Newsroom & Blog

Mar 19, 2020   |   Blog Post

VillageReach Responds to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Reuben Chipelesa, Snr HSA, Nkhunga Health Centre, Nkhotakota district, Malawi. Photo credit, Homeline Media

By Emily Bancroft


I wanted to take a moment to personally update you on how VillageReach is adapting to the global spread of COVID-19 and responding to its impact on health systems in sub-Saharan Africa.

VillageReach has seen over and over again that during times of crisis, essential health services often decline which can have a lasting impact on the health of communities. One of the most important things that we can do is to ensure that essential services remain as uninterrupted as is possible. Preventative interventions like vaccines and access to essential medicines remain critical parts of any pandemic response.

Those of us based in Seattle experienced how quickly the virus can spread, and did what we could to play our part  to minimize the spread of the virus.  We are planning for significant disruption in sub-Saharan Africa.  As you know, the situation is evolving quickly; Kenya and South Africa declared national states of emergency Sunday.  What we are able to anticipate and address in our program responses will likely change often, and we are committed to keeping the lines of communication open with our donors and partners during this time.

What we are doing

  • We are working to ensure our staff have accurate and timely information about COVID-19 and what they can do to protect themselves, their families and their communities. Almost all of the 13 countries where VillageReach has staff now have cases.
  • We are reviewing all our program priorities to determine what can move forward and what may be delayed.  Many of our staff are directly involved in delivering products and services.  Our current focus is on following government mandates and public health best practices to keep our staff safe, while also supporting our ministry of health colleagues as they work tirelessly to ensure their health systems are equipped and able to respond.

What we know is that this pandemic is affecting every single one of us, no matter where on the globe we live. Supply chains will be disrupted, economies will suffer significant damage, and people’s livelihoods will be impacted.

How you can help

Many of you have asked how you can help.  We have three things you can do:

  • Work with us to ensure flexibility needed in our agreements to shift timelines, change priorities where possible and be responsive to our government partners.
  • Help support urgent and specific requests that we receive from our Ministry of Health partners or our teams that are relevant to our work together. We already received a request from the Malawi Ministry of Health and Population to adapt messages for use on Chipatala cha pa Foni to distribute information about COVID-19 to communities in Malawi. The concept note for this work is here. We are also already fielding similar requests from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique which we are coordinating as we speak. We expect additional requests like this one from our partners in the coming few weeks.
  • Provide unrestricted funds to allow us to be nimble to needs, while also providing support for our staff – particularly those based in Africa – who are unable to complete their work due to shelter-in-place or quarantine requirements.

As in any emergency, our priorities are shifting, and we will be following up individually to have an honest conversation about what we know we can continue, and what we believe may be deferred or disrupted.

Official briefings from organizations like the World Health Organization and World Economic Forum continue to take place in real-time. We will continue to share these live events and other communications through our official Twitter channel where you can follow us.

This incredibly difficult task is already difficult for our staff and their communities, and yet the ability to control the pandemic depends on a strong and unified global response.

Thank you for your support and continued partnership.

In solidarity,

Emily Bancroft

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