The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequalities, disproportionately impacting the world’s most vulnerable people and communities. For the first time in over 20 years, global poverty is rising.
With your support, our partners are continuing to offer hope and practical support – to be salt and light – in some of the poorest and most marginalised communities in the world. Many of these communities are not only dealing with the pandemic’s effects; they are also being impacted by ongoing or worsening conflict, and climate disasters. Partners share stories of increasing poverty and exploitation, as well as pain, loss, and grief, both in their communities and personally. Some partners have been directly affected by the pandemic, with staff and their family members ill and, in some cases, dying from COVID-19. Yet, by God’s grace, partners also tell stories of hope, life and new opportunities.
In the financial year 2020-21, Tearfund supported the work of its partners to assist 225,833 people through specific COVID-19 response projects.
Thank you for joining us to pray for our partners and the communities they are working with around the world.
India was severely impacted by a second wave of COVID-19 which peaked in May 2021 and saw hospitals overwhelmed, the death toll rising to over 400,000 and lockdowns implemented across large parts of the country. The lockdowns caused enormous hardship for the poor who rely on insecure work.
Tearfund's partner, EFICOR, responded with cash support, food relief and other support. COVID-19 case numbers have since fallen dramatically and lockdowns have largely finished. The focus of EFICOR’s COVID-19 response has now turned to supporting the vaccination effort and providing cash for work in some rural areas where there are many unemployed people who returned to their villages from the major cities.
The second wave of COVID-19 has had a widespread impact and also affected EFICOR’s own staff. Lockdown, the risk of COVID, the protocols put in place to ensure that staff were safe and that the community was not put at risk meant that EFICOR had to devise new ways in which to respond effectively. Digital technology was one important means of doing this.
While more than one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have now been administered in India, millions of people are yet to receive a dose1. Vaccine hesitancy is one of the factors contributing to this gap. The longstanding relationships EFICOR has in many of the communities it works in means its teams are well placed to help address people’s hesitation and anxiety, and gain their confidence and trust around vaccination.
Staff from one of the projects Tearfund supports, in Karnataka state in South India, said: “The officials from the health department had tried to conduct vaccination drives in our villages three times but only 15 people had turned up. EFICOR was asked to step in and we went door-to-door addressing people’s doubts and invited them for the next vaccination event. To everyone’s surprise 320 people turned up for the vaccination in a single day.”
EFICOR’s COVID-19 response will continue into next year through livelihood support and cash for work programs.
In the Chadiza and Vubwi districts in eastern Zambia, children and teachers in 10 schools – and their wider communities – are benefitting from a project run by Tearfund’s partner the Reformed Church of Zambia Diaconia Response. The project, which ran from May to August, aimed to prevent transmission of COVID-19 in the schools. Forty teachers were trained in sanitation and hygiene and how they relate to COVID-19 prevention. Each school also received equipment to help with hand washing and hygiene, including water buckets, hand washing basins, soap, thermometers and face masks.
Schools in Zambia had to be closed for two months (from mid-June to August) as part of the country’s lockdown measures, and this delayed the running of planned community sensitisation sessions to help raise awareness among people in the communities surrounding the participating schools. These went ahead once schools re-opened, and around 27,000 people have indirectly benefited from the teaching at these sessions.
Diaconia Response’s project has helped in clear ways. When the 10 participating schools were assessed by the Ministry of Education for their preparedness to re-open, they all qualified straight away. The schools said they appreciated the support they received and were making use of the materials provided by Diaconia Response – for example, placing water buckets for hand washing in strategic positions like classroom entrances. Students were also observed to be wearing their face masks correctly.
When Nepal was hit by a second wave of COVID-19 in April 2021, its health system was pushed to its limits. Many people who needed medical care were not able to access it, and many people who were showing symptoms were unable to get tested due to limited testing facilities. Thankfully, Nepal has now passed the peak of its second wave of infections. The number of active cases has declined, as have hospital admissions.
Throughout this challenging time, Tearfund’s partner the Welfare Association for Children Tikapur (WACT) has been supporting the Nepal local government health response in two municipalities (Joshipur and Lamki-Chuha), helping to resource local health units in communities there. WACT has provided supplies including PPE sets, face shields / surgical masks, sanitiser, digital thermometers, antigen test kits and basic medicines.
Support from organisations like WACT has strengthened local health centres, helping them to deliver effective services in their communities.
When Mina, a woman from Lamki-Chuha municipality, tested positive to COVID-19, health centre staff provided counselling, conducted health checks on Mina at home where she was isolating, and provided her with a medical kit containing a mask, sanitiser, gloves, soap, a thermometer and medicines. Mina says she and her family were so grateful for this health care, and for the support and encouragement that helped her to manage during a very worrying time.
While in Australia nearly 75 per cent of people over 16 are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a different story is unfolding in other parts of the world. Age and Sydney Morning Herald journalist Peter Hartcher reported on this issue recently, highlighting the fact that in wealthy countries, 63 per cent of the population had had at least one shot by mid-October, whereas in poor countries, that figure was just 4.5 per cent, according to the World Health Organisation. In most of Africa, the figure is 3 per cent2.
COVAX, the international funding mechanism set up to enable the world’s poorest nations to receive vaccines funded by wealthier nations, is responsible for most of the vaccines delivered to poor countries. However, for a number of reasons COVAX has had to cut its projected shipments. It’s estimated that only 17 per cent of Africa’s population will now be vaccinated by the end of this year, compared with the 40 per cent target set by the World Health Organisation.
Throughout this pandemic our partners have been working hard to help communities improve hygiene and sanitation, and to get information to them about COVID-19 prevention. These measures are crucial, but they are not enough on their own to combat the Delta variant. Equitable access to vaccines is essential.
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Please join us in praying for vaccine equity in the world.
Compassionate God, you are gracious and merciful, abounding in love for all of your creation. May we recognise that, through your love, every living thing is connected. May we understand the dignity and worth of every person, and seek justice, equity, protection and health for all. And may there be an equitable distribution of vaccines across the globe, so that people everywhere will have access, and the most vulnerable among us will be protected.