Over the last couple of months as the coronavirus pandemic has spread, it’s been humbling and inspiring to watch our partners around the world work quickly and prayerfully to respond to this crisis. While their work on the ground has changed, their commitment to be ambassadors of Christ and bearers of hope in their communities has not.
Here’s the latest from our partners around the world (and Australia) are supporting vulnerable communities through the challenges of COVID-19:
In Queensland, Tearfund’s First Peoples partner Strong Women Talking (SWT) have put together care packages for the vulnerable women who are part of their program. They have delivered these along with some literature about how to stay healthy and safe at this time. The health packages include hand sanitiser that SWT have packaged up as well as other cleaning and personal hygiene products and a supply of grocery items. SWT have had to cancel face to face gatherings but have increased their online presence and done some one-on-one phone support.
In Western Australia, another First Peoples partner, Moorditj Keila, have been delivering grocery supplies to families that are self isolating because they have elderly people or people living with a disability in them. They have been cooking up meals and have also sourced kangaroo meat that they have been including in their delivery.
COVID-19 presents serious challenges in crowded and under-resourced contexts like the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. Physical distancing is virtually impossible – population density is 40,000 people/km2; in Melbourne it is 453 people/km2 – and resources like soap, running water and medicine are not readily available. Tearfund’s partner World Concern are responding in two camps: providing 900 households with basic hygiene supplies, providing health professionals working in the camps with PPE, and increasing awareness of COVID transmission prevention and domestic violence and abuse prevention.
Elsewhere in Bangladesh, Bangladesh Association for Sustainable Development (BASD) plans to work alongside their network of Self-Help Group leaders to identify families most in need, and provide them with emergency relief. Supplies will include soap, Oral Rehydration Salts (rates of diarrhoea have increased due to lack of access to good food and safe drinking water), food, and vegetable seeds to assist with longer term nutritional needs. Pray for quick approval from the government so that BASD can move forward with this response.
A number of partners in India have been active in providing emergency food and hygiene parcels to the most vulnerable families in their communities – including those who have lost livelihoods, or are home to widows, pregnant women, children and the elderly. Together, these partners are helping to meet the immediate needs of over 1200 households. Working together with local churches, EFICOR have concentrated part of their response to people living with HIV, who have compromised immune systems and are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus.
On top of distributing emergency food relief, local partner Emmanuel Hospital Association (EHA) have mobilised to help community members with mental illness to access their medication during the lockdown. These are safely delivered by members of a Disabled People’s Organisation, who understand the experience and concerns of people living with anxiety and distress, providing vital support at a time when access to usual support networks is limited. In Nepal, Centre for Mental Health and Counselling (CMC) have worked with the Nepal government health system to initiate a similar response.
In facing this challenge we have had to dig deep, pray and find fresh and renewed perspective in our faith and yet find meaningful ways of reaching out. Thanks for your prayers and support and be assured of ours! – Saahasee, India
Also in Nepal, INF are establishing handwashing corners and providing soap to 720 households. INF are also coordinating with the local government to meet the needs of returned travelers who are required to stay in quarantine. The designated quarantine areas are very under resourced, so INF are providing masks, gloves, thermometers and hand sanitiser, and helping cover travel costs where suspected cases are referred for testing.
Diocese of Hyderabad (DoH) are supporting the teachers of their self-sustaining community schools in Pakistan. Since schools are closed, these teachers are no longer receiving their usual income, but DoH are working to secure an income for these teachers a future for education in the communities:
“We have decided to support our teachers to strengthen them in this situation, so that they may not feel alone but united, and able to face the situation with confidence.”
DoH also shared that “hunger is rising day by day and it’s getting hard for people to survive.” To help meet immediate needs, another of DoH’s projects is providing food relief packages to 176 vulnerable households, including a number of volunteers from local churches who are involved in the project.
In the Solomon Islands, where no cases of COVID-19 have yet been recorded, staff from Tearfund’s partner Ola Fou Solomons are working from home and are discussing a safety framework to guide their engagement with stakeholders and communities in the light of COVID-19.
In Somalia, Tearfund’s partner Medair are supporting the Ministry of Health in responding to this crisis and ensuring that the most vulnerable members of the community are protected and supported. Through their network of community volunteers, Medair are providing over 19,000 households with soap, and education on the prevention of COVID-19. Medair are also helping to equip health workers with Personal Protective Equipment, and establishing hand washing stations at health facilities and in IDP camps.
While the threat of disease has placed aspects of life on hold for many people in South Sudan, there are certain services that cannot wait. ACROSS continues to deliver essential services like healthcare, ambulance transport, nutrition, and emergency distribution of food and supplies. Restrictions on movement and gatherings have caused hardship to many ACROSS staff whose families live in neighbouring countries; and meant that activities like workshops, trainings and school-based programs have been rescheduled. ACROSS are navigating new technologies to keep in touch with groups and partners.
Sudan Evangelical Mission shares, “Thank you for the prayers and solidarity with us….we are trying our best with others to enlighten the community (about COVID-19), but the challenges are much as the health system capacity is very weak.”
While there are many challenges to working in the corona context, we also see a global trend toward caring and compassion. People are challenged to think about their neighbour and how each individual's actions impacts others. While we are learning the art of social distancing, we are simultaneously more connected than ever.
Tearfund’s two partners in Zambia – Reformed Open Community Schools and Reformed Church in Zambia (RCZ) Diaconia Department – are supporting local health posts, and raising awareness about COVID-19 through volunteer-driven campaigns and radio programs. Reverend Crisipin from RCZ shares:
"We want to assure our partners that we are trying our best to keep safe in this venture; we even made a request to the Ministry of Health Headquarters for clearance and guidance as we reach the communities. We sought their help on the messages to deliver, and they have been very helpful and supportive, appreciating our action in reaching places where they (government) are not managing to reach.”
All throughout the Bible, we’re encouraged to endure:
to persevere through trials (James 1:4,12); to not grow weary in the good work God has called us to (Galatians 6:9); to sow seeds, even in times of sorrow (Psalm 126:5-6). We could never do this on our own – but thanks to the love and power of Jesus at work in us, together with all of God’s people, we can.
Now more than ever, we’re experiencing this collective endurance. May you be encouraged by these examples of courage and action from our partners, and spurred on in your own actions of generosity and hope. Please continue to uphold all of our partners in prayer as they navigate the dynamic situation over the coming months. Thank you – your ongoing prayer and support is having a vital impact in the lives of vulnerable people today and into the future.