Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic is taking a terrible toll: lives are being lost and families devastated; there is increasing job insecurity and anxiety about the future. As the crisis continues, we take a look at how it is is affecting partners we work with and what we are doing to support them.
In the UK, a survey by the Office of National Statistics reports that 4 in 5 adults feel worried about the effect coronavirus is having on their lives, with over half saying it is affecting their wellbeing. The survey also reports that over three quarters of people describe staying in touch remotely with friends and family as the most important factor helping them to cope.
But what if that lifeline was taken away? What if internet connectivity was poor or non-existent, or phone credit was prohibitively expensive? And what if obtaining food and basic medical supplies was more difficult than having to queue at the supermarket and keep two metres apart from your fellow shoppers?
Through our conversations with partners, we are beginning to understand how COVID-19 is affecting people living and working in very different contexts around the world. While the disease itself is the same wherever you are, its impact is not. The people and organisations we support are reporting a range of impacts on their lives, their families and their work.
All our partners, wherever they are based, have the same priority: to protect themselves, their families, friends and colleagues and, where they can, to help protect their communities. We share this priority with them and we are busy exploring what we can do to help keep them and their local communities safe.
In many places, basic protective equipment is difficult or impossible to come by, but the absence of vital health information available to the public also poses a significant challenge. Much of the work we support is led by people deeply embedded in their communities, in areas where access to public health information can be patchy. Many of our partners have strong voices in civil society, so are well placed to fill critical information gaps for local people in their area. Others already have a significant role in healthcare provision, for example, Fundaeco in Guatemala, which runs health clinics in the Western Highlands around its amphibian reserves, or Dynamique des Groupes des Peuples Autochtones, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which instigated construction of a public health facility in Mai Ndombé province, with funding support from Synchronicity Earth.
To support these efforts, we have provided a checklist for partners, detailing up-to-date information on protective measures such as social distancing, sanitation and self isolation. In the DRC, our partners CFLEDD (Coalition of Women Leaders for Environment and Sustainable Development), Mbou Mon Tour, Land is Life and Reseau CREF are all helping to raise awareness about the virus, and the kind of health precautions people should take. This is particularly important for groups who may be marginalised and live in remote locations, for example, Pygmy communities in Mai Ndombé province, as the health impacts on these groups are potentially devastating.
Some of our partners are also distributing supplies and protective equipment to help members of the community stay safe.
In Papua New Guinea, our partner Bismarck Ramu Group (BRG) is disseminating information and resources to help local people protect themselves against COVID-19. BRG staff have told us that there is a high level of confusion and misinformation about the virus, so they are using their netw