Our International Director on JRS’s our global response to COVID-19 outbreak
13 March 2020|Fr Thomas H. Smolich SJ, JRS International Director
Message from Fr Thomas H. Smolich SJ, JRS International Director
In this unprecedented moment of COVID-19, we are reminded of the importance of solidarity, and are called to act in a way that unites us as a community. The spread of COVID-19 knows no boundaries. The coronavirus is testing governments and individuals, and only by accompanying one another and working together will we be able to engage this challenging situation.
With its quick spread and its uncertain future, I am concerned how the advancement of COVID-19 will impact the millions of forcibly displaced people around the world. Many refugees are subject to difficult living conditions and have limited access to health care, making them especially vulnerable to this outbreak and its social and economic repercussions.
- What does this mean for the refugees in Italy, whose Italian classes have been canceled, food distributions limited, and hope of finding work made more difficult?
- As COVID-19 has been reported in Iraq, what will this mean for displaced people bracing for a massive storm there this weekend, with winds up to 100km/h and heavy rainfall?
With a worldwide presence and projects in 56 countries, JRS is closely monitoring the situation to insure the wellbeing of those we accompany and of our staff members, and to continue operations where possible, as much as possible. We are taking appropriate measures to address immediate needs and the ongoing situation. These include:
- Our global security staff is providing regular information as well as instructions for hygiene and group practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19;
- Offices in Europe, USA, and the Middle East have moved to home-based working for staff;
- Meetings and travel have been postponed or cancelled as appropriate;
- Staff are asked to follow all local requirements and guidelines regarding public activities and limitations on movement.
COVID-19 is a complicated, evolving, and challenging reality. Many refugees have lived through emergency situations, and are particularly vulnerable at this time. More than ever, at JRS we are committed to our mission to accompany, serve, and advocate with and on behalf of the forcibly displaced. Let us stand united as a global community to care for the most vulnerable and in doing so, care for our world and ourselves.