Media CenterCRS Calls for the Protection of the Homeless, Migrants and Refugees During Pandemic

Photo by Mahmud Rahman for CRS/Caritas Bangladesh

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Kim Pozniak
Catholic Relief Services
[email protected]
(571) 263-1193


BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, April 16, 2020 (updated April 23, 2020) – Catholic Relief Services (CRS) joins a network of local, national and international non-profits calling for the protection of homeless, migrant and refugee populations amid the deadly coronavirus pandemic. Those without a safe shelter to call home around the world are among the most vulnerable people exposed to COVID-19.

“People living in precarious situations are at greater risk for disease in normal times and need even more protection now,” said Jennifer Poidatz, vice president of CRS’ humanitarian response department. “They often lack even the most basic of necessities, including clean water, food and proper sanitation.”

CRS is one of more than 80 organizations around the world working with vulnerable populations who have signed a statement calling for the provision of adequate housing, food, access to basic hygiene and sanitation, and protective equipment for the displaced and those assisting them. Adequate COVID-19 testing is also urgently needed to mitigate the spread and provide treatment.

With more than 70 million people displaced from their homes around the world, CRS sees this as more than a public health emergency: COVID-19 can cause massive disruptions to the livelihoods, safety and social cohesion of people in extremely tenuous circumstances – threatening their already limited access to shelter, food, education and ability to work.

“Given the conditions so many men, women and children find themselves in after being displaced from their homes could mean this virus spreading like wildfire through shelters and camps, claiming many more lives and putting many more at risk,” Poidatz said.

For refugees living in a camp, the congested environment and limited access to hygiene items like clean water and soap can make it difficult to follow the guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Hygiene supplies, clear information and social distancing practices are critical in camp environments. The ability to isolate and care for those who are sick is also essential during this crisis.

In Mexico and El Salvador, for example, migrant shelters are closing for new arrivals, leaving people homeless and without support. In the Philippines and Indonesia, thousands still live in emergency shelters after being displaced by deadly storms and need to be moved into spaces with the possibility of social distancing and isolation. In Myanmar, people living in camps urgently need shelter, safe water and sanitation.

CRS and its partners in more than 30 countries are expanding and adapting programming to prevent the spread and reduce the risk of COVID-19. This include prioritization of areas with ongoing emergency relief efforts – including in refugee and internally displaced settlements – given people’s existing high level of vulnerability and needs well before this pandemic.

“CRS teams are racing against the clock to design triage centers for health facilities and temporary centers for isolation,” Poidatz said. “We are also looking at modifications to shelters to allow spaces for quarantine where possible.” 


Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding. For more information, visit or and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media in English at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube; and in Spanish at: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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Kim Pozniak

Director of Communications

Kim Pozniak
April 16, 2020

Based in Baltimore, MD

As the Director of Communications, Kim oversees the communications and social media teams working with journalists and the media to connect them with engaging stories about relief and development programs that are making a tangible difference in people’s lives around the world.

Her previous work at CRS includes handling emergency...More