Action Against Hunger has launched a COVID-19 Relief Fund to support its lifesaving work in more than 45 countries, including fragile parts of East Africa that are dealing with the impact of years of drought, followed by flooding, unprecedented swarms of locusts, and, in some places, armed conflict.
With the number of confirmed cases rising each day, Action Against Hunger is deeply concerned about the effect that COVID-19 will have on those already suffering from hunger and malnutrition. Globally, 821 million people are undernourished, including 50 million children, and undernutrition significantly weakens immune systems – making it harder to fight off and recover from infections and diseases.
As the pandemic spreads, we are particularly alarmed at the prospect of a COVID-19 outbreak in areas where social distancing is impossible, such as crowded city neighborhoods and refugee camps, and where access to healthcare and health facilities is hours away, such as remote areas of South Sudan and Somalia. Many public health measures to stop the spread of disease, including the promotion of hand-washing and other hygiene practices, are significantly hindered by lack of access to clean water and soap.
“Health systems in the areas where we work have made impressive strides in recent years, but they remain extremely fragile. COVID-19 could push us to a breaking point,” said Ahmed Khalif, Somalia Country Director for Action Against Hunger. “This crisis is a true test for humanitarians and what we stand for: it doesn’t give us the luxury of time to prepare and we must face it with what we have. For millions, that means no water, no soap, poor nutrition, poor shelter, and limited health care.”
To stop the spread of the coronavirus and save lives, our teams are working around the clock. We’re partnering with governments to set up COVID-19 quarantine facilities, rushing to procure medical supplies and equipment, strengthening the capacity of our staff and others, all while continuing to deliver lifesaving nutrition, food security, and water, sanitation, and hygiene programs. We are also educating people about the novel coronavirus and how to stop its spread via text messages, local radio stations, and community outreach. Funding is urgently needed to scale up this work to meet growing demands.
“People depend on us. We can’t halt our hunger prevention and treatment efforts because of the pandemic, so our staff are taking risks,” says Hajir Maalim, Action Against Hunger’s regional director for the Horn and Eastern Africa. “Even in the best of times, we don’t have enough funding or medical supplies.”
Action Against Hunger’s COVID-19 Relief Fund will help secure supplies, ramp up staff capacity, and strengthen local health systems.
“This is testing our collective values,” said Action Against Hunger CEO Dr. Charles Owubah. “Helping each other is a moral obligation. It’s also in our own self-interest. The best way to suppress a global pandemic is through a truly global response.”
“Now more than ever, we need to maintain and expand programs that promote sustainable livelihoods and help prevent people from slipping deeper into hunger and poverty,” said Dr. Owubah. “As the world feels significant pandemic-related economic shocks, the people we serve will be most at risk – they already are.”