Our field teams are changing the ways they work to help slow the spread of COVID-19. This includes reviewing their current actions, while implementing new projects to protect people from the virus. We’re also dealing with the impact of the crisis, focusing on people with disabilities, children, women, as well as isolated and older people.
As of March 31, there are 809,600 confirmed coronavirus cases in 179 countries and territories. In the 55 countries where Humanity & Inclusion works, 94% are affected by the pandemic. It is vital to prevent the spread of the virus in Africa, Latin America, South and Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. Despite the small number of officially identified cases in many of these countries, we must act now.
Protecting the most vulnerable
“We are adapting our operations in all countries where this is still possible,” says Fanny Mraz from the Emergency Division at Humanity & Inclusion. “Our first aim is to protect our beneficiaries—those who are among the most vulnerable to this virus. The challenge is to prevent transmission of the virus and meet the basic needs of vulnerable people, so they do not become even more vulnerable and ensure they have access to food, hygiene products and health services.”
“In line with the situation in the field, we are making these changes in every country. We have placed some projects on standby, adapted others, and launched new ones specifically to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. For the time being, our priority sectors are hygiene, protection, access to livelihoods, psychosocial assistance, and logistics support to humanitarian actors for the transport of humanitarian aid.”
Reinforcing 37 existing projects
Nearly 40 of our projects have adapted their actions to implement (or to prepare) measures in response to the virus, including multiple awareness and prevention actions in Algeria, Bangladesh, Colombia, Ethiopia, Haiti, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Sierra Leone, and other countries. We have also adjusted our logistics activities and humanitarian assistance in central Africa to include the use of gloves, masks, and hand sanitizing gel, particularly in Rwanda. The number of projects shifting to a COVID-19 response is subject to constant change.
Hygiene awareness--for everyone
Any emergency sanitation and medical responses must be combined with awareness-raising and educational messages. This helps protect everyone and strengthen the impact of the fight against the pandemic. Raising awareness about good hygiene, like washing hands and coughing into elbows, and protection measures is urgently needed to combat COVID-19. Our teams have been trained to protect themselves and provide the people they assist with inclusive prevention information. Learning aids, such as posters, comply with international guidelines on the crisis, as well as accessibility standards.
“We recommend ways that members of the Humanity & Inclusion team and their beneficiaries can protect themselves when they meet each other. This includes hand washing with soap, the use of hand sanitizing gel, social distancing, and in certain cases, wearing FFP2 masks in health facilities. We face the same problems as people everywhere. It will be just as difficult to get FFP2 masks as it is in Europe, perhaps more so. Other problems will probably include a spike in discrimination and violence based on disability, gender and age, but also towards groups like migrants, displaced people, asylum seekers, refugees and returnees,” Fanny adds.
Our teams will provide adapted messages to people with disabilities to ensure they have accurate, accessible information. Other messages are specifically targeted at caregivers. All of our messages will be conveyed in a way that ensures the target audience can receive the message.
Future actions: an emergency response adapted to COVID-19
Humanity & Inclusion’s Emergency Division has created a COVID-19 crisis emergency response framework that integrates the need to support pre-determined priority sectors for governments, communities, and individuals in the countries where we work. Where it is not possible to access populations, we will implement a specific response based on the media, digital resources, and internet sites.
“Emergency action includes the distribution of hygiene equipment and livelihood assistance. Atlas Logistics, Humanity & Inclusion’s logistics operations unit specialized in supply chains and logistics solutions for other humanitarian aid actors is ready to respond. Atlas Logistics can make its logistics platforms and expertise in analyzing access problems available to the humanitarian community,” says Fanny Mraz. “We should also provide close support to people with intellectual disabilities who can develop specific symptoms—severe stress and anxiety—in these situations. We will also keep a close eye on the stigmatization of people affected by COVID-19, particularly people with disabilities.”
Securing the resources for action
Our teams on the ground will require additional resources to combat the COVID-19 crisis. We will need financial support, along with special equipment which is currently in short supply around the world, and in short supply to our local teams.
We will do everything we can to protect as many people as possible and help break the spread of COVID-19. We are so grateful to our supporters for standing alongside us as we take on this challenge. But we will need your continued support.