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IOM South America Regional Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan COVID-19 | February - December 2020

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As of 21 May 2020, 4.8 million confirmed cases of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) have been reported globally. In South America, COVID-19 was first detected on 26 February 2020, when Brazil confirmed a case in São Paulo. By 3 April 2020, all countries and territories in South America had recorded at least one case. As of 21 May 2020, the total number of confirmed cases in South America is 491,499 of which 191,070 have already recovered. The total number of confirmed death cases is 25,504.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) works with governments and partners to ensure that migrants, whether in regular or irregular situations, returnees and displaced persons are included in efforts to mitigate and combat the pandemic’s impact. In view of COVID-19, IOM’s regional response for South America focuses on reaching the vulnerable and building operational capacities to address the mobility dimensions of this pandemic.
Although migrants face the same health threats from COVID-19 as host populations, these are often compounded by additional vulnerabilities such as the precarious conditions they endure on their journey and the poor living and working conditions they face in host countries. Migrants are more likely to live in overcrowded households or employed in short-term, informal, or precarious work with limited provision for sick leave. Furthermore, migrants are often overrepresented in sectors considered essential during the pandemic and thus must continue working in spite of quarantines, lock downs or other measures of social distancing, such as agriculture, retail, and sanitation. Some migrants, with both regular and irregular status, may have limited access to public health services or fear accessing such services. They may also be excluded from public health information programming or, when informed, lack the financial means to manage periods of self-isolation or quarantine.

Furthermore, new displaced populations in 2019 like in Colombia Brazil and Bolivia are already highly vulnerable to contracting infectious disease, in conditions where a virus can more easily spread. Others living in areas affected by violence, may be ill-equipped to protect themselves against infection and difficult to reach and monitor.

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