People in Need’s global response to the COVID-19 pandemicMay 15, 2020
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, it has become clear that in addition to immediate support for the health sector, any response must also include long-term assistance for the world’s most vulnerable communities.
Experts predict that many of the gains in quality of life that have taken decades to achieve in the developing world, from improved access to education to poverty alleviation, could be lost if we do not move beyond an emergency response. In addition, the fallout from lockdowns, job losses, and the worldwide economic downturn threaten the lives of many more people; the lasting impacts of the pandemic, such as hunger, have the potential to become more deadly than the coronavirus itself.
Here in the Czech Republic, People in Need (PIN) continues to protect our most economically vulnerable residents and has been offering teachers and students online education courses. At the same time, our foreign assistance teams, which are spread across 20 countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe, have launched new activities or adapted ongoing programming to combat COVID-19.
The following summaries detail how our country teams are responding to the pandemic while keeping themselves and their beneficiaries safe:
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
In the DRC, PIN is helping health centers, medical workers, and communities battle the spread of COVID-19. We are installing handwashing points in health centers and distributing soap, water buckets, and other materials to promote good hygiene. PIN has stressed the importance of using personal protective equipment (PPE) to healthcare providers, and we are ensuring that hydroalcoholic gel is delivered to places where there is no access to clean water. Our focus in the DRC has also been on prevention and awareness at the community level. Posters about COVID-19 in Swahili have been placed outside health centers and in strategic locations in the community. All project staff and healthcare providers in the communities where we work have been briefed on the disease. Individual counselling is prioritized.
PIN is aiding the most vulnerable and exposed communities in Ethiopia’s Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) with the provision of PPE such as hand sanitizer, face masks, and gloves to health centers, and the organization of large awareness-raising campaigns.
We have also focused on functional water infrastructure, as this plays a key role in the battle against COVID-19. Access to reliable water sources is critical for ensuring that people practice good handwashing hygiene and keep their surroundings clean. PIN has also organized a training for trainers on infection prevention and COVID-19 case management for experts from the regional health bureau.
In Zambia, where PIN is implementing a program for emergency seed distribution in response to the drought in Western Province, we have employed COVID-19 safety measures to minimize the risk of exposure during distribution. We have also included a COVID-19 awareness-raising campaign as part of our work. The seed distributions, which have taken place in seven wards of the Mongu District, begin with COVID-19 awareness-raising activities. These include the displaying of posters with COVID-19-related messages, as well as a short training on COVID-19 symptoms and preventive measures. Beneficiaries are then advised to maintain a distance of two meters from others, and are asked to wash their hands at the handwashing station brought in by the distribution team before they approach the distribution point.
Accurate information from reliable sources is essential to containing the new coronavirus. With this in mind, the PIN Angola team is supporting governmental institutions in the country through the printing of COVID-19-related informational leaflets and posters. The team also takes part in biosafety trainings provided by public health departments in different provinces to learn more about preventive measures and other topics related to COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic reached Mali in March 2020. As part of our response there, PIN, along with our Alliance2015 partner, Welthungerhilfe, distributed hygiene kits for the fight against COVID-19 to the most vulnerable families in the western part of the country.
If COVID-19 reaches the most vulnerable Syrians in the country’s north, as many experts expect it will, an already dire situation could become catastrophic. To prepare for this eventuality, PIN is working to protect Syria’s most vulnerable from infection. When authorities announced restrictions on schools as part of their COVID-19 response in mid-March, PIN began developing a distance learning methodology to ensure continued educational support for the 15,500 children that we work with. PIN is also bringing psychosocial support activities to homes, where children and parents can participate together.
In addition, PIN is designing isolation and treatment rooms for the COVID-19 response in existing medical facilities in northern Syria. People who have been displaced often lack even the most basic necessities, so we are distributing hygiene kits as a priority response. Furthermore, PIN continues to distribute critical food provisions, and in coordination with authorities and other humanitarian organizations, PIN is raising awareness of COVID-19 among the population. We are doing this by sharing messages about health and safety as part of all of our programming, assessments, and distributions, and in all PIN-supported spaces such as vocational centers, schools, bakeries, and child-friendly spaces. Finally, we are regularly cleaning and sterilizing these areas, as well as distributing disinfectant.
In April, PIN’s team in Iraq launched efforts to raise awareness of COVID-19, including going door-to-door in Mosul, Nineveh Plains, Salah al-Din, and Kirkuk to bring information on prevention and symptoms to thousands of people. In addition to the door-to-door campaign, the PIN team is also hanging posters to raise awareness throughout the targeted neighborhoods, and running a social media campaign on the PIN Iraq Facebook page, which has reached almost 400,000 social media users to date.
Donors: EU Regional Trust Fund MADAD, Iraq Humanitarian Fund managed by United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Malteser International and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
PIN Ukraine has continued to deliver much-needed humanitarian assistance while adjusting to the current situation with new safety measures and rapid-response protocols. We have launched a number of initiatives to help people affected by the conflict in eastern Ukraine with COVID-19 preparedness and support. PIN has rapidly started distributing items for handwashing and disinfection mainly to schools, orphanages, nursing homes, and health facilities. In order to reach as many people as possible, PIN, together with ACCESS Consortium partner Help Age International, produced leaflets and posters with information and practical advice on COVID-19. This campaign targeted seniors in particular, as they have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.
We also created an animated video about COVID-19, which has aired on local TV stations in Donbas. PIN psychologists are providing psychosocial support and counselling through online webinars and by phone, and the PIN Ukraine psychosocial hotline is available 24/7. Additionally, an informational campaign was launched on Facebook to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to dispel common myths. PIN is recording and posting three-minute videos with tips and advice on the PIN Ukraine Facebook page.
To help ensure a more inclusive response to the COVID-19 crisis in Georgia, PIN has focused on helping people with disabilities. PPE will be delivered to 178 residents and 182 staff at three state institutions in Dzervi, Dusheti, and Martkopi. The provision of PPE is designed to promote health, hygiene, and protection against COVID-19, and to help ensure that no one is left behind during this pandemic. Through this project, PIN is also raising awareness that people with disabilities are often marginalized during health emergencies.
In January, PIN Mongolia launched a “Clean Hands” campaign, together with PIN’s Club of Friends, Breathe Mongolia – Clean Air Coalition, and other local NGOs. The team distributed hygiene, education, and food kits to 1,000 at-risk kindergarten children in isolation due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and gave out information leaflets on preventive measures. Between January and March 2020, we reached out to more than 5,000 people.
In May, PIN Mongolia will distribute hygiene, education, and foods kits, as well as a comic book on COVID-19 prevention measures developed for young children, to an additional 1,500 children in Ulaanbaatar and two additional provinces. A Facebook fundraiser was also launched in collaboration with Breathe Mongolia – Clean Air Coalition and other local NGOs to raise $10,000 for the COVID-19 response.
In Myanmar, PIN reacted to the COVID-19 outbreak in the very first days through the installation of awareness-raising posters in the places we support with our ongoing programs. In Kachin State, our team delivered water filters to 10 schools with a total of 421 students. In Rakhine State, we distributed non-food items to nearly 1,500 families at 11 sites for internally displaced people.
Recognizing that access to clean water is critical in the fight against COVID-19, PIN delivered water to a number of sites for internally displaced people. Fourteen camps also received alcohol-based hand sanitizer and hand-held loudspeakers for the dissemination of public health information. In the Yangon Region, we distributed soap and hand sanitizer to 8,000 migrants and host community households. We also equipped the local administration with a sound system so that they can reach more people with public health information.
The COVID-19 pandemic reached Cambodia in early March, causing widespread anxiety and fear among the population. With support from the National Committee for Disaster Management, PIN Cambodia swiftly incorporated a COVID-19 awareness campaign into our disaster management program. The campaign utilizes Early Warning System (EWS) 1294, created to warn residents of impending natural disasters, by sending mobile phone voice alerts to people in 25 provinces. Within the first three weeks, the system had successfully disseminated 129,843 individual messages related to COVID-19 to the public. PIN Cambodia has also increased the number of dissemination channels for circulating additional information about COVID-19, making effective use of the EWS 1294 Facebook page, which currently has over 85,000 followers.
PIN Slovakia continues to focus on the threat of COVID-19 in marginalized Roma communities. PIN works with vulnerable people, carries out prevention and informational activities, and distributes essential hygienic supplies and humanitarian aid. We have been cooperating with other organizations and local authorities, as well as with crisis teams on various levels. There is also an ongoing fundraising campaign to support this work.
In addition, PIN’s Global Education Department, together with the One World Festival, continues to facilitate homeschooling. We have also launched a new online project, One World on Demand, which provides access to documentary films and follow-up activities. PIN Slovakia has also adapted its ongoing foreign aid projects to the current situation, enabling us to continue providing aid and relief activities under the current circumstances. Finally, a new complementary fundraising campaign has been launched.
In nearly every country where PIN operates, we are sharing awareness-raising messages developed by the World Health Organization via PIN’s social media channels, and we have equipped our offices with COVID-19 awareness posters. Most importantly, our colleagues are staying up-to-date on new developments regarding the pandemic, and we will continue to adapt our programming as needed to help the poorest and most vulnerable populations prepare, respond, and recover from this unprecedented crisis.