were close contacts of cases), transferring patients in need of medical attention to our COVID- 19 treatment centre.

As the numbers of people with symptomatic COVID-19 (mild and moderate) is low at the moment, we are discussing with local authorities to close the health facility as of mid-February. MSF teams will remain on stand-by in case there is drastic increase of cases in the camp. MSF will also continue supporting with the medical assessment of people with confirmed COVID-19 in the isolation area as needed.


In the Bekaa Valley, the MSF hospital in Bar Elias continues treating COVID-19 patients and the hospital’s ICU beds are fully occupied. MSF still supports the ICU ward in Elias Hraoui Governmental Hospital in Zahle with the triage and screening of children. Children with suspected COVID-19 are screened in a designated area and receive appropriate care until their results are known. If positive, children are transferred to COVID-19 referral hospitals or to isolation centres, in collaboration with partners.

In Siblin, in south Lebanon, we partnered with UNRWA 2021 (UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees) in a training centre that has been turned into an isolation site. We will end our support at the end of April, but the centre will remain open. .

MSF’s Medical Response Team (MRT) continues to support the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) in its COVID-19 testing strategy across Lebanon.

On 19 March, MSF, in collaboration with the MoPH, started vaccinating elderly people and healthcare workers in nursing homes. We provide the personnel to vaccinate these groups – as per MoPH priority criteria - and we are supplied with vaccines through the MoPH.

In parallel, MSF is conducting health education sessions, which include informative messages about COVID-19 vaccination and the ways to register to get vaccinated.


In Libya, we continue supporting the Ministry of Health in one COVID-19 testing site in Tripoli, as well as providing COVID-19-related trainings to medical and healthcare staff.

We also continue to reinforce IPC and prevention measures in detention centres (in Tripoli, Zliten, Zintan) - as much as possible given the inhumane conditions there.


Gaza: Activities closed

In the West Bank, MSF operates a hotline offering remote counselling to mental health patients and their families, but also to medical staff and other first responders affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. We carry out COVID-19 health promotion and mental health promotion activities to affected communities. In Nablus, we support a Palestinian Red Crescent Society hospital with skilled human resources, medical and logistic supplies. In Hebron, we work in Dura hospital on infection prevention and control measures and triage, support the intensive care unit, and assist water and sanitation services. 

Additionally, we provided hygiene, water and sanitation training to staff at Al-Mohtassab Hospital, and basic life support and first aid training to various primary health care facilities in and around Hebron.


(North-East) As part of the COVID-19 humanitarian taskforce chaired by the local health authorities, MSF contributes to the coordination of the COVID-19 response. MSF works alongside the Kurdish Red Crescent to provide medical care to people with suspected and confirmed COVID-19 at the only dedicated COVID-19 hospital in Washokani, near Hassakeh city. Both those discharged from care and those who can self-isolate at home with mild illness are supported with hygiene material, health education and identification of vulnerable people in their household, and offered self-protection advice, follow-up on their household contacts and a review of their health status at regular intervals for a month.

We increased our support in Raqqa with a focus on protecting healthcare workers, improving IPC in primary and secondary healthcare facilities; improving triage and care for suspect patients requiring inpatient care while they await test results; and sharing all lessons learnt from our Washokani response with Raqqa health organisations. PCR testing remains limited in the region with no supply pipelines secured at the moment. The average number of tests per day has declined to a very low level, making it difficult to determine the scale of the outbreak.

(Al Hol Camp) Across the camp, our teams continue to follow up the 1,900 people who have been identified as particularly vulnerable to developing severe symptoms if they contract COVID-19, and support them based on individual needs. Many of the identified people have non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma or heart conditions.

(North-West) MSF continues to provide care for patients with moderate and severe symptoms in Idlib National Hospital’s 30-bed COVID-19 treatment centre. We are working in three recently-opened COVID-19 treatment centres in the regions, with capacities of 31 beds, 34 beds in Afrin, and 28 beds in Al-Bab.

In the centres, we treat patients with mild, moderate and severe symptoms, providing oxygen support to those patients who need it. In the camps where we work in northwest Syria, our teams are still spreading awareness messages about COVID-19 and distributing hygiene kits to the families.


MSF teams continue to put in place IPC measures, set-up screening and triage, and identify potential cases in Al-Salakhana and Ad-Dahi hospitals, in Hodeidah governorate, and in the General Rural Hospital of Dhi As Sufal, Ibb governorate.

In Aden, MSF is supporting the 22 May hospital with donations of PPE, and training for medical staff on how to manage triage for COVID-19 suspect cases and on IPC measures.

In Khamer (Amran Governorate), our COVID-19 treatment unit, which treats patients with respiratory infections and suspected, moderate cases of COVID-19, is still receiving some patients.

In Haydan (Saada Governate), we downsized the capacity of COVID-19 treatment unit to two beds, due the decreased number of admissions.

In Lahj governorate, MSF teams provided training to medical teams in Yafa'a district, on how to manage triage, isolation and referrals of COVID-19 patients. Referrals are either to treatment centres in Lahj or Aden (for severe cases) or home (with observation) for mild cases.

In Abyan governorate, MSF has provided training for the COVID-19 centre health staff, including triage, diagnosis, medico-therapy, physiotherapy and ICU care of critical cases.

In Abs Hospital and Al-Ghomouri Hospital in Hajja governorate, MSF continues screening activities, as well as referrals for suspect COVID-19 cases. In Hajja city MSF supports referrals from Al-Ghomouri Hospital to Al-Rahadi isolation centre.

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 2020 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.

sign up to pulse: msf email >

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