We are deeply concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on countries with weaker health systems–places where people are already facing multiple threats to their health and livelihood. We are especially worried about the disease hitting countries that are already experiencing a humanitarian crisis, or in camps for refugees and internally displaced people, where people already struggle to access clean water, nutritious food, health care, safe shelter, and other basics that could help protect them from the disease. The impact could be devastating in crowded camps and urban areas.
We are working with our partners, government health ministries, and key UN agencies in more than 50 countries to determine how best to respond to the crisis (despite limitations on travel in some areas), especially given our expertise in public health, water, and sanitation. Many of our staff and partners are increasing the delivery of soap, clean water, and sanitation services, including building and upgrading hand-washing facilities with a special focus on people in higher-risk areas and at health facilities.
Oxfam's team in Myanmar is working closely with our partners to scale up our humanitarian assistance in over 100 displacement camps in Kachin and Rakhine states. In Kachin, Oxfam partners are distributing soap, have built more than 150 hand washing stations to date and are delivering health education and training in camps for people displaced by long-standing conflict. In Rakhine state, Oxfam is working with our consortium partner Solidarités International to promote good hygiene practices and raises awareness in local languages, build 1,000 additional hand washing stations and distribute 17,000 additional pieces of soap every month, along with other hygiene materials, in confined camps where displaced Rohingya and Kaman Muslims have been living since 2012.
As Syrians enter the 10th year since the outbreak of conflict, they are facing the grim reality of COVID-19. In response, Oxfam is seeking approvals for a mass-media campaign, and scaling up the provision of clean water in the most at-risk communities. The first phase of our COVID-19 plan aims to reach more than 100,000 people directly.
In the Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan, Oxfam has already carried out awareness sessions on the pandemic and proper hand washing with more than 2,000 children. With Jordan now in complete lockdown and access to the camp limited, all agencies are focusing on hygiene awareness messages and campaigns using WhatsApp groups to promote health and hygiene.
Oxfam is supporting health facilities in Iraq by pre-positioning hygiene and infection control materials. We have also started public health awareness campaigns.
In Yemen, families and communities have endured more than five years of conflict, which has left the health system in ruins, and has pushed vital resources like clean water, safe shelter, and proper nutrition out of reach for many. Oxfam's Yemen country team is preparing to respond with public health promotion specifically on COVID-19 prevention including training for community health volunteers to engage in community awareness campaigns, and support to health facilities with hygiene care materials.
Oxfam and our partners in Afghanistan are incorporating COVID-19 awareness-raising messages into our ongoing humanitarian response, which includes distributing food and cash to families, and supplies to support farmers.
In Mozambique, where families are still recovering from Cyclone Idai one year ago, Oxfam and partners are working to combat misinformation about COVID-19 and to raise awareness of prevention and treatment with the help of community volunteers.
An outbreak in Gaza would have tremendous consequences as the health system is already collapsing prior to COVID-19 and more than half of the population are living under the poverty line. Oxfam is providing 100 beds and hygiene kits to quarantine centers in Gaza, as well as hygienic protective clothing, hand washing facilities, and sterilization materials for 750 medical staff working in 15 non-governmental medical centers. We also are working with the World Health Organization and UNICEF to support a public-health campaign across the Occupied Palestine Territory.
In Pakistan we have installed water tanks at a center where people are being quarantined.
Some of our 20 affiliate Oxfams are also considering a response or have already been responding, for example in China and Hong Kong. Oxfam Italy has launched a domestic appeal to fund protective equipment for health workers like gloves, ventilating machines for hospitals and support for Italian teachers to work online.
Women everywhere are likely to be disproportionately affected by this pandemic. Women represent 70 percent of health-care workers and provide most of the unpaid care work to sick family members—a burden likely to increase dramatically in the coming weeks and months. Women are likely to be more vulnerable to getting sick, and those who are already suffering from domestic violence are likely to be confined to households where they are in danger. In our experience, women and marginalized groups are usually also excluded from decision-making spaces for the design and implementation of policies that directly affect them, and the response to this pandemic may not be any different. In the US, for example, the White House COVID-19 Task Force is comprised of 20 men and 2 women.