When COVID-19 officially became a pandemic in March 2020, the world and life as we knew it changed. Grocery store shelves emptied. Shelter-at-home orders were given. Fears about a previously unknown virus ran amok. For refugees living in San Diego, these challenges were magnified in a city they had just begun to call home.
In response, the UC San Diego Refugee Health Unit shifted its focus to supporting members of communities that are facing systemic inequities that have caused many to suffer during the public health crisis. Work began with a survey of the San Diego refugee community, the first in more than 15 years.
“The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing systemic racism issues and highlighted the health inequities within our communities,” said Amina Sheik Mohamed, founding director of the Refugee Health Unit. “Through our survey, we found that employment was hugely impacted, but so was housing availability, digital literacy and the ability to navigate system resources, such as at-home virtual learning for children and mental health support services.”
Since the survey results were compiled last fall, the Refugee Health Unit has served as a conduit between the refugee community and the County of San Diego, holding weekly meetings with community health care workers and county officials. The Refugee Health Unit also collaborates with the San Diego Refugee Communities Coalition to develop and coordinate grant writing and funding distribution. Since March 2020, it has received approximately $3 million in grants, which are shared among community and ethnic-based organizations in need. Peer-based, bilingual community health care has also grown, with 40 new hires since last year. These workers provide assistance in navigating health care and crisis resolution.
Read more at UCSanDiegoNewsCenter.edu.