Short window for international community and donors to respond to COVID-19 Pandemic in most vulnerable countries before it’s too late, says CARE
London, March 19, 2020 - 159 countries are affected by the COVID-Pandemic as of March 19 with the window for preparing the world’s most vulnerable countries for the pandemic quickly closing due to global restrictions. As the world faces the unprecedented challenge, the international aid organization CARE commits to adapting its programming and where possible scaling up its work. This will focus mainly on support for clean water and sanitation services in countries with weak infrastructure.
Sally Austin, CARE International’s Head of Emergency Operations, said:
At the moment, the global aid community is not prepared for a major outbreak of COVID-19 in our most precarious humanitarian crises. This is the reality we need to face and do what we can to support immediately. Now is the time to show solidarity with countries yet to be critically affected and that have insufficient health services to cope with an outbreak of COVID-19. We are calling on international donors to coordinate more closely and make their funding flexible so we can help the world’s most vulnerable people before it is too late.
Wendy Barron, CARE Iraq’s Country Director, said:
In Iraq, many donors have continuously reduced their emergency funding. In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, CARE is one of only a few remaining aid organizations delivering water and sanitation services to camps and local communities We could scale this up if the health security situation permits, but there is simply not enough funding.
Access problems for aid workers are worsening the already tense situation in many contexts: Sally Austin added:
For months we have been facing serious access issues in some of the humanitarian hotspots such as Yemen, Syria or Iraq. If COVID-19 spreads in those hard-to-reach places, the consequences could be devastating. People here are already weakened by months and years of violence, lack of health services and malnourishment.
To help contain the pandemic, personal hygiene such as handwashing, disinfecting surfaces and using clean water to drink and cook is crucial. But while populations in developed countries are in quarantine for the most part they have tap water and soap to use, the situation looks vastly different in many parts of the world.
But the COVID-19 epidemic doesn’t simply pose a big threat to conflict hotspots as mentioned above. Austin added:
We are also tremendously worried about big refugee camps such as in Bangladesh or Kenya and not least for local communities in regions that have suffered from chronic poverty and poor health, from Niger to Laos to Papua New Guinea. I’ve worked on many emergencies in the past 20 years but the scale and speed of the COVID-19 pandemic really is unprecedented. We need to be very cautious not to lose sight of the most vulnerable populations.
CARE is working in 23 countries to increasing water and sanitation support, 14 country teams are scaling up health and reproductive health services and a further 19 countries are working on needs such as income, shelter and education. In other countries, programmes have been forced to close as national lockdowns are imposed; which is likely to have a devastating impact on the most vulnerable communities in the days and weeks to come.
We have a limited period of time in which to act and continue programming before the situation gets really bad and COVID-19 related travel restrictions stop our work. We are already seeing this scenario playing out in many of the most vulnerable countries where we work – it is crucial we act now, before it is too late.