Our Response to COVID-19
How we are helping vulnerable children and communities during this crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating poverty, insecurity and vulnerability – what started as a health crisis is now a social and economic one too. It is predicted that the ramifications are going to be felt for years to come and that is why our work is now more critical than ever.
We are working side-by-side with our in-country partners across Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe to:
- Protect children’s rights
- Support children’s emotional wellbeing
- Build economic resilience and empower women
- Strengthen income generating projects and food security
- Listen to and work with community stakeholders to address issues at a local level
Our priority is to respond to the social and economic implications and help vulnerable children, families and communities now and in the long-term. Find out more below…
In April 2020, the United Nations stated “children are not the face of this pandemic. But they risk being among its biggest victims.” Their rights, wellbeing and safety, even more so when they are from poor and vulnerable households, are at risk. “For children caught at the apex of this crisis, there is a genuine prospect that its effects will permanently alter their lives.”
The impact of COVID-19 on the vulnerable children we are working with in Southern and Eastern Africa is severe. They already face huge challenges, but with this crisis comes disruption to their education, weakened food and income security, and an increased risk that their rights will be violated. High poverty levels in their communities and low-income in their households are amplifying their vulnerability.
Our experience is in developing programs which are:
- Holistic and sustainable
- Focused on education, child rights and economic empowerment for vulnerable children in poor and isolated communities across Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
With the expertise and commitment of our in-country partners, our priority is to respond to the social and economic implications of COVID-19. Here’s how:
PROTECTING CHILDREN’S RIGHTS
During the COVID-19 pandemic, children have been out of school, and both unemployment and poverty are rising. As a result, children are more likely to be engaged in harmful practices, such as child labor, child marriage and early pregnancy.
Our Child Rights Program trains teachers and community volunteers to identify, report and resolve child rights abuses at a local level. These child protection structures and action groups will ensure vulnerable children are safe and their rights are protected.
SUPPORTING CHILDREN’S EMOTIONAL WELLBEING
Above and beyond the devastating health implications of COVID-19, children are dealing with the uncertainty, volatility and isolation of this crisis.
Our Kids’ Club Program trains community volunteers to provide emotional and counseling support to vulnerable children. Using psychosocial tools and games, they help them to talk about their challenges and deal with their trauma. These community support networks will help children who are vulnerable to be better identified and helped.
BUILDING ECONOMIC RESILIENCE & EMPOWERING WOMEN
Increased financial pressures on households and communities put protective structures under stress, which in turn multiplies issues affecting vulnerable children and women in particular.
Through our Village Investors Prograe (VIP), we:
- Build economic resilience in communities through savings and loans groups.
- Teach members – who are parents and guardians of vulnerable children and predominantly women – how to run the groups themselves.
- Provide finance and entrepreneurial training to help them start or expand small businesses, such as fruit and vegetable or second hand clothes stalls.
With VIP groups still running during this time, members therefore have access to their savings and to loans to invest in or diversify their businesses, helping them to buy food and basic necessities.
Together they are also supporting their wider communities through group income generating activities. Some are making hygiene products – including face masks, soap and detergent – and others are using profits to buy hand washing facilities. In the future, the VIP will be fundamental in helping families and communities to recover. It will enable members to restart or reshape their businesses quickly, and “small businesses… keep local economies afloat. They are even more important in vulnerable communities and neighborhoods, because they provide essential goods in areas that large retailers aren’t able to serve.” (World Economic Forum)
STRENGTHENING INCOME GENERATING PROJECTS & FOOD SECURITY
“There is also a real danger that more people could potentially die from the economic impact of COVID-19 than from the virus itself.” (World Food Programme)
Income generating activities, such as food gardens and livestock projects, are built-in to each of our programs. Throughout 2020, we worked with our partners to make sure these were as effective as possible in communities. During the lockdowns from March through to the summer:
- Community volunteers coordinated the maize harvest from communal gardens set up through our Pre-School Program in Ntcheu, Malawi.
- In Gulu, Uganda, volunteers from our Kids’ Club Program planted food crops which mature faster, such as green vegetables, tomatoes, and onions.
- Children who are part of our Child Headed Households Program in Ntoroko, Uganda, expanded their personal food gardens for consumption and sale.
- In Ngodzi, Malawi, children from our Child Headed Households Program harvested their personal gardens and had enough food to last the whole year.
- Teenagers from our Vocational Training Program diversified their businesses, with tailoring students making face masks and others investing profits in livestock and land so they can sell produce.
These projects helped – and will continue to help – households and communities maintain food and income security at a time when these are under extreme threat.
LISTENING TO & WORKING WITH COMMUNITIES
Community participation and ownership is at the heart of each of our programs. Local volunteers and leaders are key stakeholders, involved in program management from day one and trained to run all activities independently over four years.
Last year, from March through to the summer, nationwide restrictions meant our partners were not able to visit communities but the stakeholders ensured some vital program activities were sustained. They also kept communities safe by disseminating information about COVID-19 symptoms and prevention measures, shared by our partners via phone calls and WhatsApp.
Together with our stakeholders, we are encouraging and strengthening community-led responses to COVID-19 and addressing the long-term impacts of this crisis at a local level.
COLLABORATING WITH OUR PARTNERS
We have been working hand-in-hand with in-country NGOs and community-based organizations across Southern and Eastern Africa for 20 years. These close partnerships give us a strong foundation to respond intelligently and flexibly to the impacts of COVID-19.
Our partners have remained connected to and in regular communication with community stakeholders. Their experienced project teams know and understand the situation in their countries and are experts in working with communities in need.
WeSeeHope’s commitment to creating sustainable, community-led change for vulnerable children is stronger than ever.