VIDEO STORY | COVID-19

Refugees and asylum seekers speak up to stop COVID-19

Why language is so critical to slowing its spread

Production:
Malcolm Lucard

Videography:
Louis C. Mouchet

Imagine if everything you heard about COVID-19 prevention was in a language you didn’t fully understand. For many people around the world, this is the reality they face. Multi-lingual refugees, asylum seekers and migrants are coming to the rescue, using the power of language to keep communities healthy. They do this by making videos about COVID-19 prevention in the many languages they speak: Arabic, Bambara, Bengali, French, Fulbe, Ga, Hausa, Italian, Moré, Pigin, Tigrino, Twi, Pashtun, Urdu and Wolof, among others.

They also reach out to asylum seekers and migrants on their own terms, through music, sports and other activities. “Apart from this, we try to decodify the ‘fake news’,” says Christian, one of the volunteers, “and inform people that the virus is here and it’s causing a lot of deaths. To prevent this we all need to stay at home, take preventative measures and be safe.”

In some countries, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants become volunteers for Red Cross or Red Crescent National Societies. Now they share COVID-19 prevention messages in the native languages of others who have arrived as migrants or to claim for asylum.
In Italy, refugees and asylum seekers who become volunteers often become “cultural mediators” who help other newcomers deal with challenges such as COVID-19.

Recommended

Related

What happens when machines can decide who to kill?

It’s the stuff of science fiction: machines that make decisions about who and when to kill. Referred to as “autonomous weapons”, they’re already in use to some degree. But as more sophisticated systems are being developed we wanted to an expert in the field about whether such systems comply with international humanitarian law and what it means for humanity to give machines the power over human life and death.

‘Wildfire diaries’ and radical change in communications

In this episode, we talk with humanitarian communicator Kathy Mueller who produced our first magazine podcast series, The Wildfire Diaries, about massive wildfires in Northern Canada in 2017. We talk about that series, her many international missions, and the big changes in humanitarian communications since she began with the Canadian Red Cross almost 20 years ago.

The power of storytelling

In this episode, we talk about the power of storytelling to inform and inspire. “Storytelling is a fundamental aspect of human communication,” says our guest Prodip, a volunteer and multi-media storyteller for the Bangladesh Red Crescent. “It inspires us to be a hero of our own community.” We also speak with one such community hero, Dalal al-Taji, a longtime volunteer and advocate for inclusion of people with disabilities in emergencies response. “In disasters. persons with disabilities sometimes get forgotten.”

This post is also available in:

Discover more stories

Get stories worth sharing delivered to your inbox

Want to stay up to date?

This might interest you...

Expert Sources: COVID-19 or hunger?

IFRC’s Michael Charles explores the challenges of a life-or-death choice for African families.

Check it out