Irish humanitarian aid agency, GOAL, has reached more than nine million vulnerable people with vital COVID-19 awareness messaging and support across its 13 countries of operation over the last month.
The agency said it has to date reached almost 1.4 million with COVID-19 preparedness and hygiene messaging, whilst more than 7.5 million have been reached through radio ad campaigns in Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone. The Zimbabwean broadcast campaign was supported with funds from Irish Aid.
In addition the agency has:
- Distributed 20,000 hygiene items, including soap, to households in 9 of its countries
- Increased the capacity of health centres in South Sudan, Sudan, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone to implement infection control measures to over 2.3 million
- Supported ten health centres in Malawi with hygiene materials
- Helped almost 30,000 people access safe water in Sierra Leone and continues to provide over 900,000 internally displaced with water in Syria
- Reached over 40,000 people in Uganda and Honduras with Whatsapp social media messaging
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 coronavirus response in its countries in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.
She said: “The scale and speed of infection is 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 said the challenges that GOAL countries face from COVID-19 are weak or non-existent healthcare systems with very limited testing kits, ventilators, ICU beds and medical staff. “For example, in one of our countries, Sierra Leone, there are 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 a major concern, said Ms Van Lieshout. “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.”
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