Caring in times of COVID-19 (I)

31 Jul 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic erupted with tremendous speed. Right from the very beginning we felt compelled to engage and contribute to the global coronavirus relief effort to the best of our abilities. Here’s what happened (Part I).

The COVID-19 pandemic erupted and unfolded with tremendous speed, triggering a massive spike in uncertainty that now surrounds almost every aspect of our lives from health to society and the economy.

Right from the very beginning, when the scale and implications of the crisis were only just emerging, we felt compelled to engage and contribute to the global coronavirus relief effort to the best of our abilities. So we put on our masks, intensified our listening and acted promptly on what we learnt. Here’s what happened.

Caring For Our Communities

Our focus on the most vulnerable didn’t shift, it broadened.

For the first time in our history, we took action to support our own local communities – the places where we live, work and breathe – providing immediate assistance in countries normally well equipped to face emergencies and save lives.

To maximise the impact, we started with a deep analysis of the frontline organisations that have a history of delivering strong results locally or globally.

Médecins sans Frontières, one of our long-term partners, was acting promptly in Italy, France, Belgium, Spain, Switzerland and Greece. Responding to disease outbreaks is in their DNA. Faced with the pandemic, they were early in assisting authorities with infection prevention and control, and with the treatment of COVID-19 patients, focusing on the most vulnerable: nursing home residents, the homeless, migrants, asylum seekers and detainees. We therefore provided them with our immediate support as an organisation that was already active precisely where the needs were greatest.

As it became clear the pandemic was more than a global health crisis and that the lockdowns were causing massive disruption to livelihoods and children’s education, we selected three organisations in North America to fund the provision not only of health, but also family and remote learning support:

  • The Visiting Nurse Service of New York, whose teams care for patients in the home and community, helping alleviate the pressure on New York hospitals.
  • The Harlem Children’s Zone, which provides a wide range of services, including food security, housing resources and emergency financial support for families. HCZ has since been chosen as one of 2020’s Audacious Project grantees for the replication of their comprehensive approach in six new American cities.
  • The Keep Kids Learning Program launched by DonorsChoose, which supported state school teachers and students as they transitioned to home learning.

In Latin America, we were looking for an organisation with the logistics capabilities to provide prompt humanitarian relief in Mexico, Brazil and Columbia in particular. This led us to select TECHO, which is mobilising a network of over 2,000 community leaders to help the most vulnerable families gain access to food and other basic necessities so they can stay safe and healthy.

People with disabilities are among the most vulnerable population, especially in a pandemic like COVID-19 where for one they have an increased risk of contracting the virus as they are not always able to fully implement the required self-protection and hygiene measures. In Indonesia CBM provides disability inclusive humanitarian relief to ensure that no one is left behind. We are supporting them to disseminate coronavirus-specific information (such as special TV and radio ads, sign language interpretation, brochures in Braille, training on how to disinfect wheelchairs, and so on), maintain the continuity of health care services, and support the most vulnerable households through the provision of medicine,  hygiene kits and cash assistance.

In Thailand we’re focusing on the extremely exposed population living in crowded environments like construction camps or urban slums, where migrants comprise over 80% of the workforce. The Baan Dek Foundation works to mitigate the vulnerabilities of these marginalised communities, providing children and their families not only with hygiene products and cleaning supplies, but also with urgent food provisions and housing support (rent, utility bills) due to the significant employment loss.

In the Philippines we’re contributing to the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation’s efforts to provide much needed medical equipment for healthcare workers in hospitals in Metro Manila and Cebu City and in rural health facilities in Lanao Del Sur.