© Halimatou Amadou/MSF


When the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic shifted to Europe, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) supported the response in Italy. We also continued to provide medical and psychological assistance to migrants.

We are supporting four hospitals in Italy as the country responds to a large outbreak of COVID-19. 

The current MSF team consists of about a dozen people, including Italian infectious disease specialists, anesthesiologists, nurses and logisticians, who are contributing their experience in managing epidemics in the countries where MSF works. 

The team is supporting infection prevention and control activities in these facilities, as well as doctors and nurses caring for patients who have been hospitalised with coronavirus and need treatment.

More on covid- 19 >


The Italian government has introduced tougher asylum and migration policies, making access to healthcare even more difficult for people in need.

New arrivals face many health challenges when reaching Italy, in both reception and detention centres.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) first worked in Italy in 1999.


MSF's work in Italy: 2020

Italy was the first European country to be hard hit by COVID-19. In early March, at the request of the health ministry, we started working in hospitals in Lombardy, the region with the highest number of cases, sharing our epidemic expertise in infection prevention and control, and patient care. We extended our activities to other regions, focusing on vulnerable groups. Our teams worked in care homes, prisons, migrant centres, shelters for the homeless, informal settlements and squats, supporting civil society groups providing assistance, and running multilingual health promotion and online mental health activities. 

Although our emergency response ended in July, we continued to carry out COVID-19 activities. On the outskirts of Rome, we supported the early detection and management of cases, while in Palermo, we responded to outbreaks in shelters for the homeless and migrant centres. 

In the summer, our team in Lampedusa, Sicily, responded to a sharp increase in the number of migrants arriving from Libya and Tunisia. For two months, we supported and trained national health service medical teams in triage at disembarkation and offered psychological first aid to people traumatised by experiences during their journey.

Throughout the year, our teams continued to monitor the situation of migrants in transit at Italy’s northern borders. We denounced the dire living conditions, and the harsh treatment to which they were exposed, including physical abuse and pushbacks across the borders. We also worked with civil society groups to distribute relief items such as blankets and winter clothes. 

MSF's work in Italy: 2019

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) continued to address gaps in medical services for the most vulnerable people and challenge these restrictive policies in 2019.

From July to November, we ran a mobile clinic in Basilicata region in southern Italy to provide healthcare to migrants working as daily labourers in agriculture. Most of them live in crowded, unsanitary conditions in remote rural settlements, in makeshift camps or rural squats. In five months, MSF carried out more than 900 medical consultations and over 400 consultations for legal support via partners. 

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At the end of the year, we identified a group of local doctors to take over these activities. In November, we closed the rehabilitation centre for victims of torture that we opened in Rome in 2016. The project, run in collaboration with local partners Medici Contro la Tortura and ASGI, implemented a multidisciplinary approach. This comprised medical and psychological consultations, physiotherapy and social support for over 200 patients. Most of our patients were discharged in 2019, with the most critical (around 10) being referred to our partners or other organisations. 

Our teams continue to offer psychological first aid at disembarkation for people who have suffered traumatic events while crossing the Mediterranean. In 2019, MSF teams of psychologists and intercultural mediators assisted more than 38 people in two interventions in Lampedusa and Catania.

Throughout the year, in Palermo, Rome and Turin, we helped around 1,060 people to access national health services, in partnership with local health authorities

find out more in our international activity report >

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