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Research snapshot: Humanitarian COVID-19 safety protocols

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NGOs provide essential humanitarian services to refugees. To provide services safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, they have instituted safety protocols to mitigate the risk of spreading infection. However, those protocols are not always followed.

Making refugee services safer

To improve the safety of refugee services, it is imperative to understand when protocols are not followed, what the possible barriers to adherence are, and how those barriers can be overcome. This study aimed to address these questions and provide guidance and recommendations for humanitarian stakeholders.

Background

Within the humanitarian sector there is much concern about how refugees have been, and will continue to be, affected by COVID-19. Humanitarian NGOs still need to serve refugees, but they also want to keep their refugee clients and their staff safe. It was already known that limitations existed to how well safety protocols can be followed. However, knowledge gaps remained about what was happening on the ground in crisis settings. Evidence was lacking to inform best practices for overcoming barriers to safer service provision.

How the research was conducted

The researchers conducted 1,454 interviews with staff and 215 unique observations of service provision (totaling 334 hours) at four partner NGOs assisting refugees in Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan.

The study focused on social distancing, mask wearing, and hand hygiene, measuring how well those protocols were followed during different types of services and with different refugee populations. Barriers such as lack of physical space, lack of knowledge about COVID-19, limitations of the services, and attitudes about COVID-19 were measured.