This post was edited by appleeater at 2020-3-31 11:50|
As coronavirus spreads to poor and middle-income countries, older people, refugees, and slum dwellers are becoming one of the worst victims of the crisis, warned an international charity.
COVID-19 cases have been reported from densely populated slums and refugee camps last week. A considerable number of cases were also detected in African countries, which has limited medical resources to deal with the pandemic.
A global catastrophe could be averted if the right steps are taken now, said HelpAge International, an organization that works for the rights of older people.
"We have seen how countries with relatively developed health systems are buckling under the strain," said Justin Derbyshire, chief executive of HelpAge International.
"So, it's easy to see how the coronavirus pandemic could rapidly develop from a global health crisis into a global humanitarian emergency in crisis and conflict settings."
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), people over 60 years old with an underlying medical condition should take extra preventive measures during the pandemic.
In an advisory, the WHO recommended community support to ensure older people stay protected from COVID-19 without being isolated and stigmatized. Enough support should be provided to senior citizens to prevent their vulnerability and ensure they can access necessary provisions and social care, it said.
But implementing the WHO norms like social distancing and frequent hand washing among refugees living under excruciating circumstances has emerged as a major challenge. These settlements lack running water and basic medical facilities, making it difficult to ensure basic sanitation.
"An outbreak of coronavirus in places like Idlib in Syria or Cox's Bazaar in Bangladesh could spread like wildfire. This would be catastrophic for everyone affected, but particularly older people," Derbyshire added.
More than one million Rohingya who fled violence in Myanmar living in 34 camps reported the first case of COVID-19 last week. Lack of isolation facilities and a dense population has become a significant worry to maintain social distancing.
Idlib is facing a similar crisis, with thousands of older people displaced from their homes, living in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions.
Sub-Saharan Africa is also witnessing a surge in infections. It has more than 1,300 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which exposes large refugee populations and slums in countries like Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Tanzania.
Under such a circumstance, international bodies, such as the UN and the WHO, should recognize the significant risks faced by older people in low and middle-income countries, the charity said.
"We must prioritize low and middle-income countries now, to prevent this crisis from becoming a global humanitarian crisis, the like of which we have never seen before," urged Derbyshire.
(Cover: Staff move bio-waste containers past the entrance of Wuhan Medical Treatment Center, where some infected with a new virus are being treated, in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, January 22, 2020. /AP Photo)