Humanity & Inclusion’s teams are making changes to the way they work and assisting at-risk populations in response to the global spread of COVID-19. This will include providing local people with accessible, stay healthy messages, and offering access to physical therapists via WhatsApp. Our emergency rehabilitation expert Pauline Falipou explains:
“We are particularly concerned about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the most vulnerable people in the countries where we work—Africa, Central and South America, and Asia. We are making changes to our working practices in order to continue providing rehabilitation care, for example, where health conditions allow.
We are going to make sure that our physical therapists can continue their work organizing rehabilitation sessions for people who need them in countries where the virus ha yet to have a major impact. Our physical therapists will also pass on key messages about health and hygiene measures, such as hand washing, social distancing, etc. As they are in direct contact with the most vulnerable people, they are on the front line—the best place to convey this sort of information.
In addition, we are setting up a program of rehabilitation videos that patients can watch so that they can continue doing their rehabilitation exercises at home. They can also talk to their HI physical therapist via WhatsApp.
We also want to make sure patients who have had surgery or who have been infected with the coronavirus, and need to get back on their feet, are able to benefit from rehabilitation sessions in hospitals where hygiene guidelines are followed.
More broadly, we are very concerned about the impact of the economic crisis COVID-19 is likely to cause, particularly on the health care system and the ability of the most vulnerable people to access rehabilitation services.”
Humanity & Inclusion’s teams are assessing its scope for action and plans to use its expertise in emergency situations, working with and for people with disabilities and older people, and its experience of past epidemic situations to protect the most vulnerable.
The COVID-19—or coronavirus—epidemic is spreading at a rapid rate in all of the countries where Humanity & Inclusion works. Some countries are reporting their first cases, while others have already experienced an exponential rise in the number of cases and deaths. The spread of the coronavirus threatens to cause major health disasters where we work.
A unique expertise to fight the virus
Humanity & Inclusion remains committed to helping those most in need by continuing to assist its beneficiaries wherever possible, without exposing our teams to danger. We are also preparing to adapt our response in the field. We plan to use our expertise in major epidemic situations to help people, particularly those exposed to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
History of action against epidemics
In our 38 years, we have responded to other major epidemics, in order to prevent their spread and to protect local communities.
In 2016, in Sierra Leone, our teams worked to contain the spread of Ebola. As part of our response, our logistics experts managed the country’s only centralized ambulance service to transport patients who were suspected to be infected and disinfected their homes. The ambulance service played a very important role in breaking the chain of transmission. We did this work in a district of Sierra Leone, including the capital Freetown.
Our teams also helped prevent cholera epidemics in Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake and in 2010 after severe floods in Pakistan. We did social mobilization work and led awareness-raising activities. We also organized informational sessions for vulnerable individuals.
Determining our scope of action
Humanity & Inclusion’s experts are examining how best to respond to the current, unprecedented crisis, and how to adapt its resources to this response. We plan to work within the COVID-19 response strategies implemented by national authorities in the countries in question, and by all actors involved in pandemic response.
Protecting the most vulnerable from COVID-19
One of our main priorities will be to take into account the needs of vulnerable individuals. This includes people with disabilities, older individuals, and also people living very close to refugee camps who are particularly at risk of rapid spread.
Weak health systems combined with humanitarian crises increase the vulnerability of people living in the world’s poorest countries. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres sounded the alarm on March 19, when he spoke of the threat posed to the poorest countries faced with the spread of the epidemic. As 15% – 20% of patients on average require hospital care, and 6% intensive care, health systems in these countries will be unable to cope with the crisis alone.
Ensuring accessible messaging & an inclusive response
Humanity & Inclusion will take part in prevention actions and ensure awareness messages are adapted and inclusive for people with disabilities and the most vulnerable. To start, we published a repository of resources on disability inclusion and COVID-19 as a member of the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC) and the CORE Group Disability Inclusive Health Technical Advisory Group.
We also plan to provide support to our local partners, such as Organizations for People with Disabilities (OPDs or DPOs), and local authorities.
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.
Photo caption: Humanity & Inclusion staff evaluate people who were injured in the 2015 Nepal earthquake.
Although Europe is now the epicenter of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, the virus continues to spill across continents and countries, causing widespread disarray. The number of affected people increases daily by the thousands. Given this unprecedented and dramatic situation, Humanity & Inclusion is taking special measures to protect its teams, maintain its operational capabilities, and continue assisting the most vulnerable.
Informed & engaged teams
Our top priority is the health of our staff and beneficiaries. We’re doing everything we can to provide our teams with information on the protection and health measures to take and implement to protect themselves and the community from the virus. Worldwide, our teams continue their efforts where possible, mainly through teleworking. Our goal is to remain operational in aid of beneficiaries in the 60 countries where we have field teams.
Our beneficiaries: the most vulnerable
The pandemic is growing in most of our program countries. The people we assist every day--people with disabilities, people with injuries, refugees and displaced people—have the right to the same protections and precautions. The most vulnerable of the vulnerable, our beneficiaries already experience poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. At this stage, the dire situation facing Western countries may prove disastrous for people living in some countries where we work, and more specifically for the very individuals we assist. The goal is to provide them with more support than ever.
Assessing how best to assist the most vulnerable
Our teams are drawing up activity continuity plans to continue our essential work in changing circumstances. The organization is putting arrangements in place to adapt its action to developments in the pandemic and provide an operational response, while assisting in the general effort to combat the coronavirus.
Photo caption: Claudia, a field coordinator with Humanity & Inclusion, who is wearing a tan vest with an HI logo, walks toward a family of refugees in Uganda. The photo was originally taken in 2017.