As the impacts of COVID-19 spread around the globe, leaving no nation untouched, TEAR has been in constant contact with our partners based in local communities throughout 18 countries.
Each of these partners has worked quickly and prayerfully, in accordance with government advice and restrictions, to prepare for and respond to this virus. At the moment, some regions are experiencing a higher number of cases, or more stringent lockdowns than others, but what is clear across the board is the potential for COVID-19 to have a disproportionate impact on communities facing poverty.
Lockdowns are making it increasingly difficult for families reliant on daily wages to provide for basic needs. In the South/South East Asia region, large numbers of poor migrant workers have had to leave big cities and return to their home villages.
Countless people are without work, and without the buffer of savings:
“Nepal may yet escape a large-scale coronavirus outbreak. But the economic impact of the virus will nonetheless be shattering... This virus would starkly worsen poverty in Nepal even if it didn’t infect one more person.” – United Mission to Nepal
Several partners in South Asia have expressed how the stigma surrounding infection, and worry of isolation, is holding people back from being tested:
“The situation is very uncertain; many myths from different sides make it even more critical for rural illiterate communities to understand about prevention.” – Diocese of Hyderabad (Pakistan)
And it’s increasingly clear that social distancing, regular handwashing and access to medical care are luxuries that the majority world cannot afford:
"Most people are living with large extended families. Some of these families don’t have access to soap for bathing so it is very difficult to manage, even after learning how to prevent coronavirus in their Self Help Group meetings.” – Partnership for New Life (Nepal)
While all of our partners are following government advice and restrictions – generally, this means staff are working from home, regular project activities have paused, and group meetings are cancelled.
Under lockdown in Papua, one of the staff members of our Indonesian partner Yasera is helping neighbours make tippy taps outside of their homes, and teaching effective handwashing. Yasera’s ED has translated FAQs on COVID-19 to Bahasa Indonesian to share with project staff and community members.
In India, Emmanuel Hospital Association (EHA), have translated the resources from the globally-recognised website, covid19parenting.com, into Hindi, to help support parents who are in lockdown with their families. These resources aim to reduce the risk of domestic violence during the lockdown. EHA are also working to provide emergency food (rice, lentils, peanuts and milk) to 500 families who now face weeks without the daily wage labour they rely on to get by.
Peace Bridges in Cambodia is adapting most of their face to face training and meetings to online platforms and social media. Where they can, they will connect external partners who operate COVID-19 responses to their network of Peacebuilders (community group leaders).
Before the national lockdown took effect from April 1, World Concern Laos quickly mobilised to distribute essential hygiene materials and information to nearly 2000 households across 13 villages. While usual project activities will be suspended, World Concern remains connected to their communities through a strong network of Village Development Committees (VDCs). Leaders of these VDCs have been equipped with additional supplies and audio and print awareness-raising materials.
Before Nepal went into shut down, Tearfund’s local partner PNL was able to work with their Self Help Groups to explain about COVID-19, how to seek help and the importance of hygiene and hand washing. Another partner in Nepal, Centre for Mental Health and Counselling, are working with the Nepal government health system to help ensure that people with mental illness can still access medication at this time of lockdown and increased anxiety for many.
In Somalia, Medair have been working with their in-country partners and communities on preparedness and contingency planning. They will train health workers, increase their hygiene messaging and procure more personal protective equipment for health facilities. Medair’s vast network of local Care Groups will be supported with information about prevention, and where to go if you have symptoms.
HEFO in Zambia share: “We have organised three awareness banners on COVID-19 as well as prepared some pamphlets for distribution. There is not enough awareness of this virus amongst communities – it is still common to see funeral gatherings of more than 500 people taking place in and around Nkayi. People are just relaxed, hence this move to further heighten our awareness activities around this pandemic.”
“Before the lockdown took effect, we were able to provide awareness and pamphlets to our rural communities. The situation is very uncertain; many myths from different sides make it even more critical for rural illiterate communities to understand about prevention.“
It’s encouraging to see the way that so many of our partners have built strong networks within their communities, and that in this time of crisis, those networks will be activated to share information and encouragement, and provide an avenue for cooperation with other local initiatives.
This is a time when the good progress that has been made by Tearfund’s partners in sanitation, sustainable livelihoods and health promotion will come into effect.
Furthermore, all of our partners are grounded in faith and motivated by the good news of God’s kingdom, able to be vessels of peace, courage and hope in the midst of fear, loss and confusion.
We can’t express enough how valuable your prayers and support are at this time. Right now, the global situation continues to change daily, and responses are immediate and urgent. There will be many longer term impacts of COVID-19 yet to come, and together with our faithful and courageous partners, Tearfund is committed to continuing to work for transformation in places of great need: today, tomorrow and into the future.
Related projects have received support from the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).