CAFOD's response to coronavirus

28 July 2020

Coronavirus is making it harder for families to feed their children, for hardworking farmers to earn a decent living, and for children to get the education they deserve. You can help people not just survive this terrible disease, but rebuild their lives – with love, dignity and hope.

CAFOD's mission has always been to work for a world where every person can not only survive, but live - with dignity and hope. In the face of this crisis we must help people hold on to the things they’ve worked so hard for – security, education, an end to generations of poverty and living hand to mouth – and stand alongside them as they rebuild their lives.

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How is CAFOD responding?

On 30 April we launched an emergency appeal for funds, and with your incredible support we have already raised over £1 million. Our local experts are already working in communities and your donations are saving lives across Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.

But the need is growing each day. On 27 July, the World Health Organization confirmed there have been over 16 million cases of Covid-19 globally and more than 600,000 deaths.

“In the UK our struggle against coronavirus has entered the next phase, but in many of the world’s poorest communities the fight has only just begun."

Christine Allen, CAFOD Director

With further donations, we will be able to reach some of the most vulnerable and excluded with food, and clean, safe water - reducing suffering and saving lives.

Donate now to the Coronavirus Appeal

What is CAFOD doing to respond to coronavirus in Africa?

South Sudan

  • We are working with local church radio networks and aid experts to deliver vital hygiene messages via radio, in hard-to-reach areas. Community groups are translating these messages into local languages so that they can be heard and understood by as many people as possible.
  • We are also working with women’s groups to protect women of all ages from the risk of domestic violence during lockdown.

How is coronavirus affecting South Sudan?

Democratic Republic of the Congo 

  • Working with faith leaders to raise awareness about coronavirus through TV, radio and megaphones - helping more families survive the pandemic through targeted distribution of hygiene kits.
  • Providing emergency food, clean, safe water and housing to families who have fled fighting and are vulnerable to coronavirus in Eastern DR Congo.
  • Providing emergency cash assistance for vulnerable families in urban Kinshasa.
  • Providing handwashing stations in key public spaces (markets and health centres) in Kinshasa.

How is coronavirus affecting DR Congo?

What is CAFOD doing to respond to coronavirus elsewhere in Africa?

Health and prevention advice are also being shared when our staff and volunteers are giving out soap and emergency food packages to vulnerable families in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Kenya, to ensure that those at particular risk of the virus can survive this crisis.

Your donations have also funded PPE for medical staff at clinics in Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone.

Read more about our response in Africa:

Food and hand-washing supplies are distributed to vulnerable families in Homa Bay, Kenya.

Food and hand-washing supplies are distributed to vulnerable families in Homa Bay, Kenya.

What is CAFOD doing to respond to coronavirus in Asia and the Middle East?

In the Middle East, our local experts are using your donations to continue their vital peacebuilding work and ensuring that legal advice can be given online.

Volunteers and priests are delivering emergency food parcels to vulnerable families in the West Bank and we are also reaching out to Bedouin communities with health equipment and information.

Staff and volunteers are also already in vulnerable communities in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Cambodia:

  • They are spreading essential health messages through village posters, socially-distanced visits to families and giving out PPE.
  • In Myanmar, local experts are working alongside health departments and the Church to provide safe places for people to quarantine themselves and to help set up track and trace systems.
  • In Bangladesh they’ve moved quickly to give cash to the poorest families – led by widows, or those living with disabilities - to buy life-saving food and PPE during the crisis.

What is CAFOD doing to respond to coronavirus in Syria?

The civil war in Syria has lasted over nine years and left an estimated 6.2 million people homeless inside the country. Now they face the new threat of coronavirus when many cannot socially distance, access healthcare, or even find clean water.

  • In north-west Syria we are working with local aid experts in unregistered displaced peoples camps to construct Water, Hygiene and Sanitation (WaSH) facilities and distribute PPEs to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Distribution of food baskets, hygiene, and dignity kits as well as emergency cash assistance to families affected by coronavirus.
  • Raising awareness of coronavirus by sharing health and prevention messaging adapted to the needs of each group – including women and girls, people with disabilities and the elderly.
  • In other areas we are supporting our local aid teams to distribute food, hygiene kits and cash to allow the most vulnerable families survive lockdown measures.

Syria crisis: Millions of refugees face new threat

What is CAFOD doing to respond to coronavirus in Latin America?

Across Central and South America, your donations are funding radio broadcasts that share life-saving information on coronavirus and how to prevent it.

Lockdown and other prevention measures mean many in Latin America face going hungry, but our local experts, Church leaders and volunteers are reacting quickly to:

  • Give food and hygiene products to prisoners and migrants in Bolivia, and get emergency food and seeds to remote communities.
  • Safely give food to the homeless in São Paulo, Brazil, and help rural farmers get their crops to hungry families on the edges of cities.
  • Support vulnerable indigenous populations, including Mayan women in Guatemala and the Yanomami and Nasa communities in the Amazon.
  • Provide food packages and PPE to teenagers involved in youth projects in Nicaragua and rural families in Honduras.

Read more about our response in Latin America:

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What are the concerns about coronavirus reaching refugee camps?

Imagine living in a refugee camp, where it's almost impossible to isolate your family from others. Coronavirus in camps for Syrian refugees, or Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, will be catastrophic for millions of people already struggling to access healthcare.

Find out how your donations are helping refugees survive coronavirus

We are already on the ground alongside Rohingya and Syrian refugees and will continue our essential work providing water, sanitation and food to these vulnerable communities.

What risks do indigenous communities face?

Indigenous communities are particuarly at risk from coronavirus:

  • They can live days away from a hospital or health clinic - and even visiting a health centre can be dangerous for indigenous people who can lack resistance to many common diseases.
  • Malnutrition, which can leave people more vulnerable to coronavirus, is a bigger risk for rural communities unable to buy and sell food at local markets.
  • Some human and environmental rights are at risk from government responses to coronavirus. In the Amazon this April, twice as much rainforest was destroyed than in the previous year.
  • The Yanonami are fighting back against their rights to land in the Amazon being ignored, but the illegal miners on their land are increasing the risk of indigenous people catching coronavirus.

Donate now to the Coronavirus Appeal

What experience does CAFOD have in responding to this sort of crisis?

Lessons learned from the Ebola outbreaks in Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo meant that our local teams rapidly reached out to faith leaders with accurate information and safely organised training sessions.

These leaders are rooted in their communities - a trusted presence - with exceptional reach and impact, ensuring that everyone receives the life-saving hygiene information they need.

How important is the Church as part of our response to coronavirus?

Matthew Carter, CAFOD's Director of Humanitarian Response, says that the role of Church and faith leaders is critical. 

The experience of our local networks mean that we can deliver clear and accurate information via trusted faith and traditional leaders, and promote good hygiene practices, which are both key to keeping people safe. These leaders are pivotal in making sure life-saving messages are acted upon and also in breaking down the prejudice that can be shown to sufferers and survivors of a disease.

CAFOD, along with other faith organisations, is urging the international community to lead a new vision after this crisis, where the planet is respected, inequalities are reduced, and where basic services and rights are guaranteed for every human being.

Pray with us during the coronavirus emergency

How will CAFOD respond as a member of Caritas Internationalis?

Caritas Internationalis, the global Church network CAFOD is part of, has a local presence in 165 countries. Together, we make up one of the largest aid networks in the world, with substantial knowledge and expertise in WASH – water, hygiene and sanitation – and disease control.

CAFOD holds significant technical expertise in WASH and helps to coordinate Church responses.  

But even as part of this global network of local experts, coronavirus risks disrupting our ongoing humanitarian and longer-term development work.

How are we keeping local staff and aid teams safe?

Every country team is adapting to the challenges this crisis will demand, but we will make sure that local staff and aid teams on the ground put their safety first in order to continue delivering help where it is needed most.

How do I donate to the Coronavirus Appeal?

You can donate in any of the following ways:


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Call +44 (0)303 303 3030


CAFOD Coronavirus Appeal
Romero House
55 Westminster Bridge Road
London SE1 7JB

What else can I do to help?

Through prayer

Join us at an online Mass, use our coronavirus prayers or light a virtual candle in prayer and make a special donation to our work protecting lives. 

Through campaigning

Sign our petition to the Prime Minister asking the government to put the needs of the most vulnerable first and share it with your parish networks.

Send a photo message to world leaders that it’s time to cancel unjust debt, so the poorest countries can recover from coronavirus.

With your family

If you have children in your family, please also make an appointment with us every Sunday for our online Children’s Liturgy Live.

More on CAFOD's response in the places where we work

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