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COVID-19 - "Health tsunami" of unprecedented intensity for vulnerable people in poor countries

Press release | 27th March 2020, 12:00

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

On 23 March, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for an immediate ceasefire around the world in response to the alarming rapid spread of the Covid19 epidemic in the poorest countries. In countries already struggling with poor health systems and humanitarian crises, the epidemic could claim thousands of lives.

At the present time, the virus is spreading very rapidly in all the 60 countries where Humanity & Inclusion is working. The organization is now working to adapt its operations to continue to support the most vulnerable people, while protecting its teams. Humanity & Inclusion, which has experience operating in major health crises such as Ebola, is particularly concerned about the fate of and vulnerable people.

An epidemic that could claim thousands of lives in the world's poorest countries

"If we let the virus spread like wildfire, especially in the most vulnerable regions of the world, it would kill millions of people.” With these words, Antonio Guterres called on 19th March for global solidarity in dealing with the Coronavirus outbreak. While Europe is currently particularly hardly hit by the virus, its spread to the poorest countries could result in thousands of deaths. Egypt, India, Iraq, and the Philippines, are beginning to count many patients, while cases have appeared in Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ethiopia. In these countries, where weaker health systems combined with humanitarian crises make the populations particularly vulnerable, Humanity & Inclusion is concerned about the devastation the epidemic could cause. If on average 15 to 20% of patients need to be hospitalized (6% of whom require intensive care), the health systems in these countries will not be able to cope with the crisis alone.

“Seeing the impact the virus is already having on the UK’s health system, we must expect a "health tsunami" of unprecedented intensity in the poorest countries where health systems are particularly fragile.  It will be very difficult for the populations we are supporting to protect themselves” warns Aleema Shivji, Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion UK. "And at the same time, health services are at risk of being particularly overwhelmed."

Today, in the face of this unprecedented crisis, Humanity & Inclusion is looking into the best ways to adapt its activities. More than ever, our objective is to ensure the continuity of our work to support those most in need, while taking care not to put our teams at risk. Humanity & Inclusion is particularly concerned about the and vulnerable people we support. In crisis situations, vulnerable and people living with disabilities often struggle to access the information and health services they need. They are also often forgotten and left out of any humanitarian responses implemented. Another concern is the lack of access to the care they need in "normal" times.

Humanity & Inclusion adapts its activities

Humanity & Inclusion is now preparing to adapt its intervention methods in the field. The organization has already worked on several major epidemics, such as Ebola, to prevent their spread and protect populations. In 2016, in Sierra Leone, Humanity & Inclusion coordinated the country's centralized ambulance service, transporting patients suspected of being infected and disinfecting their contaminated homes. Through social mobilization and awareness-raising activities, Humanity & Inclusion also participated in the prevention of cholera epidemics in Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake and in Pakistan after the terrible floods in 2010. In both cases, information sessions for vulnerable populations have proved to be essential.


Expert available for interviews upon request:

- Aleema Shivji, Executive Director Humanity & Inclusion UK. Aleema was part of Humanity & Inclusion’s cholera outbreak response in Haiti in 2010.

- Florence Daunis, Global Director of Operations – Humanity & Inclusion

Press contact

Marlene Manning, Humanity & Inclusion UK
Email: [email protected]

About Humanity & Inclusion

Co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Humanity & Inclusion (the new name of Handicap International) is a charity working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. We work tirelessly alongside and vulnerable people to help meet their basic needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights.
Humanity & Inclusion is the new name of Handicap International.


HI-US Media Contact

Mira Adam
Sr. Media Officer
[email protected]
Tel: +1 (202) 855-0301

Elizabeth J. Sellers
e[email protected]
Tel: +1 (270) 847-3443


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