COVID-19 has affected nearly every country in the world, and no community has been prepared to deal with the pandemic. Coronavirus, high rates of serious malnutrition, low access to basic water, sanitation and hygiene services, and weak health systems are a deadly combination in many developing countries.
Around the world, we’re responding to this pandemic, supporting health centres, raising awareness about how to prevent outbreaks, and providing essential supplies ranging from medicine and hygiene kits to personal protective equipment.
We’re also committed to continuing our fight against hunger, so we’re keeping our programs running through this new crisis. Even with travel restrictions and lockdowns, we’re in some of the hardest to reach places ensuring children and their families receive the vital care they need.
According to the United Nations, the number of people globally suffering from acute food shortages could nearly double in the next year due to COVID-19 and its economic impact. In East Africa, food insecurity could double in just the next three months.
Here’s how we’re responding to the COVID-19 crisis all around the world.
In Cox’s Bazar – the area of Bangladesh that hosts more than 850,000 displaced Rohingya – we provide essential nutrition and mental health services. With crowded conditions and poor access to water and safe sanitation, a serious outbreak of COVID-19 could be devastating.
Our teams are working hard to share information on infection prevention, good hygiene and sanitation practices. In our nutrition and health facilities, we are training staff in infection prevention and control measures and attempting to reduce crowds. We’re also expanding access to safe water, proper waste management, and soap supplies in health facilities, collective shelters, and in communities.
Working with a team of psychologists and local partners, we provide telephone follow-up to manage cases of COVID-19 and to provide psychosocial support. Our teams are also going door-to-door to distribute food to the most vulnerable families. We have also installed dozens of handwashing stations within refugee settlements.
In Yemen, only about a half of the country’s health facilities are operational and two-thirds of the population have no access to basic healthcare. The potential spread of the coronavirus could be catastrophic for health and for food security. Limited availability of testing kits makes it difficult to know how extensively the virus has spread in Yemen.
Our teams in the country are supporting health facilities by delivering water in some of the most vulnerable communities, creating safe cash transfer zones, delivering hygiene and disinfection kits, and hosting hygiene sessions to promote practices to prevent the spread of disease, especially in communities where access to water is limited.
For nearly a decade, we have been leading the fight to eradicate cholera in north-western Haiti – today, those same teams are helping to control the spread of COVID-19. With UNICEF, we are scaling up our work to prevent COVID-19 and rolling out emergency responses in the North-West and Artibonite regions of the country.
Additionally, we plan to scale up our food security and livelihoods programs to help families most in need. Following years of political unrest, Haiti already faced high rates of hunger and malnutrition prior to the pandemic, and this new global economic crisis could further devastate the most vulnerable communities.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
To meet growing needs as COVID-19 spreads in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), we’re supporting infection prevention and control activities in 65 health centres in the capital city of Kinshasa. We’re strengthening access to clean water, waste management, as well as training caregivers on prevention and disinfecting the premises.
Our staff have been trained to fight the virus, and all of our emergency projects in DRC have integrated new protocols to keep communities safe from the disease, including introducing social distancing measures. Our teams are also spreading messages about the coronavirus and how to prevent its spread.
In Ethiopia, we are supporting health facilities across the region. We’re scaling up our operations to train health workers and other frontline staff to prevent and refer COVID-19 cases and supporting authorities to develop cleaning and disinfection protocols, and promote sanitation and hygiene in public spaces and health centres.
Our teams also are also providing psychosocial support and nutrition programs in smaller cities and displacement camps. As the dry season begins, we are increasing distributions of soap and water purification tablets, trucking water to communities with limited access, and running information campaigns on how to prevent the spread of disease.
Our teams in India are providing hygiene and food kits to vulnerable families and personal protective equipment to frontline workers in Baran, Rajasthan, Jaipur, and Madhya Pradesh.
Our teams are providing psychological support to vulnerable communities in villages we cannot safely reach during the lockdown, through phone calls and text messages. Our nutrition and health staff also continue to provide counselling to families in the same way, helping to ensure that malnourished children continue to recover, and that pregnant women and new mothers receive the support they need during these challenging times.
Jordan has been under a strict national lockdown for several weeks – which means our teams have had to adapt their services. Face-to-face community awareness programs have been replaced by phone calls, and our teams are now reaching out to Syrian refugees and vulnerable Jordanians over the phone to share messages about COVID-19, and how to prevent its spread.
Additionally, we will be distributing hygiene kits within refugee camps that will include cleaning gel, bleach, liquid disinfectant, cotton cleaning cloths, and plastic jugs, as well as equipment to clean communal latrines.
Our staff in Iraq are primarily working from home due to a nationwide lockdown. They have adapted their services, using phone calls to contact former and current participants in our food security and water, sanitation, and hygiene programs. The purpose of these phone calls is to raise awareness about COVID-19 prevention measures, to understand the needs of the most vulnerable families, and to offer psychosocial support. Our teams are also distributing hygiene kits in Mosul.
In Chad, our teams are spreading the word about how to prevent COVID-19 in a variety of ways. We’re sharing messages in health centres and in communities through community groups, radio channels, and local groups to reach even more people. We’re training community health workers to deal with the new virus, and how to talk about the pandemic with the people they serve.
Additionally, we are distributing hygiene kits, mats, and mosquito nets in border regions and holding hygiene education sessions. In the coming weeks, our teams are planning to provide food assistance, strengthen health systems, install handwashing stations, train frontline health staff in diagnosis, and distribute prevention kits in health centres.
In Pakistan, our teams are working hard to ensure that vital feeding programs for malnourished children will continue during the lockdown. Our healthcare providers have the necessary personal protective equipment and are maintaining strict hygiene routines. We’re organizing sessions with partners on the correct use of protective equipment and on infection prevention and control measures. In the Sindh region, nutritional stabilization centres and outpatient therapeutic centres remain active. We want to ensure that our work in communities does not contribute to the spread of the disease, while providing safe health services. Public health in the country is our top priority.
We are closely monitoring the developments of the pandemic in the countries where we work. Following guidance from our experts, we’re putting in place measures to help these countries reduce the spread of the virus. We’re also continuing with our fight against hunger, because hunger doesn’t stop for a pandemic.
Now more than ever, we must come together to respond to this new crisis as a global community.
Help us scale up to stop the spread and save lives.