COVID-19: Field updates from our partners

The COVID-19 contagion is having unprecedented impacts on our human family.

In many parts of the Global South, the pandemic is stretching already meagre resources and exacerbating the problems caused by poverty, hunger, climate change and political instability. Yet, societies are also responding with remarkable solidarity, resourcefulness and resilience.

This newsfeed provides updates on how Development and Peace’s partners are helping vulnerable communities around the world cope with the coronavirus crisis.

 

Reaching and protecting the poorest and most marginalized communities in Haiti

The measures put in place in Haiti to stem the spread of COVID-19 seem to be effective at the moment (as of August 7th, there were 7,544 recorded cases and 171 deaths), but the country’s sanitation systems remain extremely weak. There is little infrastructure for proper sanitation and those that exist are not well-equipped. Even under normal circumstances, the systems in place aren’t sufficient to respond to the needs of the population. As such, natiowide actions are needed to raise awareness, mobilize people, put in place preventative measures and ensure medical care. 

Development and Peace has contributed $50,000 to its partner Caritas Haiti so that it can support the Haitian state’s provision of healthcare services. Thanks to its well-developed network of parish committees, Caritas Haiti can accompany rural and isolated communities in their fight against the pandemic. Specifically, the project aims to reinforce the capacity of communities and Caritas healthcare professionals in identifying and isolating possible cases, in following the evolution of the pandemic and proposing ways to curb it from spreading and to raise awareness on prevention in communities. 

Efforts will be mainly focused on reaching and protecting the poorest and most marginalized communities, such as families already involved in development projects, those who are incarcerated and women. Over 48,500 Haitians will benefit from the project, including 7,500 families who will receive hygiene and prevention kits. Particular attention will be given to raising awareness amongst women at high risk of contracting the virus, such as those known as “Madan Sara,” who work daily selling produce and other wares in the markets.

 

 

In Madagascar, the pandemic is deepening food insecurity

In Madagascar, the pandemic is exacerbating an already precarious situation. As of July 31st, over 10,000 COVID-19 cases were recorded in the country. This is a worrisome progression in a country where sanitation facilities are lacking and the testing capacity is limited. As early as March, many began to flee the capital city of Anatanarivo for their villages or agricultural areas due to fears related to the virus and a steep rise in the cost of food.

The social and economic consequences of the health crisis are palpable. In a country where it is estimated that 75% of the population live on less than $1.90 per day (World Bank, 2019) and the growth of 50% of children under the age of 5 is stunted, there are growing concerns of a social crisis triggered by food shortages. 

In response to this deepening food insecurity, we are providing $35,000 from our COVID-19 Solidarity Fund to our partner the Social Pastoral Commission of the Diocese of Tsiroanomandidy to purchase, stock and sell rice for paddies. The project complements ongoing work with peasant groups in the isolated area of Melaky to mitigate food insecurity and build up a food aid fund that is managed by the peasants and whose purpose is to help ride out poor crops due to climate change or disease. The project will help support 1,600 people through the pandemic. 

 Madagascar

Violence against women: Afghanistan’s other epidemic

Afghanistan’s coronavirus infection rates rose in May as migrants returned from Iran and families travelled internally for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. By July 20, there were over 35,000 COVID-19 cases in Afghanistan. The government is now rigorously enforcing a lockdown that was previously being ignored.
 
The lockdown is curbing COVID-19 but exacerbating a social epidemic. Well before the pandemic struck, 87.2 per cent of Afghan women were experiencing violence*. With close family often being the perpetrators, Afghan women, like women everywhere, are at greater risk for violence during confinement. At a time when most public and philanthropic resources are diverted to healthcare, our partner, Medica Afghanistan, is receiving over 100 calls a day from distressed women.
 
To address their growing needs, Development and Peace has allocated $60,000 from its COVID-19 Solidarity Fund to Medica Afghanistan for a project that will empower, advocate for and support 510 female survivors of violence in Herat province. By involving their families, police officers, prosecutors and lawmakers, the project will sensitize and educate hundreds of others.
 
Over the coming year, Medica Afghanistan will:
  • Provide psychosocial counselling to women and girls affected by sexual and gender-based violence
  • Create peer support groups so that women can help one another cope with stress and trauma
  • Offer legal aid to victims; inform them of their rights; help them with court cases; and facilitate their safe reintegration into their families
  • Advocate for laws on the right to compensation of women victims of violence by:
    • Constituting a working committee of representatives from civil society, the ministry of justice and Afghanistan’s human rights commission and bar association to draft right-to-compensation legislation
    • Reviewing other countries’ right-to-compensation laws and recommending ways to adapt them to the Afghan context
    • Conducting a workshop with 25-30 key officials and stakeholders to refine the draft legislation before submitting it to government 


Nijhowne, D., & Oates, L. (2008). Living with violence: A National Report on domestic abuse in Afghanistan. Global Rights.

Denouncing despotism in Honduras

In Honduras, where there have been 1,270 confirmed cases of and 93 deaths due to COVID-19, the government has declared a state of emergency and most economic activity has ground to a halt. Instead of serving exclusively as a means of containing the pandemic, however, the lockdown has begun being used to sinister and nefarious ends.

Development and Peace’s partner, the Honduran Centre for the Promotion of Community Development (CEHPRODEC), promotes food sovereignty, sustainable agriculture and human rights in the poorest rural regions of the country. Alarmed at how the pandemic is impacting upon its work and that of other rights and solidarity organizations, CEHPRODEC has issued a dauntless and definitive denunciation of recent government actions.

CEHPRODEC’s open letter is a clarion call for the fairer distribution of state aid; for an end to the intimidation of human rights defenders; for improved access to justice; and for closer monitoring of the treatment of environmental and rights defenders at the hands of state security forces.

For details, see the original Spanish text of CEHPRODEC’s open letter or read its machine-generated English translation.

An environmental defence committee inspired by Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudato Si’, meets in Gualaco in the Honduran department of Olancho.

Doubly defenceless: COVID-19 strikes communities already reeling from mining in Peru

In early April, Development and Peace’s partner, Centro Labor, launched its United Against the Coronavirus solidarity campaign in the Pasco region of central Peru.

In this region, where mining has a long colonial and corporate history, many communities are deeply affected by the extractive industries’ activities. Chronic pollution has caused families to suffer from astonishingly high levels of heavy metals in their blood streams. This toxicity has weakened their immune systems, making them more vulnerable to COVID-19.

To help them weather the pandemic, Centro Labor has quickly adapted its activities and is now distributing food to the poorest and most affected families in Pasco. These distribution drives are also being used as avenues to disseminate information about essential preventive and protective measures including quarantining, physical distancing handwashing and wearing masks.

This campaign is possible thanks to your donations to Development and Peace, which allow our partners to continue their activities and adapt in these times of pandemic.

Battling disease and denial in Brazil

After dismissing COVID-19 as “a little flu” and sacking his dissenting health minister, President Jair Bolsonaro joined street demonstrations against lockdowns aimed at containing the pandemic. Meanwhile, more than 40,000 Brazilians have contracted the disease and over 2,500 have died from it, accounting for over half of South America’s COVID-19 death toll.

Worryingly, the pandemic has reached remote populations whose vulnerabilities are intensified by poverty and deficient healthcare. At least one death has been reported among the Mura of Manaus, an Indigenous community at the focus of our For our Common Home campaign.

Piquiá de Baixo perfectly illustrates how the pandemic exacerbates existing crises. Already suffering decades of industrial pollution, the Maranhão community was struck by torrential rains last month, which breached a local dam, destroyed houses and displaced hundreds of people.

Observing physical distancing and donning protective gear, small teams from our partner, Justiça nos Trilhos, are helping rebuild homes and educating the community about COVID-19 and hygiene. An expert is also visiting weekly to provide psychosocial support.

Across Brazil, our various grassroots partners are:

  • Working from home and only meeting online as far as possible
  • Observing strict hygiene and distancing protocols when in-person contact is unavoidable
  • Conducting public education using posters, social media and podcasts
  • Countering misinformation from government and corporate sources
  • Campaigning for better healthcare, social services and lockdown measures for Indigenous communities
  • Supporting the anti-pandemic efforts of local governments that are acting more responsibly than the centre
  • Calling for a moratorium on mining, logging and industrial agriculture in protected areas and Indigenous communities

Taking precautionary action in Bangladesh

COVID-19, which has already infected 88 people and killed eight in Bangladesh, poses a serious risk to the country’s million or so Rohingya refugees and their host communities.
To prepare people for the pandemic, our partner, Caritas Bangladesh has distributed 114,080 leaflets and 400 posters containing government- and WHO-issued health and safety information to 225,000 people. It has also:

  • Furnished its offices with hygiene supplies
  • Released emergency funds to local offices
  • Formed national, regional and local coronavirus vigilance committees
  • Cancelled most meetings, gatherings and travel
  • Ordered staff returning from overseas to self-isolate
  • Instituted work-from-home regimes
  • Provided centralized information and support resources to staff
  • Reorganized rotas to minimize fieldwork

In Cox’s Bazar, Caritas Bangladesh has had to suspend almost all activities in refugee camps until at least April 14. Soap and water for handwashing have been provided at camp entrances. Small work teams trained in safety procedures are continuing to distribute monsoon-proofing kits and supervise basic infrastructure upkeep and upgrading with due regard to physical distancing.

Development and Peace's partners in Haiti preparing to respond

As soon as the first coronavirus tests came back positive in Haiti, Development and Peace's partners took steps to reduce human contact. Most are continuing some activities in their areas of intervention, with certain restrictions, of course. Emmanuel Noël, Development and Peace’s project oversight officer in Haiti, offers an overview of our partners’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more.

Preparing for the pandemic in Somalia

On March 16, 2020, Somalia’s health ministry identified the country’s first COVID-19 case in the capital, Mogadishu. International flights were soon suspended and, as was being done in several countries, Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire announced the closure of educational institutions and the cancellation of public events and gatherings.

In the Gedo region, our partner, Trocaire, quickly put in place measures to protect local communities from the coronavirus, while maintaining essential healthcare; food and water; sanitation and hygiene; and public protection services.

Standards-compliant isolation facilities are being prepared and essential facilities have been secured for staff and patients. Working with the national ministry of health, the World Health Organization and other local partners, Trocaire has trained more than 60 community influencers to promote good hygiene practices in communities.

Providing frontline healthcare in Lebanon

In Lebanon, where a financial crisis has constrained healthcare capacity and where multigenerational family structures and a large refugee population make physical distancing difficult, COVID-19 poses a grave threat. The pandemic has already affected 248 people and claimed four lives. 
 
Development and Peace’s partner, Caritas Lebanon, is actively monitoring the situation and collaborating with the World Health Organization and the health ministry. Three of its staff members have received COVID-19 safety training and are imparting these skills to others. 
 
Caritas Lebanon’s health centres have implemented protocols for identifying and isolating people presenting with COVID-19 symptoms; using personal protective equipment; and disinfecting spaces. Staff are trained in respiratory hygiene, handwashing and social distancing and have access to an internal helpline. Following strict safety measures, an emergency response unit is distributing food kits to communities affected by COVID-19.