Coronavirus: how CAFOD is responding
5 June 2020
How is CAFOD responding to coronavirus?
We have launched an emergency appeal for funds, because the impact of coronavirus in countries with poor health systems will be devastating. Families without enough to eat and without access to clean water, living with HIV or in cramped refugee camps, are very vulnerable to coronavirus.
Our local experts are already in these communities and ready to help families survive both coronavirus and the lockdown measures that prevent its spread.
With your incredible support we have already raised over £1 million, which is already saving lives in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.
But the need is growing each day. With your continued support, we can reach even more communities to make sure they can survive coronavirus and rebuild their lives afterwards.
How is CAFOD responding to coronavirus in Africa?
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 trusted voices in their communities, so working alongside them to get the right messages out really can save lives.
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.
"We thank God that CAFOD has stepped in and provided PPE for us – face masks, gloves, hand sanitiser, liquid soap. They are giving us confidence to go on."
Sister Gertrude, Handmaids Catholic Health Clinic, Sierra Leone
How is CAFOD responding 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.
How is CAFOD responding 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 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.
Are there concerns about 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.
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.
What experience does CAFOD have in responding to this sort of crisis?
We worked with local aid experts in fighting the deadly Ebola virus in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and more recently in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These experts 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 this response?
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.
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 you 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 can I help?
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.
With a regular donation: The vital work you support is needed now more than ever. Please consider a regular gift to our Emergency Response Team, that will allow us to react quickly when a crisis hits, and stay working with communities in the long term as they rebuild.