The way our villages respond and deal with the COVID-19 crisis makes all the difference in saving lives, preserving economic well-being, and being a powerful role model to inspire others. As an organisation, we’re focused on continuing to support our community partners in their journey to end their own hunger and poverty, and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in their villages.
A pandemic such as COVID-19 has far reaching impacts - and the rural communities where we work to end hunger will not be spared. In fact, given the precariousness of life in some of these places, a virus such as this can wreak havoc on the progress that is being made to create self-reliant communities. The Hunger Project is focused on the steps that we can take to avoid that happening. Our priority is to ensure that we can continue supporting our partner communities in their journey towards ending hunger and poverty, and work together to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in their villages.
Fortunately, the very nature of our programmes which are delivered locally and in partnership with communities and local government has enabled us to rapidly respond to the current situation. We are confident that the women and men that we work with will lead their communities through this challenging time. We’ve seen it time after time - our communities are resilient and have the ability to mobilise in times of crisis. Here are some of the ways our community partners are responding.
As the COVID-19 situation evolves, plans on how we deliver services within the different Programme Countries in Africa will need to evolve with it. Our current focus is on educating our communities on safe practices to stop the spread of COVID-19. However we also want to continue our programmatic work where we can. Community-specific plans will be developed over the coming weeks in line with government regulations and restrictions.
In most of our epicenters, we have health centers which are run in conjunction with local government agencies, making access to health services more readily available. These health facilities are providing the most needed health support, including prevention messages, containment and treatment plans and preparation. Each health facility also has community health mobilisers/workers who work hand-in-hand with our health animators to disseminate information in the community.
Photo: Iganga Epicenter - some health acitivities such as vaccinations have shifted out to the communtiy hall to allow for more distancing between people.
In this time of social distancing, ministries of health are distributing posters and campaign messages through all their health system networks (including most of our epicenter health centers), and these posters and information are able to reach our rural communities. Having these health systems already in place at our epicenters brings these efforts to the most unreached person in our rural communities.
In some countries, our teams are leveraging local community radio and public address systems to disseminate information from the government. In Ghana and Senegal for example, Epicenter Program Officers are carrying out announcements and public education through the medium of community public address systems that are installed throughout the rural communities.
Photo: Credit recovery at Sam Contor Epicenter.
Our country teams are also working to ensure they have the updated telephone numbers of their animators across the different Epicenters, and are able to communicate to the Animators and send through any information and messages that are required to keep in direct contact with the different communities across the Region. Animators are in turn able to send updates on the situation to others in their local communities. Though, not everyone in African rural communities nor all of our animators have a cellphone, the capacity to own cell phones has improved, especially in most communities where we work.
Each epicenter area has Water, Sanitation and Hygiene volunteers, whose main role is to promote health and hygiene practices in their communities. The significance of the work they do is now even more evident and the delivery of their work has increased over the last few weeks given the COVID-19 crisis.
Photo:School students in Benin learning to use a Tippy Tap.
One key issue that The Hunger Project is monitoring closely is households on lockdown and considering whether they have the capacity to sustain themselves with their own foodstuffs. Our agriculture and food security program and our Microfinance Program have built the resilience of most of our community partners, who are empowered to self sustain their households during moments of lock down such as these but as this crisis unfolds we will have to continue to monitor people’s access to food.
Our programme work across Africa is strong and our country offices are set up to work remotely and to keep programme work moving forward as best they can during this time. Our links into the Region from a Global level continue and we are able to monitor the situation effectively.
The Hunger Project India has initiated an awareness campaign based on content from government awareness campaigns and WHO recommendations. Their commitment is to reach every person in the communities where we work and to connect with each of the Elected Women Representatives that we have trained.
They are connecting with the EWRs through WhatsApp, text and email and sharing with them messaging and myth-busting communications to ensure that the remote villages are receiving the up-to-date and most factual information possible.
The EWRs are stepping up to their leadership and playing a proactive role in ensuring that precise and factual information about COVID-19 is reaching everyone and that communities are coming together to understand the impact of COVID-19 and what they can do to prevent the spread of the disease. So far the work has reached in excess of 200,000 people in rural communities.
Photo: Somi Devi, Rajasthan, Elected Women Representative
Badiul Alam Majumdar, Vice President and Country Director of Bangladesh, immediately became involved with more than 63 other civil society leaders to advocate for government action in response to COVID-19. A social media campaign urging people to be aware, alert and responsible was started. At the village level, Village Development Teams - which include trained animators, women leaders, and other volunteers - and Self-help Groups that have formed throughout our SDG unions, are being used to share information about COVID-19 and ensure that everyone receives the latest factual information.
Our regional coordinators have been working on translating official information into their native language using video and social media because official Information is only coming to the communities in Spanish and in writing - and most of them can’t read.
We are working with other NGO’s to exchange best practice and strengthen municipal authorities in health issues, children and women issues, and exploring a joint effort to implement an economic reactivation fund with a community-led development approach.
How our villages respond and deal with this crisis makes all the difference in saving lives, preserving economic well-being, and being a powerful role model to inspire others. Like our community partners, we must be resilient in the face of this uncertainty. To overcome the unprecedented challenges facing our global community, it will require our collective action and call on all of us to step forward in our shared humanity.