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Empowering the crowd: feasible strategies for epidemic management in high-density informal settlements. The case of COVID-19 in Northwest Syria

Alberto Pascual, ETH Zurich
Jordan Klein, Princeton University
Jennifer Villers, University of Geneva
Eduard Campillo-Funollet, University of Sussex
Chamsy Sarkis, ASML Syria

More than 1 billion people live in informal settlements worldwide, where precarious living conditions pose unique challenges to managing a COVID-19 outbreak. Taking Northwest Syria as a case-study, we simulated an outbreak in high-density informal Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps using a stochastic Susceptible-Exposed-Infectious-Recovered model. Expanding on previous studies, taking social conditions and population health/structure into account, we modeled several interventions feasible in these settings: moderate self-distancing, self-isolation of symptomatic cases, and protection of the most vulnerable in “safety zones”. We considered complementary measures to these interventions that can be implemented autonomously by these communities, such as buffer zones, health-checks, and carers for isolated individuals, quantifying their impact on the micro-dynamics of disease transmission. All interventions significantly reduce outbreak probability and some of them reduce mortality when an outbreak does occur. Our model predicts that a combination of all simulated interventions may reduce mortality by as much as 80% and delay an outbreak’s peak by almost two months. Our results highlight the potential for non-medical interventions to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. Similar measures may be applicable to controlling COVID-19 in other informal settlements, particularly IDP camps in conflict regions, around the world.

Keywords: COVID-19, Refugees, Simulation, Policy evaluation

See paper.

  Presented in Session 37. Health and Mortality among Migrants