The need for protecting and enhancing TB health policies and services for forcibly displaced and migrant populations during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Michael Knipper, Ana Cristina Sedas, Salmaan Keshavjee, Aula Abbara, Naser Almhawish, Hani Alashawi, Leonid Lecca, Michael Wilson, Almuddin Zumla, Ibrahim Abubakar, Miriam Orcutt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Disruption of health services due to the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to derail progress being made in tuberculosis control efforts. Forcibly displaced people and migrant populations face particular vulnerabilities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which leaves them at further risk of developing TB. They inhabit environments where measures such as “physical distancing” are impossible to realize and where facilities like camps and informal temporary settlements can easily become sites of rapid disease transmission. In this viewpoint we utilize three case studies—from Peru, South Africa, and Syria—to illustrate the lived experience of forced migration and mobile populations, and the impact of COVID-19 on TB among these populations. We discuss the dual pandemics of TB and COVID-19 in the context of migration through a syndemic lens, to systematically address the upstream social, economic, structural and political factors that - in often deleterious dynamics - foster increased vulnerabilities and risk. Addressing TB, COVID-19 and migration from a syndemic perspective, not only draws systematic attention to comorbidity and the relevance of social and structural context, but also helps to find solutions: the true reality of syndemic interactions can only be fully understood by considering a particular population and bio- social context, and ensuring that they receive the comprehensive care that they need. It also provides avenues for strengthening and expanding the existing infrastructure for TB care to tackle both COVID-19 and TB in migrants and refugees in an integrated and synergistic manner.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Infectious Diseases
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s)

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Health services
  • Migrant
  • Refugee
  • Tuberculosis

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