The Hunger Project responds to Covid-19 in Africa, India and Bangladesh
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.
Local solutions are being implemented according to the context on the ground at the country and district level. Our country leaders are learning from one another and sharing best practices. They are also looking ahead to what partnerships with local health officials may be formed, as well as to what the social impacts of this virus will be and the role we can play as civil society leaders.
Here are some examples of how this is happening already:
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. Read his article
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. The team is also prioritizing reaching out to animators with whom we’ve lost touch, who may be positioned in other areas and can also be part of the information campaign.
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 via WhatsApp 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. It is being translated into all local languages.
THP-India staff and CBO partners have a task force leading work to draft the messaging and then personally connect via phone/WhatsApp with every trained elected woman representative with whom we work (that’s 8,000 women!). An important part of this is working through and dispelling local myths. They are also reaching out to participants in the Adolescent Girls Programme. They have already spoken to hundreds of women and girls.
“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.
Read more here
In most of our epicentres, we have health centres which are run by governments, thereby making access to services available to everyone without being charged a fee. These health facilities are providing the most needed health support to the rural communities where we work, including prevention messages, containment and treatment. Each health facility also has community health workers who work hand-in-hand with our health animators to disseminate 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.
Our offices are also working to ensure updated telephone numbers of their animators and can send WhatsApp messages to the animators. 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.
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.
The Hunger Project’s priority lies in ensuring that updated and the right information reaches the local communities where we are active. With our already existing networks, we have a great capacity to reach out with information in an effective and coordinated manner.
We will continue to share news from our programme countries with you as regularly as we can.
Read a message from our UK Country Director, Sophie, here
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