Published on 22 September 2020
Christian Aid is one of six of Ireland’s leading international aid charities that have teamed up to respond to the worsening global coronavirus pandemic and to save lives in some of the poorest and most fragile countries in the world.
Today, we have officially launched the Irish Emergency Alliance to enable us to reach even more people in countries facing rising coronavirus cases and already struggling to cope with the impact of conflict and displacement as well as widespread poverty, increased rates of hunger and poor health care.
The Irish Emergency Alliance’s appeal will focus on vulnerable communities in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lebanon and the Rohingya camps of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, all of which Christian Aid is actively working in to tackle the spread of the virus. These seven countries are home to more than 17 million refugees and displaced people.
Money raised by the Irish Emergency Alliance’s appeal will go towards food, water and medical care as well as providing soap, masks and vital information to prevent the spread of the virus.
Let’s look at some of the ways in which Christian Aid has been supporting people in some of these countries during the pandemic to date.
Ranked as the third most fragile country in the world, South Sudan has only four ventilators and 24 ICU beds for a population of 11 million. Nearly two thirds of the population did not eat enough food last year, and a UN official has just recently warned that the global pandemic has pushed the country to the brink of famine.
With funding from Irish Aid, Christian Aid’s local partner in Northern Bahr el Ghazel state have handed out 2,400 bars of soap and around 350 jerrycans to help ensure people are able to wash their hands thoroughly to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Christian Aid has also raised awareness of the importance of physical distancing and regular handwashing to over 16,000 people across the state. This includes some of the most vulnerable people, including those with disabilities and the chronically ill as well as pregnant women and new mothers.
Also, in South Sudan and with UK Aid from the UK government, Christian Aid’s local partner, the South Sudan Council of Churches, established a public coronavirus helpline which provides pastoral care and emotional support to frontline healthcare workers and patients as well as to members of the public who are looking after infected family members at home or have lost loved ones to the virus.
Democratic Republic of Congo
The Democratic Republic of Congo has a population of nearly 90 million but less than 1 in 20 people have access to soap and water at home, making it very difficult for most people to wash their hands regularly, something which we know helps prevent the spread of coronavirus.
In South Kivu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Christian Aid is helping prevent the spread of the virus amongst communities that have fled their homes due to fighting.
With funding from Irish Aid, Christian Aid’s local partner ECC MERU is using community radio to raise awareness of the importance of physical distancing and regular hand washing to prevent the spread of the virus. They are also sharing these health messages by putting up posters and handing out leaflets in Swahili as well as through loud speaker announcements at community committee meetings in three villages. To date, these messages have reached over 3,300 people.
With funding from Irish Aid, Christian Aid has also provided over 1,400 people with handwashing kits containing buckets with taps, jerry cans for storing water and bars of soap as well as building three wells to ensure that almost 8,000 people have access to clean water.
In Ethiopia, 90% of people lack access to clean water and soap at home and there is only one doctor per 10,000 people.
With funding from Irish Aid, Christian Aid has supported 500 vulnerable families in the Konso area of the SNNP region who are at higher risk of coronavirus - this includes the elderly, people with weakened immune systems due to underlying health issues. We have provided them with soap and buckets with taps that can be safely turned on and off by using an elbow.
Christian Aid has also handed out leaflets to over 4,000 families to raise awareness of the importance of regular hand washing and physical distancing as well as put up posters in public places and broadcast messages about coronavirus from cars equipped with loudspeakers.
Around two thirds of all Kenyans lack clean water and soap at home and only around 9 in 1,000 people are tested for coronavirus in Kenya, compared to nearly 200 in Ireland.
In the slums of the countries’ capital Nairobi, our local partner has been raising awareness of coronavirus by providing people living there with information about the symptoms of the virus, how it spreads and the importance of staying safe by staying at home, as well as sharing details of health facilities and hotline numbers that people can use if they become sick.
During the lockdown period elsewhere in the capital, the partner shared information on the legal support, counseling services and refuges available to women at risk of physical and sexual violence.
In the north of the country, our local partners have worked local health departments to broadcast messages about the virus on community radio in local languages and have distributed 2,000 bottles of soap for handwashing to help people keep safe.
In August, a massive explosion erupted in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, killing over 200 people, injuring more than 6,000 and leaving 300,000 homeless. The explosion came at a time when Lebanon was already on the brink of disaster due to a ‘perfect storm’ of economic crisis, civil unrest and a worsening coronavirus pandemic.
Before the blast, Christian Aid had been providing information about coronavirus and the importance of frequent handwashing and physical distancing to Palestinian refugees living in Nahr al Bared refugee camp to help prevent the virus from spreading. Elsewhere in the country, our local partners shifted their educational programmes and emotional support services for children online to ensure they remained supported throughout the pandemic.
Shockingly, in the days after the Beirut explosion, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Lebanon surged by over 200%. Wearing PPE, our local partners could safely distribute food, water clothes, mattresses, blankets, gloves and masks to more than 5,000 people to help them cope in the aftermath.
Please donate what you can at www.irishemergencyalliance.org or over the phone by texting IEA to 50300 or calling 1800 939 979.