Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in complex humanitarian crises

Authors: David Leblang, Danielle N. Poole, Daniel J. Escudero, Lawrence O. Gostin, Elizabeth A. Talbot

Over 168 million people across 50 countries are estimated to need humanitarian assistance in 2020. Response to epidemics in complex humanitarian crises— such as the recent cholera epidemic in Yemen and the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo— is a global health challenge of increasing scale. The thousands of Yemeni and Congolese who have died in these years-long epidemics demonstrate the difficulty of combatting even well-known pathogens in humanitarian settings. The novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) may represent a still greater threat to those in complex humanitarian crises, which lack the infrastructure, support, and health systems to mount a comprehensive response. 

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