Key recommendations for staff and volunteers on harm reduction services in time of Covid-19 crisis


Key recommendations for staff and volunteers on harm reduction services in time of Covid-19 crisis

4 September 2020

Recommendations are developed by the Red Cross/Red Crescent Partnership on Substance Abuse and its partners, in the framework of the Rome Consensus humanitarian drug policy (, with the aim to guarantee a humanitarian approach by leaving no one behind in this outbreak and avoiding any kind of discrimination for people with drug use disorders.

The COVID-19 pandemic represents an international emergency that globally threatens individual and collective health and the local economies.

Currently, the most important protective measures against the COVID-19 are based on everyday preventive actions including staying home and hygienic practices.

As part of the collectivity, People Who Use Drugs (PWUD) represent a key population that could have an increased risk for the COVID-19 infection because of their behaviors, vulnerabilities and the related social and environmental settings.

The recommendations are intended to support a humanitarian response planning by care and service providers including health providers, street units, meal service and shelter providers.

It is extremely important from protection, human-rights and public health perspectives, that people who use drugs are included in all COVID-19 outbreak readiness and response strategies, plan and operations. There is a strong public health rationale to extend all measures to everyone, regardless of status and ensuring inclusiveness.

In alignment with UNODC1 suggestions for people with drug use disorder in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and with WHO COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plans and guidance2 particularly in relation to the following objectives:

1. Limit human-to-human transmission, including reducing secondary infections among close contacts and healthcare workers, preventing transmission amplification events, strengthening health facilities

2. Identify and provide early care for infected patients

3. Communicate critical risk and information to all communities, and counter misinformation