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Partner Spotlight: Lending Expertise in the Fight Against COVID-19

In France, MSF teams are running COVID-19 medical projects for vulnerable groups, including homeless people and migrants, in Paris and surrounding areas. Photo Credit: Agnes Varraine-Leca / MSF
May 27, 2020

This article is part of a “Partner Spotlight” series where we will be sharing the innovative ways SCSC partners are responding and adapting in light of COVID-19. 

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international humanitarian organization that provides medical care to those affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, and exclusion from healthcare. 

SCSC has partnered with MSF Urban Spaces over the last year to lead Welcome Sessions in Montreal. MSF Urban Spaces is a project across six cities – Athens, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Mexico City, Montreal, and Turin –  that aims to mobilize MSF members and the wider civil society to support the rights of migrants and refugees. 

The Welcome Sessions, which connect newly arrived asylum seekers with local residents to ease the social isolation upon arrival and share community resources, have pivoted in response to COVID-19 from in-person conversation circles to a one-on-one phone-based model. Across the six Urban Spaces partner cities MSF has observed local community networks unite around local action and adapt to these challenging new circumstances. 

As the Urban Spaces hubs have responded and adapted to COVID-19, so has MSF International.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, even advanced healthcare systems have been buckling under the strain of rising infection rates. With long-standing expertise in operating in emergencies with overrun healthcare systems, MSF has expanded its operations to respond to the public health crisis in countries such as Italy, Spain, France, Greece, and Canada. Its efforts in these countries have largely been focused on providing support to the most vulnerable populations, namely the elderly, migrants, refugees, and homeless people, as well as providing support to hospitals and ensuring the safety of frontline healthcare workers. 

Although MSF faces challenges in operations internationally due to travel restrictions and supply shortages, it is continuing to negotiate access and advocate for the marginalized, while also developing new ways of operating. MSF Canada’s existing telemedicine platform is now being used to assist those under isolation at home in Italy. Telemedicine has increased the capacity of MSF medical staff to support care to patients in the field. 

As many nations grapple with overburdened healthcare systems for the first time, it is reassuring to know that we can learn from the years of experience that organizations such as MSF bring and to see the resilience of local communities in action through the Urban Spaces cities.

You can learn more about MSF’s COVID-19 response here, and follow their efforts on Twitter.