The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has many of us feeling uncertain about the future. What began as a global health crisis has only worsened the inequalities that exist for so many around the world.
Many have seen livelihoods and employment either severely limited or completely lost. Families are worried about meeting their most pressing needs, especially for food. The United Nations is warning of the potential for famine and estimates that the number of people suffering from acute hunger might double in 2020, potentially reaching a quarter of a billion people. As a member of Canadian Foodgrains Bank, PWS&D will respond to hunger needs as much as we are able.
PWS&D is responding through the ACT Alliance where rapid response projects have started in 14 countries. Projects are helping affected people access food, sanitation and hygiene, protective equipment and psycho-social support, with a focus on gender justice and the protection of highly vulnerable populations. PWS&D will also provide support to longer-term ACT Alliance COVID-19 projects.
Adjustments have been made to programs in every country where PWS&D works, repurposing funds for planned activities which are not currently possible.
PWS&D has contributed an initial $25,000 to the ACT Alliance COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund. This fund is providing support to 14 projects implemented by national members in each country responding to humanitarian needs in the face of the crisis.
Through the projects, ACT members are supporting national health services, working with faith leaders in providing accurate and timely information to communities, and providing sorely needed support to the most vulnerable people in communities. Much of ACT’s work through this appeal includes a focus on gender justice, the important role of local faith actors and churches, and the protection of highly vulnerable populations.
PWS&D partners in three countries (Afghanistan, Malawi and Ghana) are implementing COVID-19 rapid response projects through the ACT Alliance.
In Malawi, PWS&D partners have cancelled large community meetings but project activities continue. The number of those attending trainings has been reduced and physical distancing is being enforced. Youth club activities continue with the same precautions in place. Some of the additional measures being practiced include holding meetings in large outdoor spaces, providing buckets and soap for handwashing and ensuring facilitators have face masks.
As PWS&D’s Global Affairs Canada maternal and child health (MNCH) project wraps up, support continues for MNCH activities, with the addition of COVID-19 education and training in health facilities and communities.
Partners are also purchasing personal protective equipment, including masks, gloves and gowns, and cleaning and disinfecting supplies. A gift of $50 provides a kit of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers, including masks, gloves, gowns, etc.
In Ghana, which has some of the highest COVID-19 numbers in west Africa, PWS&D’s partner is encouraging preventative actions, including social distancing wherever possible and good sanitation and hygiene practices, especially handwashing.
Even though COVID numbers are relatively low in their region of operation, the Gambaga camp, where PWS&D supports protection and advocacy activities for women accused of witchcraft, has been closed to outside visitors. This decision has limited the livelihood activities the women can engage in, so PWS&D project funds have been redirected to provide food and soap to the women, as well as the children who live with them.
In Afghanistan, PWS&D’s partner, Community World Service Asia (CWSA), is hosting awareness sessions where community members learn preventive measures to keep their families safe from COVID-19.
Schools in Afghanistan have been closed since the middle of March and there are very real concerns that this will further exacerbate the gender gap in education and lead to increased sexual exploitation and early and forced marriages. To combat this, CWSA is preparing to equip schools with improved water, sanitation and hygiene facilities to both build knowledge and provide safe learning environments. There will also be more teacher training and reduced class sizes when schools are allowed to resume.
In India, the PWS&D-supported Duncan Hospital is taking all necessary precautions to keep both staff and patients safe and are thankful that their work has not been significantly impacted due to coronavirus, despite the rise in cases in the country.
While total COVID-19 infections in Nepal are very low, strick public health measures are being enforced. PWS&D’s partner, International Nepal Fellowship (INF), is continuing our leprosy and tuberculosis program and supplying personal protective equipment, soap and food packages to those in need. In addition, the Shining Hospital, which PWS&D supports through INF, has made their ambulance available to the government to transport COVID-positive patients as necessary.
Despite the lack of an official lockdown in Nicaragua, people have restricted their movements and reduced participation in public activities, including schools and markets, to reduce infection. PWS&D partners are providing families with food kits, hygiene and sanitation items, including hand soap and towels, disinfectant wipes, bleach, cleaning supplies and toilet paper. Families are also receiving psychosocial support and pastoral care through pastoral committees and youth leaders.
Social media and radio messages are being used to keep in touch with community members and spread messages to help communities safe from the pandemic.
In Haiti, mobile clinics that treat malnourished children have now moved their operations to door-to-door support. In this way, community health workers are still able to provide therapeutic nutritional support the children who need it. COVID-19 prevention messages are also being spread within communities by these volunteers.
While PWS&D partners in Guatemala aren’t able to continue their regular community work because of a government-imposed lockdown, they’re still doing what they can. To help prevent the spread of coronavirus, they are using radio messages and social media to provide communities with information regarding safety and prevention measures.
Please support this essential work by making a donation today. A gift of $20 or $50 can provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers or help families put food on their tables when livelihoods are threatened.
If you would like to support our ongoing work or COVID-19 response, you can do so by clicking below or by calling us at 1-800-619-7301 or 416-441-1111 x291. Please include “COVID Response” in the designation field.
In collaboration with other members of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC), PWS&D has signed on to an open letter to the Honourable Karina Gould, Minister of International Development, emphasizing the importance of international cooperation as part of Canada’s COVID-19 response.