Crisis watch

The explosion in Beirut has caused massive destruction to buildings and infrastructure, as well as destroying crucial food supplies stored at the port
3 April 2020

COVID-19: Northwest Syria

CARE Turkey, along with three of its partner organisations, has conducted a rapid WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) assessment in 78 IDP (internally displaced people) sites across Northwest Syria. Key findings include:

  • Adequate access to sanitation facilities is available at only 10% of the assessed locations. 45% of sites do not have any latrines. For the 55% of sites with latrines, average is 240 individuals per latrine.
  • The assessed IDP sites are critically lacking access to clean water, handwashing facilities and soap. Only 37% of the sites have sufficient and regular access to water supplies. As many as 83% of the sites have no access to handwashing facilities. A catastrophic 91% do not have access to soap.
  • Very limited, if any, WASH support has reached the assessed locations. Only 44% of the sites report having received hygiene items in the past 2 months.

Tue Jakobsen, Assistant Country Director – Humanitarian, CARE Turkey, says:

The displacement of close to one million people since December 2019 has resulted in a very high number of IDP-sites being set up by families on the move. These are informal sites and many of them do not have the most basic services or infrastructure available. Other sites have grown significantly as new arrivals have settled next to existing camp-like facilities.

Increasingly, reports from the areas have highlighted massive gaps in WASH services across these sites. In particular, the lack of safe sanitation facilities has been reported as a protection concern for girls and women.

The outbreak of COVID-19 globally has increased the urgency to address the gaps in these services. The lack of access to clean water, handwashing facilities and soap would undermine any initiative to prevent large-scale outbreaks in Northwest Syria.

Together with partners, CARE will be responding in some of these sites but urges all humanitarian agencies to prioritize them.

2 April 2020

COVID-19: Asia update

In Nepal, an initial analysis by CARE has shown that women and girls are more likely to be vulnerable to ill health, abuse or violence, school drop-out and/or loss of income or indebtedness during the outbreak, as a consequence of the existing gender inequalities and 'second-class' status of women.

Needs will continue to evolve and be increasingly complicated by the dynamics caused by the pandemic. Restrictions on movement and social distancing mean some CARE programmes are being partially suspended; where possible CARE staff are focusing on awareness raising, for example in Bangladesh through distribution of leaflets and posters.

In Bihar province in India, CARE staff have been declared essential service providers and exempted from lockdown restrictions in that province. CARE staff in Bihar are working in district control rooms, supporting the government of Bihar with procurement and logistics plans (notably supporting procurement of PPEs), setting up and cleaning isolation centres, contact tracing and monitoring, strengthening health care delivery systems and scaling up testing infrastructure.

1 April 2020

COVID-19 in Latin America

Around 50% of the population in Latin America is involved in informal work, and the economic impacts of the COVID-19 lockdowns are likely to be absolutely devastating on a large portion of the population. This is particularly worrying across Central America where millions of people are already suffering from food insecurity. Maite Matheu, Country Director CARE Honduras, says:

The country has been on lock down for the last 10 days, so the impact to the economy is one of the main concerns right now. In Honduras, 70 % of the population works in the informal sector and lives on a day by day wage. This is also leading to increased social tensions that are arising because of the situation, with media reporting protests in the street requesting food.

The other concern for us and other humanitarian actors in Honduras is related to the food security situation. Even before COVID-19 the country was already suffering from a food crisis, with 1.2 million people in a suffering from food insecurity.

The nearly 5 million Venezuelans displaced across the region are also at particularly high risk, both for catching the virus, as many are living together in crowded and sub-standard accommodation, and also from the economic implications and loss of income as the vast majority are engaged in informal jobs such as street vending. Marten Mylius, CARE Colombia Country Director, says:

Our partners on the border are telling us that this is a ticking time bomb; as it is impossible to practice social distancing in this kind of environment.

Many Venezuelan refugees have been depending on informal labour, and they are now not able to earn an income. We are hearing stories of children and pregnant women going for days without food. The economic impact on the most vulnerable sections of society, such as the Venezuelan refugees, and the lack of programmes to address that situation will be huge. This is what CARE is working with partners to address.

Alexandra Moncada, CARE Ecuador Country Director, says:

CARE is shifting all its programming in country in light of this outbreak. I am extremely proud of our team who have already been working very hard providing food and hygiene kits. From this week we are also starting psychosocial virtual support for people that are living with COVID-19.

30 March 2020

COVID-19 global emergency

An analysis by CARE has shown the world’s ‘highest risk’ countries – including countries in the midst of conflict or with a high level of food insecurity – face a greater risk from epidemics such as COVID-19, but also have less capacity to cope, than the world’s lowest risk countries. Sally Austin, CARE International’s Head of Emergency Operations, said:

While even wealthy and better prepared nations are struggling to cope at this time, the impact on the countries highlighted in this analysis shows how people living in insecure environments, with extremely weak health infrastructure, are going to be far worse off.

In Northwest Syria, for example, where there is no functioning government and the health system has been destroyed over the past nine years, a COVID-19 outbreak "will cause mayhem", says Tue Jakobsen, CARE Turkey’s Assistant Country Director – Humanitarian:

Hundreds of thousands of people are not able to do basic preventative measures, such as wash their hands. With no testing capacity, it is highly likely that the virus has been spreading around without our knowledge, so we might be weeks behind in our response.

As well as scaling up our activities to ensure that clear guidance on risk, prevention and awareness of symptoms is available in the communities where we work, and scaling up water supply activities to facilitate good personal and household hygiene, CARE is calling on national governments to ensure humanitarians are seen as essential workers and supported to have unimpeded access to continue to deliver lifesaving assistance to already highly vulnerable communities.

27 March 2020

Asia-Pacific COVID-19 update

Asia Pacific countries are experiencing a ‘second wave’ of outbreaks, with tightened border controls, restricted movement and many nationwide lockdowns. All countries where CARE is operating have domestic travel and country entry restrictions in place.

Afghanistan has seen an increase in cases as thousands of Afghans return from Iran; Bangladesh has seen its first case in the Rohingya refugee settlements in Cox’s Bazar; Nepal is under lockdown until 31 March; Pakistan has imposed travel restrictions; the Philippines has implemented a nationwide curfew. Some ongoing programmes have been temporarily paused in accordance with government directives and CARE country programmes are finalising contingency planning and response plans.

For example, in the Philippines, CARE has distributed flyers and put up community banners with COVID-19 preparedness and mitigation messages in the local languages; these are strategically placed at high-risk operational areas e.g.  evacuation centres as well as urban and rural poor settlements where population density is high, with minimal health services. A full response strategy has been developed targeting internally displaced people, host communities, and people currently targeted by existing CARE programmes, and including (dependent on funding availability): i) Risk communication and community engagement, ii) Community-based surveillance, iii) Handwashing, iv) Provision of WASH and personal protective equipment to vulnerable communities and local health personnel partners, and v) Cash support for vulnerable people.