Challenges and dilemmas in the global response to COVID-19
Updated 15:27, 25-Mar-2020
Filippo Grandi

Editor's note: So far, COVID-19 has infected more than 200,000 people and caused nearly 10,000 deaths worldwide. With the number rising daily, governments around the world are scrambling to manage the pandemic. Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), shares his view with CGTN on the international response to COVID-19. This is part one of our interview with him. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

CGTN: What is UNHCR's role when it comes to this global health crisis?

Grandi: From our perspective, we are responsible for helping states that host large numbers of refugees. Because refugees, just like anybody else, are and will be exposed to this crisis. So, our role is to make sure that states, especially states that have weaker health response systems, are equipped, are resourced, and are ready to include refugees hosted on their territory in the health responses that they are setting up.

CGTN: What challenges lie ahead for the weaker states?

Grandi: The main concern that WHO and we have is that states with fewer resources, with weaker health systems, are not yet equipped to respond in the same way as China has responded, for example, or countries in Europe and North America are responding today. I think it is very important, this virus, as we have seen, knows no borders, no separations of categories of people. Anybody can be hit. So, it's very important that we ensure that everybody is brought up to speed. This is a big challenge. It's a big challenge, but we need to do it.

So, we're all working in the UN to identify the most urgent priorities. From our side, we have identified the countries that host the largest numbers of refugees or displaced people and that have the weakest structure. And we're trying to focus on them, by giving sharing resources, ensuring that the personnel is trained, and having systems in place, to at least, face the hardest part of the crisis.

There are also very complicated issues that are likely to emerge. For example, in refugee work, one of the most important issues is to tell countries to keep borders open, so that refugees that are fleeing from war or persecution can find protection in asylum in other countries. Now, how do we reconcile that with the need to contain the epidemics and to actually prevent people from traveling? These are extremely difficult dilemmas that were attacking right now, and we will need the help of the international community, especially in terms of resources, to support what we're trying to do.

Interviewer: Huang Jiyuan

Editing and design: Feng Ran, Huang Jiyuan

Graphic design: Jie Qiong

Producer: Wei Wei

Supervisor: Mei Yan

Part two: Discrimination creates more problems, but solves nothing

Part three: Making COVID-19 response more 'international'

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