Collective Service Documentation

Ready Initiative

An interagency guidance note on working with communities in high density settings to plan local approaches to preventing and managing COVID-19


This practical guidance note is intended for anyone involved in COVID-19 risk communication and community engagement (RCCE) efforts in complex and fragile settings in Africa, which includes refugee and internally displaced persons (IDP) camps and informal urban settlements.

A combination of high population density, poor housing, limited access to water and sanitation, overstretched or inaccessible health services and widespread poverty, increase the risk and impact of a COVID-19 outbreak in these settings. Refugees, IDPs and people living in informal urban settlements, which are often home to urban refugees and irregular migrants, are often stigmatized and excluded from national response plans. This can lead to high level of mistrust towards authorities and responders within these groups. This is further exacerbated by the fact that standard COVID-19 prevention measures, such as physical distancing and handwashing, will be more challenging and in some cases even impossible to implement in crowded camps and informal settlements.

This is why it is essential to work with communities in these settings to identify and support local, practical solutions to preventing the spread of infection and bringing the outbreak under control. Risk communication messages and community engagement approaches need to be adapted to acknowledge and address the challenges these communities face, or they risk causing frustration and the outright rejection of humanitarian response efforts.

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ESA and WCA RCCE Technical Working Group