Swab collection in Humla Maila
Swab collection in Humla Maila Credit: PHASE Worldwide

12 ways NGOs are helping the world’s poorest during Covid-19

Covid-19 continues to cost lives all over the globe. In developing countries, Bond members and other INGOs are working tirelessly to help tackle the pandemic and support the most vulnerable communities.

95% of UK-based INGOs are fighting the Covid-19 pandemic in developing countries, according to our latest survey of 92 Bond members. Of those organisations, 41% are responding to the crisis without additional funding and are diverting existing resources to finance their interventions.

Our survey also highlights a range of needs that NGO programmes can’t currently meet without additional funds. If these programmes are not properly resourced and equipped to respond to the pandemic, the world’s most vulnerable people will continue to be hit the hardest.

But these organisations will not give up the fight. Here Bond members from the frontline share what they’re doing to fight Covid-19 and support developing countries.

Providing food, medicine and hygiene kits

Action Against Hunger: “Around the world, Action Against Hunger is responding to this pandemic, supporting health centres, raising awareness about how to prevent outbreaks, and providing essential supplies ranging from medicine and hygiene kits to PPE.

“We’re also committed to continuing our fight against hunger, so we’re keeping our programmes running through this new crisis. Even with travel restrictions and lockdowns, we’re in some of the hardest to reach places ensuring children and their families receive the vital care they need.

“According to the United Nations, the number of people globally suffering from acute food shortages could nearly double in the next year due to Covid-19 and its economic impact. In East Africa, food insecurity could double in just the next three months.”

Maintaining critical health systems

Amref Health Africa: “Amref Health Africa is responding to Covid-19 in East, West and southern Africa. At the same time, we are adapting existing programmes to ensure critical health services are maintained during full or partial lockdown. We are working with partners to mitigate the secondary impact of Covid-19 in areas such as maternal and child health, sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence, and non-communicable diseases such as TB and malaria: building post-crisis recovery into our emergency response.

“We will be dealing with the ripple effects of Covid-19 for years to come: whether that’s the impact on the mental health of frontline health workers, the consequences of limited access to family planning services, a spike in vaccine-preventable diseases, an increase in FGM/C (female genital mutilation or cutting), or the impact of the diversion of human and financial resources away from essential services (e.g. midwives being reassigned to Covid-19 treatment centres).”

Spreading information and health messaging

Health Communications Resources: “HCR mobilises and equips partners and local people to transform community health and well-being through media. Since March much of our project funding has focused on the Covid-19 pandemic, which for each community is a crisis on top of a crisis.

“In northern Uganda, trained volunteers listen for Covid-19 rumours in refugee camps and create podcasts to help people to know that Covid-19 is real and how to avoid it. In Freetown, trained teams regularly visit communities so radio programmes are trusted and reflect community reality, combatting the spread of misinformation.

“In Maharashtra, besides providing relevant information to street-living communities through ‘speakerboxes’, our project team in Nashik is regularly feeding hundreds of vulnerable families, as well as providing soap and face-masks….In Khyberpakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan, lockdown has meant many people can’t feed their families, so our project team has been delivering food to vulnerable families as well as advocating for relief on their behalf and creating relevant radio programmes.

“In Nairobi’s crowded slums, HCR helped Mtaani FM develop a ‘nudge’ campaign, engaging and involving disaffected young people who had been ignoring public health messages….In North Kivu, HCR’s community station, Umoja FM, has been providing reliable information to help protect local people from the spread of the virus.”

Subscribe to our newsletter

Our weekly email newsletter, Network News, is an indispensable weekly digest of the latest updates on funding, jobs, resources, news and learning opportunities in the international development sector.

Get Network News

Supporting women and young people

ActionAid: “The flexibility of donors to allow us to use existing funding is key to responding to the pandemic. For example, in Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine, ActionAid is implementing a four-year project which works towards supporting women and young people through humanitarian action, targeting women and young people impacted by the Syrian Refugee Crisis.

“The women we work with who are part of Women Protection and Action Groups (WPAGs) in these areas are well placed to share accurate and rapid information about Covid-19 throughout their communities.

“Through our Disaster Preparedness and Response Fund (DPRF) we are able to allocate targeted funding where it is needed most. For example, in Haiti DPRF managed funding ensured that Covid-19 response activities were able to take place, including soap and Clorox distribution to communities and the provision of tap buckets and handwashing stations.

“Remote communities are being reached through existing relationships with local authorities and local women leaders are responsible for community awareness raising, by sharing key messages via megaphone alongside the utilisation of radio broadcast, mobile hotspots and social networks.

“In Bangladesh, ActionAid is providing Covid-19 awareness, and engagement on personal health and hygiene measures in designated Rohingya camps through trained Rohingya Women Volunteers and frontline women staff from ActionAid’s Women Safe Spaces, which also provide psychosocial support and GBV Case management support.”

Getting money to families for basic necessities

Kaarvan Crafts Foundation: “We are receiving very desperate calls from the women artisans from marginalised communities in rural areas. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic they have been hard hit economically – many of them being the sole bread earners for their families.

“As the most vulnerable women reside in far-flung villages, sending rations to them, especially in wake of the coronavirus pandemic, is a huge challenge in itself.

“For Kaarvan, it is our top priority to keep a flow of money to them so that they can buy basic commodities for themselves — as no family should be left behind. We aim to sustainably send PKR 4,400 per month to each of them till life gets normal for everyone.

Supporting people with disabilities

Motivation: “Motivation’s teams in India and East Africa suspended face-to-face training programmes and wheelchair service support in mid-March. Since then we’ve focused on virtual outreach, completely adapting the way we work with disabled people. We’ve made more than 1,500 phone and video calls to project participants so far.

“We’re reducing their sense of isolation and sharing disability-specific guidance on Covid-19, including how to maintain hygiene as a wheelchair user. We are connecting with partners to provide dry ration food kits and vital health supplies, like catheters and continence pads. We’re also advising others on how to ensure their humanitarian responses are inclusive for disabled people and their families.”

Antenatal care and medical testing

PHASE Worldwide: “Our health team has treated 9,410 people [in remote areas of Nepal] in the last quarter both at newly formed ‘health desks’ and the community health post. We are supporting local government in conducting RDT (rapid diagnostic tests). Furthermore, health staff are monitoring people who are quarantined in coordination with local government.

“Due to lockdown and fear of coronavirus, there has been a reduction in the number of pregnant women accessing ANC (antenatal care) check-ups and delivering babies in health centres. In the last quarter, the team have delivered 55 babies and delivered family planning, ANC and PNC check-ups, and immunisation of children.

“Essential PPE has been provided in the form of N95 masks, hand sanitizer, gloves, and surgical masks. Community awareness and prevention activities are being delivered, in smaller groups and at a safe distance.

“In response to Covid-19 in Nepal, PHASE is adapting current projects, which are funded by individuals, major donors, and trusts and foundations. As of yet, PHASE Worldwide has not been able to access DFID funding for Covid-19 response through multilateral donors.”

Setting up isolation and treatment centres in fragile settings

Relief International: “Refugees, families displaced from their homes, and the people we serve in the world’s most fragile settings will be hit hardest by this outbreak.

“The virus has officially reached all of the sixteen countries where Relief International works, and we are ramping up our response to Covid-19 in these fragile settings, including Iran, Syria and Yemen. Our teams are on the frontline every day.”

Relief International’s interventions include setting up isolation and treatment centres and dispensing hygiene kits in many places, including Syria, Cox’s Bazaar, Iran and Bangladesh.

Providing transport in lockdown

All We Can: “Local partners have faced real challenges in delivering this essential work – including pandemic induced price-rises, a lack of awareness about the virus, and the impact of stringent lockdown measurers.

“This is especially true in Uganda, where the government’s strict lockdown banned the use of public transport – including ‘boda’ motorbikes, which many people rely on to travel. For rural communities, this made accessing vital services – markets and healthcare facilities, for example – a real struggle.

“All We Can’s local partner in Uganda, who specialise in using bicycles as a tool for development, has been providing regularly sanitised bicycles for rural communities so that they can continue to visit markets to buy and sell food, and access health services.”

Improving livestock welfare

The Brooke: “The Brooke is an international NGO that works specifically to improve the welfare of working livestock (horses, donkeys and mules). We often work in poor or marginalised communities, focussing on training owners, improving community resilience and training animal health workers.

“We’re currently trying to provide support, such as veterinary consultations over WhatsApp, to make sure their animals make it through.

“We have found that the people we work with normally to improve animal welfare, are going beyond their remit. For example in India and Pakistan, animal welfare groups have been making fabric facemasks, and in Senegal our team have helped to make videos specifically for cart drivers in Dakar to help prevent spreading of the virus.”

Getting funds and emergency relief to vulnerable communities

The Freedom Fund: “Individuals in forced or bonded labour face hunger, disease, abuse and an inability to move to safe places amid government lockdowns and closing factories and sweatshops. Severe financial stress also leads to greater sexual violence and abuse against women and girls, and to the early marriage and trafficking of girls.

“The Freedom Fund moved quickly to set up an emergency response fund to offer immediate small-scale funding to our 100 or so frontline partners to provide life-saving assistance to highly vulnerable communities in India, Nepal, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Thailand and Brazil.

“A number of our existing individual and foundation donors quickly stepped up and provided $2m in flexible contributions to the emergency fund, exceeding our initial target of $1.5 million.

“By early June, some 75% of that funding will have been allocated to partners for three types of activities:

  • emergency relief (food, shelter, soap, protective equipment etc)
  • NGO advocacy capacity to monitor needs and push for adequate government responses
  • micro-grants to savings and loans groups, self-help groups, and other existing community structures to help absorb financial shocks.”

Bolstering national NGOs and governments’ response

The HALO Trust: “The HALO Trust’s global Covid-19 response is on different scale, but the core principle remains the same—identifying where HALO’s capability can fill a gap in a nationally-led and context specific approach. In some locations, HALO was approached directly by public health departments. In others, HALO teams are working with national and international NGOs and the UN to support the response.”

“HALO have covered distribution of food, PPE and medical supplies, delivering public health messages, supporting virus control measures for displaced and vulnerable communities, improving medical services and emergency patient transport. They have enacted 1,800 actions, with 755,000 beneficiaries.”

Check out our recent blog on other ways NGOs are working with local partners to respond to Covid-19.


News & Views