Refugees are at increased risk for COVID-19 infection in part due to their living conditions, which make it harder to adopt and adhere to widely accepted preventive measures. Little empirical evidence exists about what refugees know about COVID-19 and what they do to prevent infection. This study explored what refugee women and their health care workers understand about COVID-19 prevention, the extent of their compliance to public health recommendations, and what influences the adoption of these measures.
In October 2020, we conducted 25 in-depth interviews with facility and community health care staff (n = 10) and refugee women attending antenatal and postnatal care services (n = 15) in Eastleigh, Nairobi.
While researchers found a high level of awareness about COVID-19 and related prevention and control measures among refugee women, various barriers affected compliance with such measures, due in part to poverty and in part to rampant misconceptions informed by religious beliefs and political narratives about the virus.
These findings indicated that Kenya’s Ministry of Health needs to institute a concerted and continuous education program to bring refugee communities up to speed about COVID-19 and its prevention. In addition to disseminating information about the need to wear masks and repeatedly wash hands, supplies—masks, soap, and access to water—need to be made available to poor refugee communities. Future research could explore which measures for disseminating factual information work best in refugee populations with different cultural norms and how best to target interventions to these groups.