COVID-19 is truly a global pandemic; it’s unlikely that any community will escape its impact. But communities in the Global South will feel its brunt more severely – the lockdown is already causing hunger and hardship across Kenya, Nigeria and India.
The response to this pandemic is only as strong as the weakest link; we at Misean Cara stand together with our members in our commitment to help those in need in the Global South. We are supporting members to help protect their communities: sewing masks, setting up hand-washing points, buying Personal Protective Equipment and distributing food parcels along with medication to those in need, where possible.
A significant concern for Misean Cara is for healthcare workers; this virus is having a disproportionate impact on them – we are making sure that their protection is at the heart of any community response, supporting provision of PPE as well as recruitment of extra staff in healthcare facilities in order to try to reduce the risk of transmission.
Misean Cara is also focusing on helping those who are hardest to reach with health care and humanitarian provision – this means targeting, for example, people living in refugees camps as well as the elderly and people who have disabilities; those who are likely to be worst affected by the COVID-19 virus.
Communities across the Global South are already bearing the brunt of the impact of climate change and global inequality. This pandemic is yet another layer to the challenges of hunger, violence and inequality; each layer pushing communities closer to humanitarian emergency.
How are Misean Cara members responding to the COVID-19 crisis?
Aleppo, Syria The Blue Marists are dropping freshly made meals to elderly people stranded in the ruins of Aleppo. Millions of Syrian families have fled abroad, leaving behind their elderly relatives in cities like Aleppo; many of Aleppo’s elderly residents are confined to their beds due to disability or illness. Lockdown in Syria comes straight after the conflict which killed tens of thousands and has left many elderly Syrian people living with the impact of PTSD. Six days a week, the Blue Marists are visiting the local markets to buy fresh ingredients in order to make meals for 100 elderly people in need; the meals are distributed around the city along with messages about staying healthy and handwashing. On Saturdays, the elderly people – most of whom live alone – receive a double portion to last them until Monday.
The Salesian Sisters are focusing their COVID-19 response to helping the furthest behind first: wage labourers, home-based tailors, street vendors, workers in tea gardens, rickshaw pullers and maids, all of whom work in India’s informal sector. The first COVID-19 case in India was reported on 30th March 2019, by 2nd of April there were 16 cases. The Salesian Sisters are concerned that in the struggle to find enough to provide one meal a day, marginalised families will neglect to wash their hands and maintain distancing. This Misean Cara supported project in Assam is helping 3,750 families with detergents and hand wash, as well as sensitisation on preventing transmission of COVID-19.
The Ferrando Centre is run by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, providing physiotherapy and rehabilitation care for children with disabilities. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing nationwide lockdown, children with multiple disabilities need help – to understand the health risks of COVID-19 and to able to eat.
The community in Maputsoe includes families whose risk of contracting covid-19 is exacerbated by their health status and underlying health conditions. Misean Cara is supporting health workers to address local beliefs that are hindering communities from implementing social distancing.
A key element of this project is “survival packs” which will be distributed to 100 families who are most in need in Maputsoe, with a particular focus on families with children with multiple disabilities. The packs contain maize meal, whole bread flour, yeast, self-raising flour, oil, sugar, salt, cleaning agent, protective equipment and sanitary napkins.
Wau, South Sudan
The Franciscan Missionary Sisters for Africa have been in Wau since 2010; staying throughout the many crises that the community has gone through in the leadup to and aftermath of South Sudan’s independence. The Franciscan sisters also have a long history of intervening in the HIV pandemic and dealing with patients with TB. Misean Cara is supporting the St Daniel Comboni Hospital in Wau to undertake a range of activities to protect local communities, many of whom have been living in an IDP camp close to the diocese.
Comboni Hospital will refer suspected cases of COVID-19 to the regional hospital, the Franciscan Missionary Sisters aim to protect healthcare workers at the Comboni hospital in order to be able to respond to the many health needs in the community. Thanks to Misean Cara support they are purchasing disinfectant, paying salaries for cleaners and installing extra seats in order to uphold distancing in the waiting areas; the funds will also allow for the purchase of soap and masks for an estimated 7,500 patients. The Franciscan Missionary Sisters are also conducting awareness raising about COVID-19, thanks to their long-standing and trusted relationships with families who have sought shelter from the conflict in Wau.
The Ruben Centre is the only healthcare centre in Mukuru informal settlement, home to one million people; the facility serves over 250 patients a day.
Misean Cara is supporting Edmund Rice Development to introduce stringent measures in the Ruben Centre in order to protect staff and clients from COVID-19. These measures include the purchase of masks, goggles, scrubs, safety boots and surgical masks as well as gloves. The team is also setting up 3 triage points at the centre in order to reduce crowding at the centre. Awareness raising activities will include posters on the walls of the hospital, and messaging broadcast on Ruben FM, the health centre’s local radio station for Mukuru. The Ruben centre is also setting up a toll-free number and employing a counsellor to be able to provide psycho-social support to members of the community.
How can you help?
Join our community in solidarity with our member’s work around the Global South; please follow the work of our members through our social media channels twitter.com/miseancara and facebook.com/miseancaraireland.
If you are able to contribute to our members’ work, please find out more here.