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Corona Crisis: Let’s Stop Pretending Not to See

The pandemic has brought about great changes and impacts on: our activities, on-site people, medical volunteers, and their mental and physical health.

Médecins du Monde is a humanitarian medical INGO operating in about 80 countries around the world, and has been engaged in infectious disease programs all over the world.
The threat of infectious diseases whose preventive measures and symptoms are uncertain, and for which there is no vaccine. However, in Japan we haven’t really faced it so direly. In the midst of social turmoil and information confusion, we have begun to do what we can to prevent new infections and prevent the spread of infections, which is an extension of our previous activities.

 Regarding the epidemic itself we started by spreading information about the symptoms of COVID-19, about infection prevention and what should be done in case one would become sick. Some of the people we meet during park consultations have not received information. Other people do not know about various social welfare systems, including medical care. At first, twice a month we provided medical consultations (as usual) during week nights, and handed out leaflets about COVID-19, soap and disinfectant, masks, body warmers, tissues and so on. While we take all the precautions not to get infected, our activities continue. It is in fact not possible to stop our activities when vulnerable people need medical care, information and a place to consult, it is not just about the corona virus, some people get all sorts of illness or injury.

(Japanese version only)

 At first glance, there was no significant change in the visitors during Corona activities. But since the state of emergency was declared the number of people coming to soup kitchen increased. We saw women and people in their 20s and 40s. There is also the repercussion of the closure of internet cafes. Those who have lost their jobs due to the corona crisis and at the same time lost their home. Those whose physical condition is diminished due to various stresses (cannot pay their rent, feeling uncomfortable and inadequate in society). Most of the people we meet in activity are vulnerable, they have no money, no family, no whereabouts, bad physical condition, no job and no human relations. And this exists way long before Coronal Era. This crisis has a greater impact on them. How can we fix the current situation of people who do not have a stable and safe place to live and cannot receive medical care?

 Any pre-existing weakness from before the crisis is greatly emphasized, and not just for the activities of Ikebukuro. The same thing happens in areas affected by natural disasters and where support activities are being carried out around the world. In an infectious disease crisis, people who have to live in crowded environments, people who do not have a place to live, some people cannot even take preventive measures because of lack of water or soap. In these conditions the risks of infection increases. Once again the disparities increase and some vulnerable individuals have been completely ignored from human rights services.

 Ignorance and human rights
Whether during an infectious crisis or not, no prejudice should be tolerated may it be about gender, identity, place of birth or environment. It is important to remember that everybody has the right to have medical care, education, and housing.
To not repeat the same thing over and over again, acknowledge what’s missing until it is fixed.

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