Every day, we’re hearing from our colleagues around the world of the impact of the virus on the communities they work with, who will be ill-equipped to cope. Many live in overcrowded settlements in unsanitary conditions where social distancing will be almost impossible. Others live and farm in rural areas and have no access to modern energy supplies or health care services.
The lockdowns are severely affecting the poorest, in both rural and urban areas. Farmers are struggling to harvest their crops and get them to market. Because of movement restrictions, many people who earn their daily income working in the informal market are facing hunger.
Our teams in country fear the worst but have already begun to respond.
We’ve been conferring with our partners and government bodies and our action plans are being finalised. They will combine three stages to help people prepare for, withstand and recover from the impact of the virus:
1. Limit the spread. Help vulnerable people stay safe by improving their access to reliable and relevant information about the coronavirus, handwashing facilities and supplies to improve hygiene and sanitation in their homes and communities.
2. Keep essential services running. Support water, sanitation, waste and energy services to continue operating safely especially in the poorest communities and support farmers and food supply chains to remain intact.
3. Support longer term recovery. Enable sustainable development that helps people improve their lives and protects the planet. Our focus is on helping smallholder farmers to succeed in the face of climate change and the challenges of this pandemic, ensuring that food systems work and something about protecting planet. We will help communities harness the power of clean energy to improve incomes and community facilities and making cities cleaner, safer places to live. And, we will ensure that flood preparedness systems are safe for people in the time of the pandemic and ahead of the approaching monsoon season.
Our work is now underway
Limiting the spread:
- In Nepal, we have produced and disseminated clear and simple messages on handwashing and social distancing that make sense for people living in crowded areas with communal sanitation facilities. We also distributed masks, gloves, and hand sanitisers and sanitation kits to vulnerable households and set up handwashing kiosks and infrared thermometers in local government offices.
- In India, we developed and widely distributed the first information posters about good handwashing practices in public places – government offices, shops, market places and public toilets – in the town of Choudwar in Odisha State. In West Bengal, we are working with women in self-help groups to produce masks and soap to supply 5000 families and sending COVID-19 related information through WhatsApp to village-level elected leaders to share with communities.
- In Bolivia, we are co-leading a humanitarian working group and advising the Ministry of Health on communications and messaging to some of the poorest and most marginalised communities and are producing materials to distribute information to communities. We are working on podcasts and with local radio to get key messages, translating information into local Amazonian languages and producing communications materials for distribution to communities. This is important because there is a lot of misinformation about the virus and the poorest communities face a number of challenges in understanding more official information. We are also distributing personal protection equipment to health centres in communities we work with.
- In Bangladesh, we are sending out hygiene messages to Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar and sending out health, hygiene and behaviour change messages through our Agriculture Call Centre (Krishi Call Center). These messages are in line with the government advice but tailored to be better understood and more relevant for poorer communities.
- In Kenya, we designed, simplified and translated World Health Organisation and Ministry of Health approved messages on the virus to local dialects. We distributed simplified and translated messages through digital platforms and through phone messages via community groups such as neighbourhood associations, women groups, and youth groups. We designed and are in the process of painting murals on key messages at community hotspots in Kisumu and Turkana.
- In Senegal, through the Tekki Jiggen project, we will include sensitization messages through local radio and link the women associations of last mile distributors to have a contract with suppliers of hygienic products to sell through their communities.
- In Sudan, 100 of our trained health promoters were the first to share and disseminate information and knowledge in their communities and more than 20 villages in Darfur have received posters and leaflets about COVID-19. We have painted information murals in public places and distributed soap. In Darfur and Kassala, we arranged awareness raising sessions conducted via mass communications such as radio messages and through mosques on COVID-19In Kassala, we rehabilitated water points, upgrading them to solar power to overcome fuel shortages and a number of handwashing kits have been distributed via trained health promoters.
- In Blue Nile, water sources have been surveyed and water treatment delivered to create clean water in three localities. We also established hand washing facilities, supported with solar lights in schools, clinics and public markets.
- In Peru, we distributed seeds and PPE equipment to communities we work with in our Zurich resilience programme.
Keeping essential services running:
- In Nepal, we are supporting the supply chain for induction cookers – with a focus on women headed and disadvantaged families in project districts. We are conducting webinars and creating awareness about the harmful impact of air pollution on respiratory health.
- In Southern Africa, in Gwanda, the team is currently training in hygiene practices, raising awareness and the introduction of easy to use ‘tippy taps’ are being considered, alongside podcasting to deliver information. We will expand solar water pumping for household use to improve hygiene practices in the home. We continued agricultural equipment delivery such as solar incubators for poultry with our staff monitoring remotely and confirming with farmer groups.
- In Bangladesh, we supplied 1,100 personal protective equipment kits to waste and sanitation workers in 10 areas. We are working with local governments to keep waste management systems running and we will support market traders to maintain essential supply chains in safety. We will soon launch a joint rapid response initiative with BRAC for host communities in Cox’s Bazaar and will set up handwashing devices in 14 market centres and public places in host communities and provide hygiene messages through billboards and local radio station.
- In Kenya, we are buying PPE kits for 100 key workers and hygiene/sanitation kits for 12,000 people living in Turkana.
- In Bolivia, we carried out rapid information surveys for small producers and local authorities in agriculture and water and sanitation issues to define post COVID-19 response and intervention strategies. We are supporting local governments in their preparation of contingency planning.
- In Sudan, we carried out remote refresh training of health promoters in COVID-19 prevention.
Supporting resilient recovery:
- In Nepal, dairy farmers were initially heavily hit by the lockdown. Farmers we work with now have milk collections every two days so there is less waste. Milk is being used to make cheese and other dairy products to diversify products. Leftover milk is being sold to cooperatives and where social distancing behavior has been reinforced.
- In Sudan, communities in El Fasher, Darfur are facing a shortage of gas due to the lockdown and they are returning to wood and charcoal. Our staff are trying to reduce the risk of respiratory problems through introducing alternative options such as improved clay stoves and will disseminate messages next week.
- In Zimbabwe, we are participating in the Food Security, Agriculture and Livelihoods Cluster forum of NGOs to ensure staff are up to date on the COVID-19 response to enable project staff to communicate with the local government extension workers and farmer group leaders.
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