Dominica: International organizations caution against stigmatization of people affected by COVID-19

20 April, 2020


The current COVID-19 outbreak has provoked social stigma and discriminatory behaviours against people of certain ethnic backgrounds as well as anyone perceived to have been in contact with the virus. In a recent publication of the WHO, UNICEF, and IFRC, the organizations cautioned that such treatment can negatively affect those with the disease, as well as their caregivers, family, friends and communities.


The International Organization for Migration (IOM), one of the UN Agencies based in Dominica, is calling attention to this issue.  According to Officer-in-charge of the IOM, Natasha Greaves:

“People who have COVID-19, people who are being treated for the disease, or who may have already recovered, here in Dominica and around the world, are of all races, nationalities and backgrounds. To think that Covid-19 is associated with certain races or nationalities is potentially dangerous and can promote a false sense of security. It can also lead to discrimination, hatred, exclusion and polarization within the society.COVID-19 is affecting people of all nationalities and ethnicities all over the world. While the Government of Dominica, with the support of the public, has been able to reduce the impact in Dominica so far, the disease is here, and anyone who is exposed can contract it.”


IOM urges all community members to play their part in staying safe, and help to spread the message:

“Show empathy and support to people who have been affected by the disease, recognizing that it could easily be you.

  • Follow the official instructions of the authorities.
  • Continue to follow the hygiene practices,
  • wear a mask if you are going out into public,
  • follow the protocols to protect your household when you get back home,
  • practice physical distancing,
  • and if you have any symptoms, including a fever over 37.5 degrees, coughing, breathlessness or tightening of the chest, fatigue, or loss of appetite, stay home and call the COVID-19 Hotline at 448-2151 / 611—4325 / 1800-219.”


Ms. Greaves emphasizes that everyone in the community needs to be engaged, “we must remember to look out for the vulnerable around us – for example, share official information with your neighbours who are non-nationals and may not listen to the radio or understand the news and announcements in English. Remember COVID-19 does not discriminate, and neither should you.”


IOM and the COVID-19 Response

IOM Dominica is currently engaged  with the Regional Programme on Migration Program Mesoamerica- The Caribbean and the Migrants in Countries in Crisis (MICIC) initiative.  The MICIC initiative is based on a robust international consultation process conducted by IOM with support from the United States and the Philippines, and aims to reduce the overall impacts of emergencies on communities by leveraging all the capacities, skills, expertise and ideas available, including those of migrants.


MICIC recognizes that the disaster planning and response process must make provisions for migrants living in-country and for short-term visitors (overnighting or in transit), taking into account their unique needs including language, lack of local knowledge and other special needs.  Under the MICIC initiative and in support of the coordinated and collaborative approach promoted by the Government of Dominica, IOM has been supporting the COVID-19 response through the translation and dissemination of messages to non-national communities including those who speak Creole, French, Spanish, German and Mandarin. In addition, IOM collaborated with the Dominica Red Cross Society to provide hygiene kits to people who may be affected by the disease and have been placed under observation at the Quarantine Unit in Portsmouth.


As the migration agency of the United Nations, IOM will continue to work closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners to help ensure the orderly and humane management of migration, promote international cooperation on migration issues, assist in the search for practical solutions to migration problems and provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in need, including refugees and internally displaced people.


This story was originally published by Dominica News Online, and can be found here. The efforts described are developed within the framework of the Regional Program on Migration Mesoamerica- The Caribbean, funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM).