Project Description

Humanitarian NGOs face significant challenges to limiting infection spread while assisting refugees. In this project we seek to answer the following research questions:

  • How are humanitarian NGOs attempting to limit infection spread whiles assisting refugees?
  • What are the barriers to limiting infection spread?
  • In what kinds of services are those barriers most intractable?
  • What refugee populations are most impacted?
  • What interventions could be implemented that would mitigate those barriers and slow the spread of COVID-19 among refugee populations?

Study Methodology

We collected data on how well people practiced social distancing (keeping two meters distance between each other), wore face masks, and washed or sanitized hands and surfaces during services provided to refugees. We studied services provided in 14 different locations where our NGO partners assist refugees. Our data came from interviews with staff providing services and from direct observations of services. Data collectors asked a series of closed-ended and open-ended questions to staff either in person, over the phone, or in a few cases through video conferencing. The questions referred to the services that the staff provided either earlier that day or the previous day (depending upon what time the interview was collected). In observations, data collectors positioned themselves unobtrusively and recorded the adherence to safety protocols that they observed. In interviews with staff, we asked general questions about how frequently or infrequently safety protocols were followed; in observations the data collectors recorded the number of times safety protocols were followed or not followed as well as the number of people in the service space.

Our findings are based on 1,466 interviews and 215 observations conducted between July 20 – September 15. Data collectors entered interview and observational data into Qualtrics, so that data monitoring could occur in real time throughout the data collection period. In addition to the three primary safety protocol behaviors, we collected data on the location where services were provided, the kind of service provided, the primary refugee populations being served, the availability of soap/water/hand sanitizer, the staff’s awareness of NGO and government policies regarding safety protocols, and the perceived barriers to better adherence to safety protocols (the perception of either the staff or the data collector). We also recorded the day and time of the interview or observation, so that we could track changes over time and throughout a day.

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