CARE is no stranger to deadly diseases. We’ve worked to contain Ebola, cholera and Zika outbreaks—all in the world’s most vulnerable places, in conflict situations and those impacted by the effects of climate change, natural disasters and in communities already struggling to feed their families just to get by.
From our 75 years of experience in emergency response, we’ve learned a lot that can be applied to the COVID-19 pandemic that is affecting each and every one of us around the world today.
1. Make sure everyone can access the basics
Here in Canada, we are reminded daily (if not hourly), of the importance of properly washing our hands. But what about the millions around the world where water itself is scarce, let alone soap or cleaning products? In places like Mozambique, Bangladesh, Somalia, and Syria, CARE and our partners are providing soap, installing hand washing stations, and building water storage tanks.
Most importantly, we’re engaging women in the communities where we work, as they often lead the way in ensuring their families and communities are cared for.
2. Strengthen basic health infrastructure
As we see COVID-19 overwhelming health care facilities in countries with strong health systems, imagine what it will do in places with just as many (or more) people with minimal to no resources. This means far fewer doctors and nurses, fewer and less adequate health care facilities and less access to necessary supplies. It can be overwhelming to think about. But there are ways to help make the health care clinics, and hospitals that are available, serve patients as effectively as possible. In places like South Sudan and Ethiopia, CARE is helping to strengthen existing health care infrastructure by having tools and supplies available in advance and reinforcing proper sanitation processes to minimize infection.
As we saw during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, a pandemic can take an extremely heavy toll on the health care workforce when front line workers don’t have the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need or aren’t trained on proper protective protocols. Protecting our front line staff is hugely important. CARE is organizing sessions for health care workers directly involved in coronavirus preparedness to help build their capacity to prevent and respond to the virus in the West Bank and Gaza. This includes doctors, nurses, and community health workers, as well as custodians on general hygiene measures.