COVID-19: Five things we can do to help in developing countries
Apr 17, 2020
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.
3. Empower local women leaders
Women are and will be the front line leaders in this fight. Why? Because in communities around the world, women are the glue. They care for their children and often their ageing family members, they manage the household, support each other, and their farming or businesses ensure their family are able to eat. We have learned to put women at the centre of creating change, and it’s so important that we continue to do so as we take on this challenge.
In Sri Lanka, women business owners are coming together to devote their time and resources to prevent the spread of coronavirus. An owner of a baby’s clothing store coordinated an effort with other women entrepreneurs to produce reusable face masks for the government to deliver free of charge to people in remote areas. These women are not only helping to combat the virus, but also keep their staff—many of them women—working.
4. Fight misinformation
The Ebola and Zika battles taught us that community trust can make the difference between life and death. Social media can be an important route to information and how-to videos; it can also be a source of misinformation and dangerous theories. CARE and our partners are mobilizing community volunteers in places like Nigeria, Haiti, and Nepal to go door-to-door with important facts and guidance to help prevent, respond to, and diminish outbreaks. We’re also translating World Health Organization (WHO) guidance into local languages—and supplementing written materials with radio and social media posts.
5. Lend a hand, raise your voice
Preventing the impending tidal wave of COVID-19 will take all of us working together. It will take everyone following guidelines for their own health and safety to stop the spread. It will take our collective voices to push for prevention and response in development and humanitarian settings. And it will take financial support from individuals, foundations, and corporations—many of whom are already answering the call. CARE and many other organizations are working with trusted partners on the ground to assess what is needed at the country and community level, and tailoring programs to those needs.
We are all part of one global community and when we come together, we have the most powerful impact. Together we can act now, protect each other and save lives.