Catholic Relief Services: Don’t forget migrants, refugees amid pandemic

Baltimore, Md., Apr 18, 2020 / 12:42 pm (CNA).- Catholic Relief Services has called for additional protections for migrants, refugees and homeless populations as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

“The conditions so many men, women and children find themselves in after being displaced from their homes could mean this virus spreading like wildfire through shelters and camps, claiming many more lives and putting many more at risk,” warned Jennifer Poidatz, vice president of humanitarian response for Catholic Relief Services.

The more than 70 million people displaced from their homes globally already constituted a crisis, said Catholic Relief Services in an April 16 statement. More than half of Syria’s population of 22 million have fled their homes since the country’s civil war began nearly a decade ago. Yemen has seen more than 3 million people displaced. Millions more have fled violence, instability, and destruction from natural disasters in Iraq, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Venezuela and other countries around the world.

But the eruption of the coronavirus pandemic in recent months means greater risks for an already vulnerable population, Poidatz said. Refugee camps and immigrant detention centers present additional challenges for fighting the spread of the virus, as social distancing and hygiene practices in these crowded settings can be difficult to achieve.

People in these precarious living situations “are at greater risk for disease in normal time,” she said, and during a pandemic, they need additional protection.

“They often lack even the most basic of necessities, including clean water, food and proper sanitation.”

In recent months, more than 2 million people globally have been infected with the highly contagious novel coronavirus, which is asymptotic or causes mild symptoms in most cases, but can be severe or deadly, particularly in the elderly or those with underlying health conditions.

Growing concerns over homeless and refugee populations have led to calls for increased efforts to ensure housing, food, sanitation and hygiene supplies for these individuals, as well as protective equipment and tests for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

In the U.S., Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) says it “has released nearly 700 individuals after evaluating their immigration history, criminal record, potential threat to public safety, flight risk, and national security concerns.”

The agency also says it is taking additional measures in detention centers to ensure social distancing, decreasing time in communal areas and quarantining those who are sick.

Some 32,000 immigrants are being held in immigrant detention centers across the country. The centers have reported about 90 confirmed COVID-19 cases among detainees, and almost two dozen cases among workers, according to NPR.

Officials at Ellwangen refugee camp in southern Germany reported that nearly half of the 600 residents there have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the EU Observer.

Catholic Relief Services warned that “COVID-19 can cause massive disruptions to the livelihoods, safety and social cohesion of people in extremely tenuous circumstances – threatening their already limited access to shelter, food, education and ability to work.”

The agency is working with its partners in more than 30 countries to fight the spread of COVID-19, including in already vulnerable communities.

“CRS teams are racing against the clock to design triage centers for health facilities and temporary centers for isolation,” Poidatz said. “We are also looking at modifications to shelters to allow spaces for quarantine where possible.”


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  1. Lepanto Institute Summary of Catholic Relief Services Reports from 2020

    Since the beginning of March, the Lepanto Institute has been publishing segments of a highly detailed report which is the result of a year-long investigation into CRS projects in Africa. This page is intended to provide a simple and easy-to-use summary of those investigations with links to each segment.

    These individual reports are all connected to CRS projects related to Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) which are funded by both USAID and PEPFAR, two of the largest contraception promoting and providing agencies in the world. Through CRS’s OVC project called 4Children, CRS created condom-promoting documents, became the custodian of a contraception-promoting website, and cross-implemented the DREAMS project. In Cameroon (through KIDSS) and in Nigeria (through SMILE) CRS created referral networks that send vulnerable young girls to organizations intent upon the promotion and provision of abortion, contraception and condoms.

    These reports reveal very serious problems with CRS projects and associations, requiring a completely independent, third-party investigation. Click the button below to sign the petition asking your bishop to withhold his support from CRS until such time as an investigation by an objective third-party is conducted.

    Report 1, published 02 March 2020, proves that CRS wrote and published a number of documents which promote the use of condoms.
    Report 2, published 09 March 2020, proves that CRS is the custodian of an internet resource library that contains documents that promote contraception, abortion, and condoms.
    Report 3, published 16 March 2020, shows how CRS created a health referral network in Cameroon that included contraception and abortion promoting organizations. Included in this report is documented proof that CRS’s KIDSS project even directly referred girls to a pro-abortion organization called RENATA specifically for “sexual and reproductive health services,” acknowledging that RENATA supplies girls with condoms.
    Report 4, published 35 March 2020, shows that CRS (through its SMILE project) created a health referral network in Nigeria that included abortion-promoting agencies that are associated with Planned Parenthood.
    Report 5, published 13 April 2020, shows that CRS implemented a program called DREAMS, which was specifically designed to promote and distribute condoms and encourage the use of other forms of contraception.

  2. The best course of action for the migrants, and certainly the beleaguered populations of the West, would be to return them to their countries of origin. CRS and other all social justice warriors could also be given one way tickets.

  3. Since Catholic World Report covered this puff-piece on behalf of CRS, will CWR also ask CRS the hard questions and address the serious charges leveled against them by the Lepanto Institute?

  4. Warren Memlib ,
    Yes. I’ve been very disappointed in CRS.
    It’s a shame because they could be doing a much better job.

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