CAFOD's response to coronavirus in 2021

6 May 2021

We're responding to coronavirus in 35 countries

We're responding to coronavirus in 35 countries

Since the start of the pandemic, your donations have meant that we can do the vital work needed to help communities survive lockdowns and prevent coronavirus.

This work depends on our network of local experts, volunteers and community carers. They are known, they are trusted, and they can get help to people, fast – even in the most remote places and difficult situations.

In the last few days, your incredible support has allowed us to extend our coronavirus response to India and help our Caritas family to deal with the surge of cases there. This work would not be possible without you.

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How is CAFOD responding to coronavirus in India?

India is suffering from a surge in coronavirus cases, with over 2 million infections and 200,000 deaths. The pandemic has put a strain on the medical infrastructure of the country, with hospitals unable to cope with the influx of patients.

Coronavirus response in India

CAFOD is supporting Caritas India's response to the second wave of coronavirus in the country. They are distributing medical kits and setting up temporary treatment centres.

We have already pledged £400,000 to our long-term partners, Caritas India who are working with some of the most vulnerable households to help them survive this crisis. Thanks to your donations, they are already:

  • providing PPE to frontline health workers
  • distributing medical kits to people with manageable symptoms  
  • setting up safely run isolation and quarantine centres  
  • promoting lifesaving Covid and vaccine information 

Read more about how we are responding in India

What is at the heart of CAFOD's response to coronavirus?

Not having enough food, or clean water to wash your hands, makes coronavirus one of many devastating threats to vulnerable families living in the global south.

With your support, we've been able to quickly reach out with practical help and make sure people can survive. 

But our mission has always been to work for a world where every person can not only survive, but live - with dignity and hope.

Coronavirus is making what Pope Francis calls ‘hidden pandemics' worse. It is becoming harder for hardworking farmers to earn a decent living, and for children to get the education they deserve.

In the face of this crisis we will 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 to coronavirus around the world?


The civil war in Syria has lasted 10 years and left an estimated 6.5 million people homeless inside the country. Now they face the threat of coronavirus when many cannot socially distance, access healthcare, or find clean water.

  • We are working with local aid experts in unregistered displaced peoples camps to construct Water, Hygiene and Sanitation (WaSH) facilities and distribute PPE 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: 10 years on

Water and hygiene in camps in Syria

The coronavirus pandemic has meant millions of people in Syria are at risk from the virus and from overstretched health services.

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?

How is CAFOD responding across 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.

How is CAFOD responding across 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.

Food and hygiene packages have been distributed to women-headed households

Food and hygiene packages have been distributed to women-headed households, households including people living with disabilities, daily wage earners, and families from minority religious and ethnic groups who are often subjected to exploitation and discrimination.

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 across 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.

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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 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

How can we see a fair coronavirus vaccine rollout for countries in the global south?

CAFOD is a member of the Peoples’ Vaccine Alliance, a movement of health, humanitarian and faith-based organisations working together to ensure vaccines are available to all people globally. As we move towards the G7 summit in Cornwall in June, and the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November, Britain can play its part in speeding up global vaccine distribution.

"We support local organisations such as REPAM - the Catholic Church network upholding people’s rights in the Amazon region - who are campaigning for access, and for vaccines to be made available at a fair price."

Christine Allen, Director of CAFOD

Debt relief and new finance measures are vital for countries to have the money they need to spend on healthcare and economic recovery. Countries in the global south simply do not have the $6 trillion that G7 members, such as the UK, have used to fund schemes to support jobs and economic sectors.

That's why we are calling on private creditors - companies like BlackRock, JP Morgan, HSBC and UBS - to stop holding many poorer countries to ransom.

Call on banks to cancel the debt

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?

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:


Give a monthly donation  Give a single donation

By phone

Call +44 (0)303 303 3030

By post

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

How else can I help people in urgent need?

Through prayer

By praying together, the cry of the earth and of the poor may be heard, so that we may all become good neighbours to one another and restore creation.

Use our coronavirus prayers

Light a virtual candle

Through campaigning

As we look to recover and rebuild from the pandemic, we face a choice between returning to the old normal or a new, and better, normal. The UK is hosting two historic international meetings in 2021 – the G7 in June and the UN climate talks (COP26) in November – so the eyes of the world will be on us to show global leadership in tackling the world’s major challenges.

Sign our petition to the Prime Minister

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.

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