COVID-19 SPECIAL: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Venezuela

Healthcare workers wearing PPE in Bunia, DRC Healthcare workers wearing PPE in Bunia, DRC © Pablo Garrigos

In Focus by Silvia Luminati; Editor: Aleksandra Krol

 1. Democratic Republic of the Congo

As the Democratic Republic of the Congo is battling Ebola outbreak, the novel coronavirus is creating additional pressure on the public health system. Furthermore, the humanitarian situation in DRC has been gradually deteriorating due to the ongoing activities of armed groups – which include attacks on health centres- and inter-ethnic violent conflicts. In this context, the epidemic risks exacerbate vulnerabilities of the internally displaced persons (5 million people) who lack protection and basic access to water. Moreover, the United Nations Children’s agency (UNICEF) warned that COVID-19 outbreak poses a threat to 9 million children who are in need of humanitarian assistance and health care. It also urged the government to prioritise the strengthening of the healthcare system as “medical services are ill-equipped and underfunded […] and around half of all facilities lack safe water and sanitation”.


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2. Venezuela

The spread of COVID-19 in Venezuela risks exacerbating the pre-existing humanitarian and economic crisis which have already forced 5 million Venezuelans to seek refuge in the neighbouring countries.  According to the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the public healthcare system is under strain, as almost 90% of hospitals lack medicine and critical supplies while there are only 84 intensive care units for a population of 32 million. Moreover, the limited capacity of laboratory testing prevents accurate  reporting of the COVID-19 cases. Hence, the decision to close all borders as a part of COVID-19 response, taken by the Maduro government, could lead millions of Venezuelans to take “dangerous unofficial routes out of the country […] that are often controlled by armed groups”. In a joint effort, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund agency are bringing vital supplies to health centres. 


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