COVID-19 emergency

A woman in Honduras wearing a face mask

Vulnerable families across the world are at risk from the coronavirus pandemic

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Right now, millions of lives are at stake as COVID-19 hits refugee camps and war-torn countries like Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, Somalia, and the DRC.

For people living in places like the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, the spread of COVID-19 could have devastating consequences. Weak health systems, combined with other risks such as malnutrition, overcrowded living conditions and lack of access to water and washing facilities, mean the impact could be catastrophic.

We need your help today to stop an outbreak – and save lives – in some of the world’s most vulnerable places, before it’s too late.

We’ve already reached many thousands of vulnerable families by providing them with hygiene kits so they can stay clean and healthy. We’ve increased distribution of water and food as well as raising hygiene awareness and building handwashing stations.

CARE teams around the world are working tirelessly to prevent the disease reaching the most vulnerable people. But for many millions of people living in some of the world’s poorest communities, the real crisis is just beginning.

You could send a lifeline to families at risk. Please donate now.

People wearing masks at a food distribution in Honduras
People wearing masks at a CARE emergency food distribution in Honduras

Working with communities

CARE’s previous responses to infectious disease, such as the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa and the DRC, centred on bolstering community mobilisation activities to raise public awareness and promote safe health and hygiene behaviours. In our Ebola response we were able to engage effectively thanks to our existing community ties in countries heavily affected by the outbreak. Our response to COVID-19 similarly builds on close cooperation with community members.

Supporting women and girls

There’s no question that women are on the frontlines of the response to COVID-19, increasing their risk of contracting the virus:

  • Women as caregivers: women are the most frequent carers in families and face additional burdens caring for the sick when healthcare systems are overwhelmed, and for children when schools are closed.
  • Women as healthcare workers: about 70% of health and social workers worldwide – the backbone of an infectious disease response – are women.
  • Women as breadwinners: women are often the primary income earners for their families – and in smallholder farming communities, women often do most of the work growing crops. When they fall ill, food production can be severely impacted.

In addition, our experience providing humanitarian assistance to people affected by disasters and crises shows that women and girls face increased threats of gender-based violence during a crisis, and disruptions to crucial sexual and reproductive healthcare if healthcare resources are stretched during epidemics and pandemics.

Girl in Yemen learning proper handwashing technique
CARE community health volunteer teaching a young girl in Yemen how to wash her hands thoroughly. “Before, I wasn’t washing my hands correctly,” she says. “After CARE awareness, I wash them correctly and I have started to teach my friends.”

CARE’s response

CARE is currently responding to the COVID-19 emergency in 67 countries. We have directly helped 16 million people across 62 countries – and have also reached an estimated 178 million people through mass media messaging.

Infographic of people helped by CARE coronavirus response

People helped so far include:

  • 8.8 million people with health/hygiene messaging through direct communications involving a 2-way dialogue such as community workshops, door-to-door, or government or other service providers
  • 2.4 million people provided with increased access to safe water
  • 1.5 million people provided with hygiene kits
  • 1.5 million people provided with additional food assistance to cushion the impact of the COVID-19 crisis
  • 441,000 people provided with cash or voucher assistance to cushion the impact of COVID-19
  • 1.3 million people provided with updated information on gender-based violence prevention and support services
  • 1.4 million people receiving sexual and reproductive health services
  • 81,000 people trained in infection prevention and control
  • 23,000 handwashing stations installed (with soap and water)
  • 1,925 health facilities supported to provide health services, including sexual and reproductive health services
  • 8 countries supporting community-based surveillance/contact tracing

In addition, in 61 countries CARE has completed (44 countries) or is undertaking a national or regional Rapid Gender Analysis to identify the differing impacts and needs of women, girls, men, and boys. 91% of CARE countries responding to COVID-19 are fully focused on gender-based violence or are mainstreaming GBV prevention and support into other areas of their response. Nearly three in every five (58%) of countries are partnering with women-led or women-focused local partner organisations in their response.

Examples of CARE’s response include:

  • West Africa: women-led village savings groups (VSLAs) and youth groups set up by CARE are playing a key role in prevention and awareness raising activities in their communities, including organising production of PPE (personal protective equipment) materials, hand-washing devices and soaps locally.
  • Kenya: in Dadaab, we are incorporating COVID—19 prevention measures in our food distributions; providing extra soap and water to refugees, and supporting handwashing in market and health facilities in the area; engaging in messaging through radio and posters in conjunction with other partners. We also helped to set up the quarantine facilities for the three refugee camps.
  • Somalia: risk communication and awareness videos produced in the Somali language are being shown to the public. Messages on COVID-19 have also been sent out country-wide as direct messages and ringtones for local calls provided by the major telephone operators in the country. A short advert with key messages of COVID-19 prevention and detection is being aired in four local TV stations while 44 large bill boards with the same message have been installed in 18 major towns in the country. 
  • Zimbabwe: CARE has provided training on minimising COVID-19 transmission to local leaders (chiefs, headmen, councillors) and to frontline health workers (nurses and village health workers).
  • India: a digital information management system developed by CARE team members has been adopted by a state government and they are using it in their COVID-19 response. CARE India is also the first agency providing nutrition and hygiene support during the pandemic for persons living with HIV.
  • Iraq: In Sinjar, maternity units supported by CARE are continuing to provide critical healthcare and guidance for pregnant mothers and their babies at a time when curfews, lockdowns and movement restrictions are enforced. These services are highly valued by the communities.
  • Indonesia: Distribution of information materials and water tank installation in traditional markets and temporary shelters in 8 arid-land villages that have limited existing facilities and are particularly under-served by other providers.
  • Sudan: Since the beginning of the COVID-19 response, most people were not keen on following prevention and safety measures. The efforts of the CARE team in awareness-raising activities have helped in creating a visible change in people’s behaviours and practices – using face masks, maintaining social distances and supporting hand washing practices.
  • Read more about what CARE is doing to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Your support right now will help us to:

  • distribute soap and other essential hygiene items to vulnerable communities, particularly in refugee camps and settlements
  • install handwashing stations in refugee settlements and at schools, markets, and other public places
  • increase water supply in water-scarce areas to enable handwashing and household hygiene, for example through emergency water trucking and distribution of water storage containers
  • ensure proper handwashing and sanitation knowledge reaches children, teachers, and community leaders
  • carry out targeted hygiene promotion and education, specifically focusing on transmission risks and prevention of COVID-19
  • support community-based surveillance to track infection and minimise the impact of the coronavirus
  • help people get access to health care
  • provide cash, voucher or food support to help people whose livelihoods are affected by the pandemic
  • provide prevention, support and access to gender-based violence services

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Page updated 28 July 2020; impact figures as of 17 July 2020