GOAL has reached more than ten million vulnerable people with vital COVID-19 awareness messaging and supports across its 13 countries of operation since the start of the crisis in March.
The agency said today it has to date reached more than 9.5 million people with COVID-19 media messaging in 8 of its countries, while more than 723,000 people have benefitted from direct contact in 10 of its countries.
GOAL Deputy CEO and Head of GOAL’s COVID-19 Task Force, Mary Van Lieshout, said the agency, with a staff of 2,500, is in phase one of its global COVID-19 response plan roll-out in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.
She said: “The issues are challenging. We know the scale and speed of COVID-19 can be devastating, as is its capacity to take lives, destroy economies and put an enormous strain on resources in even the most capable healthcare systems in the world. Whatever chance countries like Ireland have to cope with COVID-19, it has the potential to have a catastrophic impact on millions of vulnerable people living in the developing countries in which GOAL serves.”
She added that the challenges that GOAL countries face from COVID-19 are many. They include weak or non-existent healthcare systems with very limited testing kits, ventilators, ICU beds and medical staff. For example, Sierra Leone has only 18 ventilators for a population of 7.7 million. Another challenge is that restrictions of movement is impacting on people’s ability to earn money, meaning there isn’t enough in households for food and basic living items.
Preventing the rapid spread of COVID-19 in internally displaced and refugee camps is also a major concern, said Ms Van Lieshout. GOAL has been providing COVID-19 support in camps in Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Ethiopia.
“We are particularly concerned about the impact if COVID-19 takes a grip in Idlib in war-torn Northern Syria where GOAL is supporting over 1.1 million internally displaced people in a very small area. We must ensure that all COVID-19 measures are demonstrably sensitive to the conflict and ensure that those most at risk of violence are protected in this difficult time. Initiatives which build social cohesion and help address underlying drivers of conflict must be allowed to continue.”
Of further concern is the secondary impacts of COVID-19 in vulnerable countries including hunger, further weakening of health systems and economic devastation. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that COVID-19 leaves some of the world’s most vulnerable communities facing a “crisis within a crisis.”
The bulk of GOAL’s COVID-19 media messaging reach has been in Zimbabwe, where 4.5 million have been educated on social distancing, hand washing and the importance of wearing masks through radio ads. The Zimbabwean broadcast campaign was supported with funds from Irish Aid. Meanwhile 2.9 million were reached with media messaging in Sierra Leone, one million in Ethiopia and 651,000 in Niger.
- Over 723,000 people were reached in person in 10 GOAL countries. Of this number, 244,000 were in Malawi, 209,000 in Syria and 176,000 in Zimbabwe.
- 700,000 people now have increased access to water to protect them from COVID-19 in 6 countries. Top here was Niger with 450,000 people benefitting followed by Syria with 153,000, and Sudan, South Sudan and Sierra Leone with between 28,000 and 30,000 each.
- 76,000 people were provided with soap and other hygiene items in 5 GOAL countries. The bulk of these were in Ethiopia, Syria, South Sudan, and Iraq.
- 682 health facilities are being supported to increase capacity to implement infection prevention control measures across 7 countries. 2.8 million people are within the catchment areas of these facilities, therefore benefiting from work to increase IPC measures in them.
Central to GOAL’s COVID-19 response will be the Community-Led Action approach which the agency created during its response to the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia in 2014.
This approach involved community engagement which saw GOAL develop plans at local level to isolate and shield those most at risk and manage cases of infection.
For more information, contact:
Miriam Donohoe, Senior Communications Manager