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Photo Credit: CAFOD
Photo Credit: CAFOD
Rohingya refugee camps corona.jpg
UK News

'Millions of lives are stake': Christian charity shares how Covid-19 is ravaging poor countries

by Tola Mbakwe

A Christian humanitarian worker has said coronavirus is wreaking havoc on refugee camps and poor communities in some of the world's most vulnerable countries. 

Rhea Bhardwaj, head of humanitarian partner support at Christian charity CAFOD, told Premier the pandemic has made already horrific conditions worse. 

"It's important to remember that refugees, even before the crisis, were facing a life of difficulties and lack of access to basic services. With the onset of this coronavirus pandemic, the lives of millions are at stake because it what it has done is filled people's mind with fears to really reflect on 'when we do not even have basic facilities, how are we going to deal with it'? 

"We are also talking about a situation, for example, in Rohingya refugee camps, where overcrowding, lack of adequate sanitation and clean safe water, will definitely exacerbate the spread of the virus."

Bhardwaj's comments come as a collection of British charities launch a new appeal to raise funds to fight coronavirus in this vulnerable situations. 

The UK Government has pledged to match the first £5 million in donations made by the public to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC).

CAFOD, Christian Aid, Tearfund and World Vision are Christian charities included in the DEC and will spend donations on providing food, water and medical care to people in countries such as Syria, Yemen and South Sudan.

Other target countries are Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan and the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Much of the money will go to refugee camps, where overcrowding and poor sanitation gives the virus much greater opportunity to spread.

The DEC estimates there are 24 million internally-displaced people in these countries, as well as a further 850,000 Rohingya people in Bangladesh.

Donations will also be spent on providing soap to vulnerable families and on providing information about the dangers of the spread of the disease.

Bhardwaj said although people in the UK are dealing with the effects of coronavirus on the economy, she challenged Christians to try and support through finances and prayer. 

"I think our strengths really lie in our ability to come together as a faith community," she said. 

"I think this pandemic has shown us how life can change, and I think this is the time for us to pray. We know all our prayers and solidarities with our brothers and sisters around the world will provide that hope.

"A £30 donation could provide up to six refugee families in Syria with enough soap for a month, which is important to fight this pandemic. 

"I think it's important to remember that we are talking about a situation or countries where infrastructure has been eroded for a long time. We are talking about countries or contexts where people do not even have access to basic health care facilities let alone beds with ventilators and protective gear that we are all talking about.

"So I think it's important to remember keep all these communities in our prayers and thoughts."

So far, £769 million in UK aid has been pledged globally to fight the pandemic, according to the Department for International Development.

Those wishing to donate can do so online at Dec.org.uk, by phone on 0370 60 60 900, or text SUPPORT to 70150 to donate £10.

Listen to Premier's interview with Rhea Bhardwaj here:

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