Humanity & Inclusion is working to reduce the impact of Covid-19 in Laos and recently published a survey on the obstacles people with disabilities face to receive vaccines.
Humanity & Inclusion teams interviewed 100 people with disabilities by telephone throughout May and June 2021. The survey participants live in the capital city of Vientiane within the Xamnua or Kaison districts.
“Our current projects show that people with disabilities always find it harder to access care,” says Pilar Duat Llorens, director of Humanity & Inclusion’s programs in the region. “As the survey we conducted in Laos a few months ago revealed, access to Covid-19 vaccination programs is no exception.”
Among those interviewed, the survey revealed that:
- Only 19% are vaccinated
- 61% are worried by the unknown effects of the vaccine and feel they lack information how it may impact underlying medical conditions
- 43% do not have enough information on where and how to be vaccinated
- 55% say that if they had more information, they would be more motivated to get vaccinated
- 73% say the biggest obstacles to vaccination are long lines and no priority lane for people with disabilities
- Between 56% and 85% say they would get vaccinated if they had the opportunity to do so
Reducing the pandemic's impact
In the first six months of 2021, Humanity & Inclusion’s teams in Laos:
- Raised the awareness of 1,287 people, including 110 people with disabilities, on Covid-19 risks by displaying posters, organizing workshops and training sessions, and relaying prevention messages in the media and on social media in 21 villages in Houamoung
- Distributed 1,466 protection kits containing thermometers, masks, face shields and protective suits in Savannakhet
- Handed out 365 kits containing awareness-raising posters in Savannakhet, Houaphan and Houamoung
- Repaired and maintained seven ambulances belonging to Vientiane Rescue 1623
- Transported 460 Covid-19 patients in Vientiane
- Adapted two of Humanity & Inclusion’s vehicles to transport Covid-19 patients in Houaphan
“As a humanitarian organization, we need to help reduce the impact of Covid-19 in the countries where we work,” Duat Llorens explains.
Protecting people with disabilities
People with disabilities have been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, especially since the virus has the potential to impact pre-existing conditions. Physical obstacles and discriminatory behavior can also limit access to high-demand public services.
“The pandemic affects everyone, but people with special needs are even more vulnerable,” Duat Llorens says. “Many easy and reasonable adjustments can be made so everyone is included in the fight against Covid-19.”
“The people organizing Covid-19 vaccination programs need to ensure everyone is included,” she adds. “It is important to adapt communication campaigns by making new formats available and translating messages into sign language, for example. We also need to transport vulnerable individuals and provide appropriate support to people with special needs if they have to wait in line.”
As the pandemic continues, Humanity & Inclusion is working alongside communities to meet their needs and promote prevention and public health measures.
In Uganda, Humanity & Inclusion is part of a joint project implemented by seven non-government organizations in the Impavi, Omugo and Ofua settlements. The project to contain Covid-19 has already reached 60,000 people.
Health conditions are improving in Uganda, which recorded a steep drop in Covid-19 cases following a lockdown between June and July and an ongoing curfew. However, the vaccination rate remains low. Only 9% of people have had two doses of the vaccine.
Promoting public health measures
Working alongside health staff and communities, Humanity & Inclusion is helping counter the direct and indirect impact of Covid-19 by:
- Promoting inclusive communication of public health messages, such as translating information into sign language
- Producing six Covid-19 awareness radio segments
- Helping 200 health facilities, organizations run by and for people with disabilities, and local communities identify and support particularly at-risk populations, including aging and sick people
- Implementing hygiene training
- Evaluating staffing and equipment needs in five health centers
Ensuring equal access to essential services
Humanity & Inclusion is making it easier for people to access humanitarian aid and employment to curb the economic effects of the pandemic. Its actions include:
- Providing cash grants for people to access essential services such as food, medicine and housing
- Helping people access temporary work so they can receive food aid and to promote economic growth
- Supplying 200 telephones to enable electronic fund transfers in areas with stable cell service
- Training communities to prevent violence and abuse by establishing a free helpline, suggestions box and report desk
- Forming and training community boards to record and address reports of violence and abuse
As emergency teams respond to the recent earthquake in the southwest, Humanity & Inclusion continues to help Haitians face the Covid-19 pandemic.
Humanity & Inclusion and its local partners— Pain Without Borders, Together For A Better Future In Haiti, National Association Network for the Integration of People with Disabilities and Haiti Rehabilitation Foundation—reached more than 10,000 people as part of its “Tackling Covid-19” project which ran from August 2020 through June 2021. With funding from the Belgian Development Cooperation, Humanity & Inclusion is continuing its Covid-19 response in north and northeast Haiti throughout 2021.
During the 10-month project, hygiene kits containing soap, buckets with taps for hand-washing, hand sanitizer and other items were distributed to 1,400 families. Teams also shared information protection measures to prevent the virus from spreading.
Families also received a $150 cash transfer to spend as needed to afford food, medical care or other necessities.
Through the project, more than 3,500 people received rehabilitation care. Among them, 286 patients participated in respiratory therapy, a form of physical therapy that frees up the respiratory passages, strengthens breathing muscles and improves ventilation to better move oxygen through the body. Humanity & Inclusion and its partners trained 40 rehabilitation professionals in respiratory therapy to treat patients with future respiratory infections.
Mental health support
Since the beginning of the pandemic, mental health has been a major challenge. Confinement and inactivity during the lockdown, for example, have increased anxiety and distress of individuals and families who fear for their health and future.
Humanity & Inclusion and its partners provided communities and medical staff with information on mental health issues, a field that is underrepresented in Haiti. Some 2,000 patients and caregivers took part in awareness sessions and learned about the role of psychologists and psychiatrists, psychological distress, and psychological care management and its importance. Teams published informational videos in French on Creole on Facebook, reaching more than 120,000 people, and answered community questions ranging from “What is an emergency service?” to “What are the signs of psychological distress?”
More than 400 health professionals attended trainings to better meet the psychosocial needs of the community. The specialists learned how to listen attentively to patients without forcing them to speak, how to comfort them, and how to guide families to sources of information and refer them to the services and social support they need.
Teams offered psychological support to 270 patients and caregivers. An additional 130 patients participated in group therapy, enabling them to talk about their experiences. A helpline funded by the project offered emergency support and reassurance to 2,300 people in distress. When necessary, some participants were referred to a psychologist.
Vaccination is key to tackle the Covid-19 crisis, which has seen 170 million people infected worldwide. Humanity & Inclusion deplores the unequal access to vaccine between rich and low-income countries, and promotes universal and equitable access to the Covid-19 vaccine.
More than 82% of the world’s vaccine doses have gone to affluent countries. Just 0.3% have gone to low-income countries, according to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
Federal governments should meet their commitment to the global collaboration — launched by WHO and partners in late April 2020 — to accelerate the development, production and equitable access to Covid-19 tests, treatments and vaccines. Countries should donate a portion of their own vaccine supplies to help rectify inequity in global distribution between richer and poorer countries.
Prioritizing people with disabilities
People with disabilities — who represent 15% of the global population — are particularly at-risk of Covid-19 and face significant barriers in accessing health information and services. 80% of people with disabilities in the world live in poverty, and they are often isolated or rejected by their communities.
In many countries, people with disabilities cannot access health facilities because of inaccessible buildings, unavailable medical equipment, high costs, inaccessible transport to and from the health facilities and other barriers.
Some people with disabilities face challenges in learning about the pandemic because public health information is rarely adapted and accessible. For example, a radio awareness campaign will not be accessible for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. People who are blind or living with low vision will not be able to access information in brochures written in inaccessible formats.
The roll-out of vaccine campaigns, related planning and policy-making, should be organized with the involvement of people with disabilities and their representative organizations to ensure vaccination campaigns are inclusive and accessible.
Humanity & Inclusion's Covid-19 pandemic response
Since March 2020, Humanity & Inclusion teams have adapted their activities to the Covid-19 health crisis, supporting 2.2 million people in 46 countries. That work includes:
- Risk awareness and prevention education sessions that have reached 1.6 million people
- Distribution of 138,000 hygiene kits and 800,000 masks
- Food assistance to nearly 7,000 people
- Psychosocial support for 225,000 people
- Transportation of 4,000 m3 of emergency material
Image: An outreach officer uses an awareness image box on Covid-19 in Bangui, Central African Republic, November 19, 2020. As part of the activities of the Synergies project, people with disabilities have been informed about the virus and preventative measures by their peers through the network of organizations of people with disabilities. Copyright: A. Surprenant/HI
The Covid-19 pandemic has plunged Nepal into a public health disaster. One of the poorest nations in Asia, it does not have the resources to cope. Humanity & Inclusion is ready to assist the most vulnerable people.
As the international community focuses its attention on India, a similar crisis is unfolding in neighboring Nepal. Public hospitals are overwhelmed. In Nepal's capital of Kathmandu, the best private hospitals are turning away patients for lack of beds, supplies, and equipment. Patients are dying at home and outside hospitals as they await admission. In rural areas, where there are no hospitals, people are dying at home without ever being diagnosed or treated.
Nearly 50% of Covid-19 tests are coming back positive as cases continue to rise above 455,000, with more than 5,000 Covid-19-related deaths reported. Experts predict 40,000 deaths by the beginning of July, a projected per-capital toll worse than any other country in South or Southeast Asia. Only 1.27% of the country's nearly 30 million residents are fully vaccinated.
The surge of patients coming to health facilities has increased the demand for medical oxygen, ventilators, test kits, and personal protective equipment (PPE) for front line workers, with most facilities facing a critical shortage of supplies, as well as sickness and deaths of medical staff and patients.
Vulnerable people more at risk
“Imagine what this sort of crisis means for older people and people with disabilities, who are more likely to get infected and suffer more severe symptoms and complications from Covid-19," says Reiza Dejito, Humanity & Inclusion's director for Nepal. “It impacts them in two ways because they find it difficult to move or find help. Strict lockdown measures also very often result in a loss of income and limited access to health and social welfare services. Vulnerable people are therefore more at risk.”
Need for accessible information
As the pandemic worsens, needs are growing. The lack of accessible and accurate information for families means people are unaware of Covid-19 risks and the need to protect themselves, get tested and vaccinated. People living in rural areas and urban slums do not have access to clean water, soap or masks. Mental health risks are also very high. The crisis, illness, death and isolation have increased the vulnerability of the population as a whole.
During the first wave of Covid-19 in 2020, Humanity & Inclusion provided more than 15,000 families—or nearly 90,000 people—in Nepal with support. In response to this latest wave, Humanity & Inclusion again plans to improve access to communication by developing and sharing information on Covid-19 risks, prevention and response. This will include information in accessible formats such as Braille, and the use of local languages.
Teams also plan to distribute hygiene kits and promote hygiene practices to new isolation and quarantine facilities, isolated communities, and vulnerable individuals. Humanity & Inclusion plans to distribute food and provide care to older people, people suffering chronic diseases, pregnant people, people with disabilities, and others. Teams are also expected to provide mental health and psychosocial support to assist frontline healthcare workers, people with disabilities, vulnerable people and their families. Humanity & Inclusion is referring at-risk people to services provided by government agencies and partners, and may help them get to and from health facilities for testing, treatment and vaccinations.
Humanity & Inclusion's Covid-19 response
Humanity & Inclusion teams around the world have been responding to the Covid-19 pandemic since March 2020. Donors helped launch more than 170 Covid-19 projects in dozens of countries to protect and care for the people that others overlook. Between March and August 2020, staff have reached 2.2 million people with care and aid to keep Covid-19 at bay.
Image: Rajina, a physical therapist for Humanity & Inclusion, provides instructions on different exercises to a rehabilitation patient in Nepal in June 2020. Copyright: HI Archives
Madagascans with disabilities are highly vulnerability to the pandemic. Humanity & Inclusion has adapted many of its projects in Madagascar to assist them.
The Covid-19 pandemic has not spared the people of Madagascar. The country has gone into lockdown several times since March 2020, when the government declared a national health emergency.
“It's important to help people with disabilities and all of the beneficiaries of Humanity & Inclusion's projects get through this unprecedented health, social and economic crisis," explains Emilie Sauvanet, Humanity & Inclusion's program director in Madagascar. "Our teams have revised each of their projects and the way activities interact with each other in order to get as close as possible to the people we assist."
One of those people is Offrancia, who has had epilepsy since she was 10. Humanity & Inclusion began working with Offrancia, now 38, in 2019, providing personalized social support for Offrancia to receive medical care, financial assistance to secure the future of her medical treatment, and psychosocial assistance.
As a small business owner, Offrancia faced an economic crisis when Covid-19 hit. Humanity & Inclusion provided Offrancia and her family hygiene and protection kits and shared information on the virus and how to prevent its spread. Like 335 other families, Offrancia's family also received two cash transfers of 100,000 Ariary, the local currency – equivalent to approximately $25 – to help make ends meet.
"Part of the money was very useful to buy food, and medicine for my treatment, and I diversified my merchandise stock with the rest," explains Offrancia, who has since reopened her business.
Humanity & Inclusion has also trained 33 people from disability advocacy organizations to help inform people with disabilities on ways to protect themselves during the pandemic. So far, they have made at-home visits to more than 1,000 vulnerable families in the Atsinanana and Analanjirofo regions.
Onisoa, a sign language interpreter and trainer at an inclusive school in Atsinanana, is among those conducting at-home visits.
"Awareness-raising is a particularly effective way to reach the most vulnerable families, including the families of people with disabilities," says Onisoa. "This method allows us to talk with their relatives or guardians, to understand their living conditions, and to provide them with advice on personal protective measures. Some visits take longer, especially for people with sensory disabilities. But we're convinced we're on the right track."
Norbertin, a father of two, works on Onisoa's team. “Although I am visually impaired, I am healthy and I want to help my fellow citizens by ensuring they take Covid-19 seriously,” he says.
Header image: A woman stands over a table of produce at her small business in Madagascar. She is wearing a mask.
Inline image: A woman speaks with a group of four people who sit on the grass. She is sharing information about Covid-19. They are all wearing masks.
Aid groups warn G20 leaders must act to prevent humanitarian catastrophe in wake of Covid-19 economic recession
Ahead of the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Saudi Arabia on November 21, 11 aid organizations are calling for early action to prevent soaring rates of hunger and malnutrition resulting from the pandemic-related global economic recession.
“We are seeing spiraling levels of poverty and hunger among refugees and conflict-affected people. Hundreds of thousands still risk being kicked out of their homes, and millions are skipping meals and dropping out of school. The economic impacts of Covid-19 are having a devastating effect on the world’s most vulnerable. G20 leaders have the opportunity and means to address this growing crisis. They must take it,” said Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council.
The World Bank estimates that up to 150 million people may be pushed into extreme poverty by 2021. In June, the International Rescue Committee calculated that the anticipated economic contraction could push 54 million more people in developing countries into hunger; October’s downgraded global GDP forecast puts that estimate at 91 million.
Displaced and conflict-affected communities are particularly vulnerable. In recent research by the Norwegian Refugee Council across 14 crisis-affected countries, 77 per cent of survey respondents stated that they had lost a job or income from work since the pandemic broke out, resulting in 73 per cent cutting the number of household meals. The World Food Programme recently warned of the increased risk of famine in four countries, citing the impacts of Covid-19 as one contributing factor.
“The G20 has pledged to do ‘whatever it takes’ to support the global economy during this period of emergency. This must include increased financial support to refugees and displaced people, and action to avert food crises. So far, the G20 has failed to make anything close to the commitments required,” said Jean-Michel Grand, Executive Director of Action Against Hunger UK.
The UN’s Covid-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan for 2020 remains only 38 per cent funded as of the middle of November 2020. Commitments to offer swift support for the poorest through safety nets and cash transfer programs have not been met. The World Bank itself has called for “much more broad-based international action”.
“Early and sustained action by the G20 will not only save the lives and livelihoods of millions, but will prevent the crisis from worsening and build on past development investments made by G20 members,” said David Miliband, CEO and President of the International Rescue Committee. “This must be on the agenda for all G20 members at the upcoming summit.”
“Humanity and Inclusion works with long-term Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan," said Anne Héry, Director of Advocacy and Institutional relations. "Since the COVID-19 restrictions, many have lost their jobs and the income that allowed them to buy basic goods and food. We see many parents reducing their consumption of food in order to spare a meal for their children. But in many cases, the whole family is impacted. Malnutrition can have a serious impact on a child’s development. For an adult, it makes them weaker and more prone to disease. There are around 80 million refugees and displaced persons around the world. They are already vulnerable as they have often lost everything – their homes, jobs, close ones... For them, the consequences of the COVID-19 restrictions could be particularly devastating.”
G20 leaders should:
- Update the G20 Covid-19 Action plan to address the high risks of food insecurity and malnutrition in fragile and conflict-affected states;
- Agree to expand inclusive social protection in fragile and conflict-affected states, and coordinate with humanitarian cash providers to reach those at risk of exclusion, including directing multilateral development banks towards this end; and
- Commit to fully fund the UN’s Covid-19 aid appeals and all UN led Humanitarian Response Plans for both 2020 and 2021. This funding should be fully flexible to allow organizations to adapt and respond to the crisis, and stay and deliver where this is most needed.
Action Against Hunger UK
Care International UK
Federation Handicap International - Humanity & Inclusion
International Rescue Committee
Norwegian Refugee Council
Save the Children
Notes to editors
Reports referenced in this press release can be viewed below:
- Downward Spiral: the economic impact of Covid-19 on refugees and displaced people, by the Norwegian Refugee Council.
- The cost of living: Covid-19 humanitarian cash transfers to prevent hunger and hardship, by the International Rescue Committee.
Humanity & Inclusion has adapted its activities to the Covid-19 pandemic in Nepal, where more than 202,000 people have contracted the coronavirus (as of Nov. 11, 2020)Read more
As part of its response to the Covid-19 crisis, Humanity & Inclusion is providing support to Venezuelan refugees in Colombia, where one million people have been infected by the virus. The impact of the epidemic has been dramatic.
Covid-19 has struck more than 980,000 people in Colombia. Many older people fear starvation or serious illness in a country where little or no provision is made for social assistance, pensions, and other welfare benefits. In recent months, the lockdown has seriously impacted the four million Venezuelans living in Colombia, who can no longer earn a living from the informal economy. In Colombia, the severe economic crisis caused by the epidemic has increased the precariousness of Venezuelan refugees who have lost their jobs and homes, and are unable to access food, drinking water, electricity, and the like.
The security situation is also extremely tense: “Armed groups have used the lockdown to tighten their grip over certain territories where the authorities have a weak hold," says Debir Valdelamar, Deputy Project Manager for Humanity & Inclusion in Colombia. "They have cast themselves as ‘Covid crisis controllers', sowing terror, asserting their authority, imposing curfews, carrying out attacks against people who meet without authorization, and so on."
Humanity & Inclusion has assisted Venezuelan refugees since April 2019, and adapted its response to the pandemic. With support from ECHO, the organization is currently allocating financial support on a six-month basis to more than 200 Venezuelan refugee families identified as highly vulnerable. Most use the money to pay for rent, food or healthcare.
Humanity & Inclusion has also handed out food and hygiene kits containing soap, hand sanitizer, and other items to help keep the virus at bay. Teams have conducted awareness sessions on Covid-19, which included 12 videos translated into Venezuelan and Colombian sign language, and a prevention guide, to inform the most vulnerable individuals on prevention measures, and Covid symptoms.
“The first lockdown in Colombia was national. Regional authorities now decide on local prevention measures, which vary from one department to another," explains Valdelamar. "Many indigenous communities are still in full lockdown, or can no longer work or earn money, so our food distributions are extremely welcome. In November, we plan to distribute food and hygiene kits to 3,000 families."
Humanity & Inclusion also continues to provide psychological support and rehabilitation care to mine victims in the departments of Cauca, Meta, Antioquia, Caqueta, and Nariño.
Snapshot of Humanity & Inclusion's response in Colombia since March 2020
- In April 2020, Humanity & Inclusion distributed 80 food kits, one per family, to people living in the departments of Cauca and Nariño, and more than 200 hygiene kits.
- Humanity & Inclusion has trained members of national NGOs to include people with disabilities in their projects.
- Teams have conducted awareness sessions on Covid-19, which included 12 videos translated into Venezuelan and Colombian sign language and a prevention guide to inform the most vulnerable on prevention measures, Covid symptoms, and so on. (Ongoing)
- Humanity & Inclusion has also provided remote psychological support to more than 150 Venezuelan refugees in the Maicao refugee center in northern Colombia, and to people arriving in the cities of Bogota, Medellín, and Baranquilla. Humanity & Inclusion psychologists held WhatsApp sessions with those who needed them.
- Lastly, Humanity & Inclusion has also enabled 112 Venezuelan refugee families identified by a "vulnerability" survey to benefit from a small, one-off cash transfer.
- We also organized a series of virtual conferences on psychological first aid for carers and family members of people with disabilities.
Photo caption: Migrant Reception Center, Maicao, northern Colombia.
© Coalición LACRMD
Humanity & Inclusion’s teams and the disability self-help group visited the most isolated families in the Umpiem Mai refugee camp in Thailand to give individuals information on the threat from COVID-19 and how they can protect themselves from it.
Ma Yin Maung, 37, who has an intellectual disability was initially very worried about the epidemic: "I didn't even dare leave my home to buy food,” she says. “I was scared and couldn't get straightforward information about it.”
The information she received from Humanity & Inclusion’s teams reassured her immediately. Our teams also gave her a hygiene kit with two masks, soap, and small posters about the virus.
“After Humanity & Inclusion’s information session, I felt confident enough to walk around the camp wearing a mask and buy items I need every day. HI also gave me a prevention kit, which is extremely useful for me and my family," she adds.
Focus on the most vulnerable
As COVID-19 takes aim at our planet's most vulnerable neighbors, Humanity & Inclusion donors ensure that people with disabilities, people with injuries from conflict, children, women, and especially older people have the information--and even the soap--they need to stay healthy. Learn more about Humanity & Inclusion's vast COVID-19 response.