The Hunger Project responds to Covid-19 in Africa, South Asia and Latin America
**This page is regularly updated with new information from our Coronavirus Response
Watch a special COVID-19 response video message from our global communities: There is No Lockdown on Hope
The Hunger Project’s programmatic response to the coronavirus pandemic is a natural extension of the work we are already doing in the communities and countries where we work
We work to build community resilience, individual leadership and personal responsibility, in effective partnership with government and therefore are equipped and well-positioned to respond rapidly to:
- spread messaging from credible sources like WHO and local public health infectious disease authorities among our networks of community leaders.
- empower our community partners with information and encouragement about the role they play as community leaders and elected leaders in stopping the spread of the virus.
- Leverage our role as civil society thought leaders to raise awareness and ensure government is accountable to local communities.
The economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are rapidly changing conditions in communities around the world—especially those already at risk for food insecurity. Projections from the World Food Program indicate that up to 265 million people could be living with severe food insecurity or in famine, this year—nearly double the 135 million people living in acute hunger in 2019—partially due to the impacts of the virus.
Our long-term work promoting strong systems, local leadership, and resiliency helps communities manage these changes, especially in times of crisis. In response to the pandemic, The Hunger Project has mobilized over 500,000 trained, local leaders in 13 countries around the world.
Here are some examples of how The Hunger Project is responding to Covid-19:
Badiul Alam Majumdar, Vice President and Country Director of The Hunger Project Bangladesh, is a public figure in the country. Badiul immediately became involved with over 63 other civil society leaders to advocate for government action.
At the village level, in the communities where we are working, our networks include Village Development Teams (VDTs) — which include trained animators (local leaders), women leaders, and other volunteers — as well as the Self-help Groups that have formed throughout our SDG unions. These provide active networks for the sharing of information.
Additionally, our local leaders are sewing face masks, making hand sanitizer and spreading awareness about what people should do if they are showing symptoms.
‘Sewing armies’ have been set up in some areas to allow people to learn from one another and keep collectively strong while giving back. So far, 137,160 face masks have been made and distributed.
9,400 community members have participated in specially designed Water, Sanitation and Hygiene workshops so they are personally equipped to prevent the spread.
Clockwise: Mask making in Charghat Upazila, Women Leaders in Anowara arrange a hand wash, Youth Leader Maruf hands out soap.
THP-India has been spreading awareness based on content from government awareness campaigns and WHO recommendations. Their commitment is “to reach the last person in the community.” They are doing this with trained elected women representatives (EWRs) and the local community-based organizations (CBOs) with whom we already partner for our work. Their messaging is centred on the EWR as a leader in this crisis, reaching out to make sure no-one is left behind. All information is being translated into all local languages so everyone can understand.
THP-India staff and CBO partners are connecting with all 8,000 elected woman representative and 3,600 Adolescent Girls trained by THP. Together they formed phone trees and WhatsApp groups to deliver accurate, easy-to-understand health information to 500,000 people. An important part of this is working through and dispelling local myths.
“People in the countryside mainly receive information via television, social media, print media and WhatsApp when they have a smartphone. Countering myths and rumours is especially important right now. That is why we asked our local partners in the state of Odisha, for example, to make an information poster with accurate information” – Ruchi Yadav, Director of Programs of The Hunger Project India.
“There is a lockdown that we are all aware of. But there is no lockdown on communication, there is no lockdown on talking, there is no lockdown on inspiration, there is no lockdown on hope” – Rita Sarin, Country Director THP-India
In our epicentre health centres access to services is available to everyone without being charged a fee. Although these health facilities are now running with limited staff, supplies and shorter opening hours, they still provide much-needed health support to the rural communities where we work. Each health facility also has community health workers who work hand-in-hand with our health animators to disseminate factual information in the community. In this time of social distance, ministries of health are distributing posters and campaign messages through all their health system networks (including most of our epicentre health centres), and these posters and information can reach our rural communities. Having these health systems already in place at our epicentres brings these efforts to the most unreached person in our rural communities.
In some countries, the team is leveraging local community radio and public address systems to disseminate information from the government. In Ghana and Senegal for example, Epicentre Program Officers (EPOs) are carrying out announcements and public education through the medium of community public address systems that are installed throughout the rural communities. Over 700,000 people so far have been reached by these radio initiatives.
Our offices are also working to ensure updated telephone numbers of their animators and can send WhatsApp messages to the animators (local trained leaders). We are continuing working remotely with our animators and providing them with as much information as possible. Animators are in turn able to send updates on the situation to others in their local communities. Though not everyone in African rural communities nor all our animators have a cellphone, the capacity to own cellphones has improved, especially in most communities where we work.
Each epicentre area has WASH animators, whose main role is to promote health and hygiene practices in their communities. The significance of the work they do is now much more evident and was intensified in the past immediate weeks.
4,354 Tippy Taps have now been installed in our epicentres and schools in the communities where we work.
One key issue of this moment is households on lockdown and considering whether they have the capacity to sustain themselves with their own foodstuffs. Our agriculture and food security programme and our microfinance programme have built the resilience of most of our community partners, who are empowered to self-sustain their households during moments of lockdown. Read more about how we’re addressing food security here.
In the face of initial inaction from the government, citizens of Mexico had chosen to self-isolate voluntarily. The Hunger Project is working to share information in line with World Health Organisation guidelines. One key initiative was translating this into multiple regional languages so everyone has equal access to information to stay safe, and no community, no matter how rural, gets left behind.
Communities have been mobilised to find solutions to the unique challenges this pandemic has brought to them. The Indigenous Women’s cooperatives make decisions democratically and collectively. For the 200+ women in the cooperatives, taking the decision to close their business was very hard. But after struggling between them, they collectively decided that they should plan for the future months. They have bought supplies and basic products to be shared amongst the cooperative partners equally and without distinction and have formed a committee to deliver this to the families in their communities.
The Hunger Project’s priority lies in ensuring that the right information and support reaches the local communities where we are active. With our already existing networks, we have a great capacity to work towards making sure no-one is left behind.
We will continue to share news from our programme countries with you as regularly as we can.
– See photos from The Hunger Project’s COVID-19 response around the world, here
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