In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Marhub International is supporting the global public health community’s work to keep people safe and informed. By making accurate coronavirus information accessible to refugees through our digital platform, we aim to counteract misinformation and harmful content, and empower refugees to protect themselves and stem the spread of the virus in their communities.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is impacting our lives in unprecedented ways. As we brace for the worst in our local communities, we must not ignore the devastating impact the coronavirus will have on the world’s most vulnerable: the 70 million people forced from their homes by persecution and violent conflict. Overcrowded living conditions and scarce soap and water make social distancing and even regular hand-washing impossible for millions of refugees. Likely due to scarce testing, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases among refugees is still low, but it is only a matter of time before the virus spreads widely. With limited health care and basic sanitation facilities, camps are profoundly ill-equipped to contain it. Malnourishment and untreated illnesses increase the risk for many refugees, while a lack of information in the camps catalyses panic. Harmful misinformation like “gargling with saline solution or eating garlic can help prevent infection” or “only old people are affected” is circulating widely.
Leveraging its chatbot Mona, Marhub is rapidly deploying accurate, tailored information about coronavirus to help refugees protect themselves and slow the spread of the virus. The information, accessible in both English and Arabic through Facebook Messenger and Telegram, has been adapted from guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and has been checked by doctors. In addition to general guidance on basic hygiene, prevention, and symptoms, Mona proactively addresses common questions and popular myths about the virus, and provides practical tips that are tailored to refugee communities. For example, Mona shares specific tips like avoiding shared water smoke pipes (shisha), what to do if you must stand in line for food or shared toilets, and what to do if you don’t have access to protective gear like masks. The tool also provides location-specific guidance on what to do if you get ill and, for those who are seriously ill, how to seek medical assistance in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Finally, Mona shares external resources including case tracking websites for each country to help refugees stay informed about their local area.
As a builder of digital-first tools, we know that Marhub International is uniquely positioned to respond rapidly to emerging information gaps created by the COVID-19 crisis. We remain committed to identifying opportunities to support public health efforts in refugee and forced migrant communities across the globe.