By: Warren Lancaster, Senior Vice President, Programs
I am not a natural blogger as evidenced by the time that has passed since my last blog on our site. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it when I do write them as they tend to be fairly reflective. For a person who promotes what is called reflective practice in the development sector pausing to reflect prompted by a blog piece is a good thing. This is a “kick-off blog” that will be regularly complimented by my colleagues on how the END Fund is using specially recruited COVID-19 response funds to assist communities affected by the virus in Africa.
I have been involved in several humanitarian emergency response interventions over many years and one thing I learned early on was to identify how my organization with its limited resources could help most when faced with overwhelming need.
That is, of course, the challenge for the END Fund. We have projects in over 20 countries, and our neglected tropical disease (NTD) treatment campaigns reach millions of people. Such scope in responding to COVID-19 is beyond our capacity. So, we must focus on where we believe we have particular advantages.
And now, like you, I am part of this worldwide crisis and asking what can I do to help. We witness the unprecedented self-sacrificial service of countless health professionals and feel thankful but also recognize they are carrying a heavy load. We see the wider impact on our countries and for development practitioners like me and my colleagues, we wonder how the pandemic will affect families in low-income communities across the world, but specifically, the African continent where the END Fund’s work is mainly focused.
We moved quickly following the realization of the scale of the emergency and awareness that the pandemic would start to affect Africa later than Europe and North America. We made our first two commitments on April 1st and April 6th to two partners responding in Ethiopia and Kenya with infection transmission mitigation interventions of soap, disinfectant, and handwashing as well as printed materials. You will read more about these initial responses and others in subsequent blogs by my colleagues. With these initial grants, our intention is to link our COVID-19 response with our longer-term conviction that people and communities who customarily wash their hands with soap will also break the fecal-oral transmission route for intestinal worms.
Since this initial response though, we have also asked our partners in Africa, if there are ways in which we can particularly support small to medium size interventions that will particularly help communities we serve treating NTDs. Initiatives proposed by these partners are now in the pipeline and all are focused on not only the immediate crisis but also our longer-term work eliminating NTDs. We will focus on:
- highly-targeted mass and social media communications;
- community-level printed material production and distribution;
- family and community protective interventions like handwashing; and
- resourcing of practical health or nutritional assistance to especially vulnerable NTD-affected communities.
We will strive to make a difference in this health and economic crisis.