Author: Gwen Young, Managing Director, Global Emergency Response Coalition
March 25, 2020
As the world faces an unprecedented global pandemic, we are worried about what to do, what information to trust, and how we can help vulnerable people and communities. We’re seeing an increasingly stringent government response, but what are other actors doing to stop the spread? One thing we know is that COVID-19 is a global emergency that requires a global response. That’s why the Global Emergency Response Coalition’s members have already launched efforts around the world, leveraging their expertise in preparedness and response. The Coalition, an alliance of the leading emergency response agencies in the world, has a team of over 87,000 staff working in over 100 countries. The very nature of our work is to be prepared and respond to the most critical acute and protracted crises, no matter the location.
The expertise of our member NGOs is anchored in building and running health clinics (mobile and fixed); providing education and safe spaces for children; distributing cash and food; building shelter; and providing water, sanitation, and hygiene-related activities. CARE is currently working to set up additional handwashing stations and hygiene kits; provide training; and expediting access to clean water in the countries where it already works. Plan International is providing medical supplies and WASH commodities, raising awareness (including via social media channels), and promoting safe hygiene practices. These are but two examples of how our member NGOs are already helping. Simply put, the Coalition’s members are on the ground and know how to establish the necessary systems, expertise, and assistance to limit the spread of global pandemics like COVID-19.
We know how to accelerate vaccine coverage, strengthen health systems, and collaborate with the private and public sectors. International Medical Corps (IMC) has extensive experience and expertise in fighting infectious diseases. During the 2014 West Africa Ebola epidemic – the largest and deadliest in history, with more than 28,000 confirmed cases and 11,000 deaths – the organization served as a key partner for the WHO, fielding a team of more than 1,500 health professionals and caring for more than 460 confirmed Ebola patients through five Ebola treatment centers (ETCs). It also provided critical training to frontline health workers on infection prevention and control (IPC) across five West African countries, and after the outbreak continued to build local health systems and provide mental health and psychosocial counseling to those affected by the deadly disease. IMC has built on these efforts and expertise in its response to the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history, currently occurring in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in its responses to other infectious disease outbreaks worldwide.
Mercy Corps played an important role in the weeks following Hurricane Dorian by not only delivering solar-powered lanterns and emergency kits to families in the Bahamas, but partnering with Mission Resolve Foundation to increase access to clean water through the installation of a water treatment plant that produces an estimated 7,500 gallons of clean water every day. This helps hurricane survivors save money by not relying on purchasing bottled water, and frees up valuable room on aid vehicles delivering supplies.
World Vision has been working in Asia for weeks to promote prevention behaviors and to educate communities on how to keep themselves safe; providing protective equipment to health workers; engaging with government health authorities; and planning next steps on how to respond to the pandemic.
Our members are also helping response here at home in the U.S. Oxfam America is working with local partners across the country to support workers in the hospitality, restaurant, as well as migrant and day laborers to provide financial support to those enduring financial hardships due to COVID-19. They are also providing educational resources and tools to children access much-needed technology to continue their schooling.
Save the Children’s response to the famine in the Horn of Africa reached over four million people in 2018 with an integrated response in health and nutrition; food security and livelihoods; water; sanitation and hygiene; child protection; and education. This region has been grappling with the effects of consecutive failed rains across Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia that led to twelve million people in need of humanitarian assistance since the start of 2017. Save the Children expanded their operations and worked to ensure that children in some of the worst affected areas received humanitarian support. They also treated nearly 200,000 cases of pneumonia and diarrhea among children under five through their health facilities and trained hundreds of health workers in Somalia and Kenya.
In addition to programs on the ground, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has an Outcomes and Evidence-based Framework that allows actors to share progress, results, and evidence of what works. IRC also hosts the Airbel Impact Lab, which works in more than 30 countries. The Lab injects evidence-based thinking into decision-making to rigorously evaluate existing solutions for scale. Working alongside the communities IRC serves, the Lab looks for breakthrough solutions that can create a paradigm shift in the field. This approach and solutions generated can be applied to the global COVID-19 response.
Members of the Coalition also understand international diplomacy. We work in developing nations with funding from more privileged countries. We know how to translate the learnings from one region to another and scale best practices from past disease responses. Perhaps most critically, we know how to work with Ministries of Health all over the world and already have established relationships – we’re not starting from scratch.
The bottom line is that we are prepared to respond to this pandemic – this is what we do and have been doing for decades. Member NGO staff are working around the clock taking steps to reduce the impact that COVID-19 will have in countries with weaker health systems when it arrives at their door. Now more than ever, we must come together and support our fellow global citizens and the organizations that are working to save lives. Together we can help mitigate the impact of global problems like COVID-19 and beyond.