COVID-19 has affected nearly every country in the world, and no community has been adequately prepared to deal with the pandemic. COVID-19, high rates of serious malnutrition, low access to basic WASH services, and weak health systems will become a deadly combination in many developing countries - the world must come together to help the most vulnerable.
Around the world, Action Against Hunger is scaling up to save lives: we are helping to control the spread of COVID-19, supporting health centers, raising awareness about how to prevent outbreaks, and providing badly-needed supplies that range from medicine to hygiene kits to PPE.
At the same time - with food prices rising and supply chains breaking - we know our work to fight hunger and save children’s lives is more important than ever. We’re doing everything we can to keep those programs going strong, even with lockdowns and travel restrictions in many communities where we work.
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 impacts; in East Africa, food insecurity could double in just the next three months.
Hunger doesn’t stop for a pandemic - and neither do we. Below, check out a snapshot of our work to fight hunger, save lives, and stop the spread of COVID-19 around the world.
In Somalia, Action Against Hunger is expanding our healthcare services to manage cases of COVID-19. With several private hospitals shutting down due to fears of the virus, we are ramping up support of health centers, treatment facilities, and isolation wards. In De Martini Hospital - the only currently operational quarantine hospital, we are providing medical supplies and equipment, including PPE and supporting frontline health staff with training and salaries.
As the number of cases climb, we are working to establish and operate new quarantine hospitals. Additionally, our teams support the government’s emergency operations with vehicles, emergency staff, and contact tracing in Mogadishu and are raising awareness about COVID-19 through mass media, text messages, and local radio stations.
Action Against Hunger’s teams in Colombia are distributing food and cash transfers to the country’s most vulnerable and most at risk of hunger. We are also providing water storage and treatment systems and prevention kits to families in need.
Our COVID-19 awareness campaigns are ongoing, and we continue to install handwashing sinks in public spaces. Our teams are particularly focused on helping Venezuelan migrants to ensure that, if a case of coronavirus is suspected or confirmed, they are able to safely isolate.
Racing against time! Today, it is our teams in Gambella Region, close to the borders with #SouthSoudan, playing messages on how to protect yourself from #COVID2019. Raising awareness in hard to reach areas in paramount. pic.twitter.com/pYYcGur8bD— Action Against Hunger in Ethiopia (@ACF_Ethiopia) April 9, 2020
In Ethiopia, Action Against Hunger supports six hospitals, 92 health centers, and 429 health posts across five regions. We are scaling up our operations to train health workers and other frontline staff to prevent and refer COVID-19 cases, support authorities to develop cleaning and disinfection protocols, secure and pre-position supplies, and promote sanitation and hygiene in public spaces and health centers.
Our teams also are ramping up to provide water, sanitation, and hygiene, 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 as you can see in the video above.
In Cox’s Bazar - the area of Bangladesh that hosts more than 850,000 displaced Rohingya - Action Against Hunger provides 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 to share information on infection prevention, handwashing, and other ways to stay healthy. 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 distributions to the most vulnerable families, and we have installed dozens of handwashing stations within refugee settlements.
Democratic Republic of Congo
To meet growing needs as COVID-19 spreads in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Action Against Hunger supports infection prevention and control activities in 65 health centers in the capital city of Kinshasa. We are 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 disease. For example, at food distributions like the one in the photo above, people waiting in line must stand six feet apart. Our teams are also spreading messages about COVID-19 and how to prevent its spread.
Communities in the world’s newest nation have faced crisis after crisis in recent years: conflict, drought, deadly flooding, and swarms of locusts have pushed nearly half the country into a severe food crisis. Now, with little resources and capacity, South Sudan braces for COVID-19.
Action Against Hunger’s teams - many of whom have extensive experience in dealing with Ebola, cholera, and other epidemics - are doing everything they can to prepare for and prevent a pandemic. Within communities, we are disseminating information about symptoms of COVID-19 and how to stay healthy through handwashing, social distancing, and other measures. We are also helping local health authorities with information on referral pathways, quarantining, and contact tracing.
Our health and nutrition centers - which, in some areas, are the only places to receive healthcare for hundreds of miles - are preparing to deal with potential cases of COVID-19 and installing new handwashing stations for staff, patients, and other visitors.
Action Against Hunger’s teams in India are providing hygiene and food kits to vulnerable families and PPE to frontline workers in Baran, Rajasthan, Jaipur, and Madhya Pradesh.
While under lockdown, our nutrition and health staff continue to provide counseling to vulnerable families through phone calls and text messages, helping to ensure that malnourished children continue to recover and that pregnant women and new mothers receive support.
For nearly a decade, Action Against Hunger has been leading the fight to eradicate cholera in northwestern 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.
Jordan has been under a strict national lockdown for several weeks - which means our teams have had to get creative in their work. Our staff have adapted face-to-face community awareness programs and 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.
All of Action Against Hunger’s staff in Cameroon have been trained on how to incorporate prevention measures and key information about COVID-19in communities as part of our existing programs. In the capital city of Yaoundé, we are providing technical assistance to the Ministry of Health to establish and carry out an efficient contact tracing system. Our newly-formed emergency unit - which includes thirty tracking agents - has deployed six teams of public health trackers to cover contact tracing needs of the city’s biggest health district.
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 COVID-19 virus could be catastrophic. With infrastructure collapsing and food, medicine, and fuel scarce, efforts to control and respond to COVID-19 outbreaks could be further exacerbated. Limited availability of testing kits makes it difficult to know how extensively the virus has spread in Yemen.
Action Against Hunger's teams in Yemen support health facilities and deliver water in some of the most vulnerable communities, provide cash assistance, deliver hygiene and disinfection kits, and host hygiene sessions to promote practices to prevent the spread of disease, especially in communities where access to water is limited.
In Northeast Nigeria, where conflict has left more than 7 million people in urgent need of aid, Action Against Hunger is training staff and communities on COVID-19 and working closely with the Ministry of Health. We are also strengthening our water, sanitation, and hygiene supplies, protocols, and activities within our health and nutrition centers. Additionally, working with the WHO and local journalists, we have held sessions to dispel myths about the pandemic.
Each month, with support of the US Government’s Food for Peace program, we provide cash transfers to displaced mothers in need, helping them buy necessities including food and medicine. April’s cash transfers were completed with disease protection measures in place, including appropriate distancing between people waiting, handwashing stations, disinfection equipment, and protection measures for staff.
The first COVID-19 cases appeared in Borno State in late April and the region since been locked down. Action Against Hunger has requested authorization from the government to continue our lifesaving activities, especially in displacement camps, where an epidemic would have disastrous consequences.
In Ivory Coast, Action Against Hunger adapted our existing programs to contribute to the national COVID-19 response, including providing support for infection prevention and control in health centers. We are raising awareness about the pandemic and training others to do the same, helping to spread the word about how to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Our teams continue to carry about sanitation and water drainage programs in Abidjan, the capital city, and we are training social workers and doctors on how to provide psychological first aid and psychosocial care for people affected by COVID-19.
Action Against Hunger’s staff in Iraq are primarily working from home due to a nationwide lockdown. They have taken to the phones: calling former and current participants in our food security and water, sanitation, and hygiene programs to raise awareness about COVID-19 prevention measures, to understand the needs of the most vulnerable families, and to offer psychosocial support. Additionally, in Mosul, our teams are distributing hygiene kits.
In Chad, Action Against Hunger’s teams are spreading the word about how to prevent COVID-19 in a variety of ways: sharing messages in health centers and in communities and tapping into community groups, radio channels, and local groups to reach more people. We are training community health workers in COVID-19 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 and days, our teams are planning to provide food assistance, strengthen health systems, install handwashing stations, train frontline health staff in diagnosis, and to distribute prevention kits in health centers.