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Syria Protection Cluster (Turkey): Findings of Focus Group Discussions on COVID-19 related stigma and Quarantine Centers November 2020

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In an environment of rapidly increasing numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in NWS, with specific concerns about a rise in cases in overcrowded living settings of IDPs – currently 1.4 Million IDPs are reported to live in IDP sites according to the CCCM Cluster – as well as about challenges to self/home quarantine, the humanitarian community under guidance of the Health Cluster is establishing dedicated quarantine centers. These centers are planned to host contacts of COVID-19 positive individuals as well as asymptomatic COVID-19 for 10 to 14 days aiming to reduce the spread of the virus. From a public health point of view, these centers are deemed to be an essential measure to combat COVID-19 and their proper functioning is in the interest of the population in NWS. However, despite large-scale and consistent efforts to improve knowledge and awareness among the community on COVID-19 and precautionary measures, concerns exist regarding the willingness (and in some cases ability) for individuals to voluntarily enter quarantine upon referral by relevant health workers/facilities.

Protection Monitoring through the Protection Monitoring Task Force of the Protection Cluster, the IRC July-August Protection Monitoring Report, consultations with Protection Cluster partners, as well as evidence from other countries indicates that dynamics related to stigma towards individuals perceived to carry the virus may result in people to reject entry into quarantine centers, avoid seeking health care when falling ill, and even hide symptoms. Moreover, findings highlight that in the context of COVID-19 in NWS healthcare staff face bullying, women experience increased stress due to pressure to keep their family safe and living environments clean, and that an additional reason for people to hide COVID-19 symptoms is a fear for loss of livelihoods.

The Protection Cluster with the support of protection partners and on behalf of the Quarantine Centers TF conducted a series of focus group discussion (FGDs) to better understand:

  • community perspectives on the concept of quarantine in a dedicated center, including concerns related to stigma and community reaction/perceptions,
  • to seek suggestions on how to address these concerns to improve effectiveness of the centers,
  • to build on exiting capacities within the community to promote positive health care seeking behaviors,

This brief report based on the FGD outcomes aims to develop a contextual understanding of issues related to stigma and of measures that would need to be taken to improve the willingness of the community to access such quarantine centers. Thereby the report aims to contribute to better planning of the centers, in line with protection mainstreaming and accountability to affected populations principles.