The current COVID-19 pandemic is having a negative effect on healthcare systems that goes beyond the infected individual. Some of the containment measures implemented could have serious effects in global health.
The deportation process for immigrants has been sped up. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has unreliable testing enforcement policies for deported immigrants and this has resulted in deportation of multiple individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19. By April 27, 20% of confirmed cases in Guatemala were from deported immigrants. This carries a great public health burden to countries with a historically weak health system. In response to this, the Guatemalan government has halted all deportation flights from the US until testing protocols have been enforced.
According to the World Health Organization the prevention and treatment services for non-communicable diseases have been severely disrupted. This has resulted in interrupted screening processes for diseases like HIV, tuberculosis and malaria in some countries. It has also affected access to immunization programs in some communities which could lead to future outbreaks of preventable diseases.
Some time will pass before the impact of the pandemic can be fully assessed. It is expected to have a negative effect in public health issues like an increase in domestic violence cases, negative implications to mental health. Immigrant and refugee populations will probably face these public health concerns from a more vulnerable spot.
As the first wave of the virus begins to pass in some states, government officials need to keep in mind the long-term effect the virus will have on vulnerable populations. Local governments along with community members have made great efforts to mitigate the impact on immigrant communities by volunteering and donating. However, in the upcoming months new challenges will arise and states must be prepared to respond. As Americans begin to imagine what the new normal will be for the U.S., communities should keep in mind the needs of vulnerable populations and unite to strategically find new ways to help.
This is the final installment of a 3 part series examining the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our immigrant and refugee communities. Be sure to read the first and second installments of this engaging series.
Written by [Refugees Welcome!] research fellow, Diego Erdmenger Cazali. Diego works with [RW!] on the Research Team. He is currently pursuing both an MBA and a Master’s in Public Health through Boston University’s dual degree program.