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Caring for underserved communities in the United States during COVID-19

Our local partners were critical

United States 2020 © Gabriella N. Báez/MSF

Underserved communities struggling to access or afford health care are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 in the United States. Due to the unprecedented needs during the pandemic, Doctors Without Borders launched temporary operations in the US this year to prevent the spread of the disease. Recognizing the impact of longstanding racial health disparities, we collaborated with community leaders, local organizations, and officials who were already working on the ground to reach people facing increased risk—including black, Latinx, and Native American communities.

Coalition of Immokalee Workers


MSF first learned about the risks facing migrant farmworkers in Florida after being contacted by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers—a human rights organization with a long history working in the community. CIW requested guidance on infection prevention and control measures to protect these essential workers. CIW has continued to advocate for specific public health interventions and policies to control the outbreak and reduce community transmission, such as increased access to free COVID-19 testing, affordable health care, and safe places for people who test positive for the coronavirus to isolate. 

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Puerto Rico Salud


After five months of working in Puerto Rico, MSF handed over medical projects offering home-based care and COVID-19 monitoring for people isolated at home to a newly formed local organization: Puerto Rico Salud (PRS). The organization was formed by four members of our team who wanted to carry on this vital work with vulnerable communities on the island. Rolando Betancourt, who worked with MSF as a nurse and is a cofounder of the new organization, said he was personally moved to see how many people were struggling to survive without access to basic health services. “We set out to find a way to be able to continue the same work, with the same quality standards,” he said, “to reach the people who need it for a long time to come.” 

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Shower Power

New York City COVID-19 Response

In New York City, MSF partnered with local organizations to support at-risk groups by improving infection prevention and control measures in facilities serving people who are homeless or housing insecure, supporting greater access to essential services through the distribution of mobile phones, and operating relief stations where people experiencing homelessness could have safe access to hygiene facilities. Shower Power—a non-profit organization that is committed to providing self-care resources, hygiene kits, and access to mobile showers to less fortunate individuals—took over management of the shower station set up in Harlem.

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