Press release

As COVID-19 is declared a pandemic, Medair steps up preparedness and prevention measures to prevent larger outbreak clusters and community transmission

13 March 2020  /  Geneva

Paola Barioli

Media Relations Officer

Geneva, Switzerland 13 March 2020 – According to the recent World Health Organization (WHO) announcement, the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) is now declared as a global pandemic. There are more than 127,800 confirmed cases and 4,718 people have lost their lives. At the time of writing, the disease has been detected in more than 114 countries, including several countries where Medair operates.  Medair has activated contingency plans with coordinated action now being taken to prevent and control infection rates.

“We are concerned with the rapid spread in the Middle East – especially Iraq and Afghanistan that borders Iran[1] – as well as the growing number of cases in Africa” says Anne Reitsema, International Programmes Director at Medair. “Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan are countries Medair is working in which have a heightened vulnerability due to the health system, porous borders, and other on-going crises.” Health workers and older people with underlying health conditions, such as heart disease, hypertension, asthma and diabetes, and ageing immune systems, are of higher risk if they contract the disease.

With a mission to relieve human suffering in some of the world’s most remote and devastated places, Medair is a humanitarian primary health-care provider well placed to be part of the global effort to combat the pandemic. As stressed by WHO, “swift action can prevent larger outbreak clusters and community transmission”.  Maximising key lessons learned from the recent Ebola outbreak and emergency responses, Medair has rapidly activated contingency planning to better protect our staff and the people we assist.

“When COVID-19 cases emerge in health facilities which Medair are supporting or in the surrounding community, we will put in place measures to both prevent and control infection. Staff working at these health facilities will be trained and equipped to safely recognise, isolate, and refer patients for specialised testing and treatment”, says Dr Wendy Dyment, Senior Health and Nutrition Advisor at Medair. “All those who visit our health facilities will be screened for coronavirus and medical risks. Where funding permits, Medair also engages in community-wide messaging on prevention including hygiene measures and special preventive care for the most vulnerable such as the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions”.

“Preparedness and prevention is key”, continues Anne Reitsema. “In the countries we operate, the new coronavirus is increasing pressure on already fragile health systems that are not equipped to deal with a pandemic of this magnitude. Additional funding is needed to help with this evolving emergency”.

For media

Media enquiries should be directed to:

Paola Barioli, Media Relations Officer (English, French, Italian); +41 78 635 30 95

For regular updates, please check  or Twitter @Medairint @MedairPress.

Medair is an international humanitarian NGO that provides emergency relief and recovery services to families made vulnerable by natural disasters, conflicts, and other crises.

This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and Global Support Office staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.


[1] Which has the 3rd highest number of confirmed cases after China and Italy