MSF helps respond to the needs of vulnerable communities in the US during COVID-19 pandemic

An MSF mobile testing and health clinic in Immokalee, Florida, designed to address some of the unmet health needs of the large community of migrant farmworkers in the area during the COVID-19 outbreak. The clinics are open to all other community members in the area as well. The waiting area is set up to ensure people remain at a safe distance from each other.
United States 2020 © Katie Irwin/MSF
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This article was updated on May 27, 2020.

In response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is working in key sites around the country with local authorities and partner organizations serving vulnerable communities who often lack access to health care, including migrants and people experiencing homelessness.

In New York City, MSF is helping reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus by partnering with local organizations to improve infection prevention and control (IPC) measures for at-risk groups. MSF has opened a temporary relief stations in Manhattan, offering free showers, toiletries, clean socks and underwear, and information on additional services to people who currently lack access to hygiene facilities.

So far we have provided more than 1,100 showers. MSF has also donated over 160 handwashing stations to places like soup kitchens and supportive housing facilities, and we are distributing 1,000 mobile phones to vulnerable New Yorkers who lack the essential technology needed to contact emergency and support services.  

In Immokalee, Florida, where approximately 15,000 - 20,000 migrant farmworkers have continued to labor during the pandemic with minimal access to health care and testing, we are working closely with Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), the Department of Health (DoH) and the Health Care Network. Together, we are implementing a multi-faceted COVID-19 response plan. MSF is running a public health education campaign and mobile ‘virtual’ clinics, which provide COVID-19 testing and remote medical consultations for COVID-19 and other health issues. We will also start supporting the DoH with contact tracing.  

In the Southwest, an MSF team is working with local officials, health care providers and organizations that are directly addressing needs related to COVID-19 in Native American communities. We are supporting local and federal agencies and medical professionals by providing infection prevention and control trainings and guidance. We started this work in community facilities in Pueblos in New Mexico and have begun to offer similar trainings and technical support in correctional facilities, congregate living spaces (such as nursing homes and group homes), emergency services and other spaces in the Navajo Nation. We are also working with local organizations to expand public health information and education about COVID-19 at the community level.

In Puerto Rico, MSF is focusing on providing support to health care workers and organizations supporting vulnerable groups, including people who are experiencing homelessness, the elderly, people with substance abuse disorders and communities that have been affected by recent earthquakes. MSF is distributing essential supplies like medical masks, face shields and hygiene kits and conducting trainings on infection prevention and control to help essential workers, patients and others stay safe. So far, MSF has delivered 300 hygiene kits and 3600 items of personal protective equipment (PPE). 

For more information, read Frequently Asked Questions about MSF's US COVID-19 Response.