Short window to prepare the world’s poorest countries for COVID-19: aid agency

By CARE Australia March 20, 2020 0 comments

The international aid agency CARE is today calling for more support for poor countries and refugee camps to prepare for coronavirus, before it’s too late.

Vulnerable people urgently need clean water, soap, information on how to prevent the virus, and better health care.

“Now is the time to show solidarity with countries yet to be critically affected and that have insufficient health services to cope with an outbreak of COVID-19. We are calling on international donors to coordinate more closely and make their funding flexible so we can help the world’s most vulnerable people before it is too late,” says Sally Austin, CARE International’s Head of Emergency Operations.

Wendy Barron, of CARE Iraq says: “In Iraq, many donors have continuously reduced their emergency funding. In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, CARE is one of only a few remaining aid organisations delivering water and sanitation services to camps and local communities. We could scale this up if the health security situation permits, but there is simply not enough funding.”

Access problems for aid workers are worsening the already tense situation in many contexts: “For months we have been facing serious access issues in some of the humanitarian hotspots such as Yemen, Syria or Iraq”, says Austin. “If COVID-19 spreads in those hard-to-reach places, the consequences could be devastating. People here are already weakened by months and years of violence, lack of health services and malnourishment.”

To help contain the pandemic, personal hygiene such as handwashing, disinfecting surfaces and using clean water to drink and cook is crucial. But while most people in developed countries have easy access to tap water and soap, the situation looks vastly different in many parts of the world.

“We are also tremendously worried about big refugee camps such as in Bangladesh or Kenya and not least for local communities in regions that have suffered from chronic poverty and poor health, from Niger to Laos to Papua New Guinea”, says CARE’s Sally Austin. “I’ve worked on many emergencies in the past 20 years but the scale and speed of the COVID-19 pandemic really is unprecedented. We need to be very cautious not to lose sight of the most vulnerable populations.”

CARE is working in 23 countries to increase clean water and sanitation support, 14 country teams are scaling up health services and a further 19 countries are working on needs such as income, shelter and education. In other countries, programmes have been forced to close as national lockdowns are imposed; which is likely to have a devastating impact on the most vulnerable communities in the days and weeks to come.

“We have a limited period of time in which to act and continue programming before the situation gets really bad. We are already seeing this scenario playing out in many of the most vulnerable countries where we work – it is crucial we act now, before it is too late.”

Donate to CARE’s COVID-19 emergency appeal.

For interviews or visuals contact Iona Salter on 0413 185 634.

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