COVID-19 is impacting OLAM’s +50 Jewish and Israeli partner organizations that work year-round to support some of the most vulnerable communities worldwide. Over the past few weeks, we’ve heard about the multiple challenges they face and how they are adapting to provide emergency response. We’ve learned about how the pandemic poses a significant threat to the populations they serve and how it could affect those communities in the long term. Here are a few insights we’re hearing from the field:
THE VIRUS IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD
COVID-19 is not the only disaster vulnerable communities face. Poverty, hunger, lack of access to clean water and hygiene supplies, and weak healthcare systems are part of the daily lives of these populations. Because of existing vulnerabilities, they will potentially be among the hardest hit by the pandemic.
Our partners need to balance needs related to COVID-19 with other pressing needs. They need to find a way to save lives in the short term because of the virus and in the long term because of the anticipated impacts of the virus on already vulnerable populations.
INCREASED ECONOMIC STRUGGLES
COVID-19 will most likely have a significant economic impact on the communities our partners serve.
Many people living in these communities rely on selling goods in open markets and, because these are shut down and people are under lock-down, many families have lost their source of income at a time when prices have gone up. Some communities have become even more worried about the long-term economic impact than about the spread of the virus itself. COVID-19 may become another source of impoverishment, reinforcing existing poverty.
As a result, concerns around food security have increased and more people are on the edge of starvation.
THE IMPACT ON OUR PARTNERS
On one hand, many of our partner organizations rely on volunteer programs. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has forced all volunteers to be sent home and has also forced all programs to be canceled for the foreseeable future. However, many are now looking for innovative ways to engage their canceled or recalled volunteers, especially through online offerings.
Because of COVID-19, many of our partner organizations’ ongoing programs with local cooperatives, schools, etc. have ceased as they cannot be implemented in isolation. Some have lost essential funds due to canceled programs, flights, etc. These funds could have been used to support their programs to improve the lives of vulnerable communities. Fundraising is also challenging and many of our partners’ resources are decreasing.
However, many partners continue to serve the local communities by providing emergency response to COVID-19, such as increasing the construction of washing stations and by distributing food, soap, masks, and other essential supplies.
While there’s a lot of misinformation about COVID-19 in the field, our partners focus on preventing the spread of COVID-19 by providing education around hygiene, hand-washing, and social distancing through brochures, flyers, banners, and radio.
Our partners also find successful and innovative ways to continue bringing their know-how and to launch initiatives remotely, many thanks to their local staff and partners on the ground.