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Localized, refugee-led communication and planning for COVID-19

Working with refugee leaders in remote camps and sites to disseminate accurate information and create a community-led preparation plan.

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It is our belief that the people themselves are always the best resource in a refugee community. They are the most aware of the needs of their own community, and are best able to help problem solve solutions within the camps. That said, refugee communities must also be seen as one of the most vulnerable and susceptible communities to a COVID-19 outbreak, especially in protracted and isolated regions of the world where many depend primarily on WhatsApp and social media for information. The response to COVID-19 has been through slow and uncoordinated communication for the most remote of refugee communities. 

Further, in order for the message to be received and adopted by the local community, refugee leaders themselves need to be seen as assets in the process to co-create and deliver the message. By working with community leaders, experts in the field, and sourcing accurate information, we can create and disseminate relevant and localized messaging about what precautions to take, how to protect the most vulnerable in their community, and what to do if someone gets sick.

iACT created a team of refugee/displaced leaders, public health and epidemiology experts, and volunteers to create simple, yet essential information that can be disseminated by WhatsApp, as posters in camps, or by word of mouth in remote refugee camps and sites. The information has been disseminated in two forms: 1) a longer letter that includes information on COVID-19, precautions, symptoms, myths vs facts, and handwashing information, and 2) a shorter one-page poster that can be shared via an image or printed and shared. This information has been made available so far in the following languages: English, French, Farsi, Arabic, Swahili, Kirundi, Sorani, Kurmanji, Burmese, and Karen. 

To share these resources, iACT created a global network of leaders in camps and sites from Chad, Tanzania, Cameroon, and Greece on WhatsApp. Here they are sharing ideas and their own actions on how to share this information. Some are calling meetings (and practicing social distancing), a few are able to print the documents, and others are sharing the poster images via WhatsApp to more community members.

In order to further support a localized, refugee-led response to COVID-19, iACT is currently collecting answers to a survey via community leaders. This survey seeks to understand what information NGO’s are providing and actions they are taking to prepare refugee and displaced communities; is there adequate access to basic health and hygiene products like soap and water; what other sources of information are people learning about the virus from; what the nutrition and medical situation looks like in the camp; how is the local camp community feeling about the situation, and; a message they would like to share with the world. Answers to this survey will help refugee leaders and iACT work together to create the next steps in preparation for and communication about COVID-19.

Upload or share a link to this resource/message/source of information to share it with others.

All public documents in PDF, word, and .jpg formats are being added to daily here:

Did this resource motivate you to change your behaviors?

  • Yes

In what ways did you change your behaviors as a result of this resource?

After connecting, refugee leaders came together to create a “hand-over-heart” greeting that they are sharing with each other via WhatsApp and modeling in their communities. One of the leaders told us, “the NGO send just warning messages but doesn’t explain any details about the covid19 situation. Fortunately iACT is here. The information you gave us help us understand and share it with our community, friends, and relatives.” Another leader said, “according to the concern that we have to our community I want to form a group of three people called iACT Coronavirus Resistance Committee in Camp so as to spread awareness of coronavirus prevention according to the document instructions which we received it from you.” 

Did you share this information with your network?

  • Yes

In what ways did you share this information?

Primary channels are WhatsApp, in-person community meetings with social distancing, and printing the one-page information sheets to hang them in their camps. iACT has shared the same information on mainstream social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We are currently running an #iACTunited social media campaign for people to post their own images of the “hand-over-heart” greeting to show solidarity and hope for all communities around the world. 

Where are you getting information around COVID-19?

  • Local Government
  • National Government
  • News: Digital
  • WHO (World Health Organization)
  • NGO or Non-profit Organization

What information do you feel you are missing about COVID-19?

Information that is specific to under-resourced, rural, and refugee communities is still missing.  Community participation is essential. Next steps include co-creating: Caregiver Response for Children, specifically focusing on three things that caregivers can do with their children with limited resources and internet connectivity; Parent Resources for them to remain grounded and regulated, and; A community response plan for refugee communities if the virus reaches them.

What populations or personas are not currently being addressed with today’s COVID-19 information?

Refugees, displaced persons and asylum seekers are being overlooked. Although there are 70 million displaced people worldwide, mainstream messaging about COVID-19 precautions does not consider the experience of many of the displaced: sub-standard living conditions, overcrowding, limited access to safe water and soap, poor health and nutrition, and little-to-no access to medical services. All of these circumstances substantially increase the risk of infection, yet messaging hasn’t been adjusted. 

What is your current profession?


In what city are you located?

Redondo Beach, CA

In what country are you located?

United States with refugee leaders in Chad, Cameroon, Tanzania, and Greece.


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