The United Nations recently released the 2020 report on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), sharing sobering data on the world’s progress towards goals like ending extreme poverty and increasing global food security.
The outlook already wasn’t positive prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. Now, the COVID-19 crisis is devastating global progress towards the Goals.
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, progress remained uneven and we were not on track to meet the Goals by 2030,” shares António Gutteres, Secretary-General of the United Nations.
“Now, due to COVID-19, an unprecedented health, economic and social crisis is threatening lives and livelihoods, making the achievement of Goals even more challenging.”
Here are some insights from Compassion’s Sidney Muisyo, Head of Global Programme, captured recently in his conversation with Jason Ballard on the Canadian Church Leaders' Podcast.
Sidney reflects on the Coronavirus’ impact on Compassion’s child development work, and why working in partnership with the local church is more important than ever.
1. Access to food
“In the global developing world where we work, the impact of COVID-19 has been much more than the disease itself,” explains Sidney.
“Food is one example. Many countries responded in the early days of the pandemic with close downs. Some countries even placed curfews about when you’d be allowed to be outside, and when you’d be indoors. Because everybody was trying to limit the spread. One of the impacts of that decision in the countries where we work is people suddenly thought, ‘do I go out and try and make a living and eat, or do I stay indoors, be safe and die’?
“And the families and the children that we work with are already vulnerable. The majority of the families make their living day to day in the urban areas. People have small businesses or trades. Whether you’re a cobbler or you sell groceries on the roadside. You work, you eat. You don’t work, you don’t eat.
“Many families found themselves in that situation where the primary issue was food. There are no foodbanks in Togo or Ecuador. Where do the poor in Brazil go to queue for food?
“So one of the ways we’ve responded as Compassion is to support families with that basic necessity. And not just families, even the church workers and even the pastors. Traditionally when we have responded to a crisis, we have known that one party can support the other. So the local church institution can respond to a crisis of famine.
“But with Coronavirus, the pastors themselves were hungry, they didn’t have food. The church workers themselves were hungry and didn’t have food.
“Now you have to keep in mind the idea of a fridge that you can stock with food doesn’t exist in the developing world. You buy food on a daily basis, from the market, and you have nowhere to store it.
“So the basic need for food has been one of the significant needs we have seen. We have been responding and we will continue responding. In fact, thanks to sponsorship support and donations to our COVID-19 Emergency Appeal, between April-June 2020, Compassion’s local church partners distributed 3,720,347 essential food packs.
2. Access to education
“The United Nations estimates that we have about 1.5 billion children who are out of school because of COVID-19. In the developed world, children and young people have online network access, and there are laptops in every home. This is a luxury, even for the middle class, for the countries where we serve.
“We work in the most vulnerable communities and they don’t have the option of online education. And even if they did have the option, there is often no space for a child to study. When you live in one room, multi-generations, where is the space to study?
“Education has a long-term impact for a child and their family to come out of poverty. So the interruption we are seeing around education is going to be significant for the children and youth in our programmes.
“Many of the churches we are working with are trying to find local, albeit limited solutions. I know one church partner who is bringing in 5-10 children at a time to provide tutoring to children to ensure they don’t fall too far behind. Others are providing tablets that children can borrow. Sadly, education will continue to be impacted until countries are able to return to their full, normal way of life.
3. Access to healthcare
“The other impact of this pandemic has been healthcare. We are seeing the uptake of childhood vaccinations not happening as normal because people are afraid to go to the hospitals. And sometimes lockdowns and curfews have been hindering the ability to get to hospitals. So we are watching this very carefully. We are concerned about the question of malaria and other vaccinations. We’re going to have to pay very close attention and play catch up.
“I’ve been very impressed with the local offices that we have in our 25 countries and the way the many churches are trying to respond. We have provided some PPE to some of the hospitals where we work because they didn’t have the resources to provide some of the basics such as masks, gloves or sanitisers. We’ve had to partner with those hospitals so they not only can protect their own staff, but also be of service to the communities.
“We have distributed more than 2,414,759 hygiene kits and provided 161,525 medical support interventions to help the most vulnerable.
The Global Church in action
“One of the things which is very interesting as we navigate a global pandemic, is we see the Church has never been more significant or relevant than at this time. It’s just absolutely amazing.
“In the nations where we work, there are no stimulus packages that are supporting those who are hungry, that are supporting the children who need food, that are supporting hospitals. That is why the local church is so significant. And your support has been enabling our church partners to take action.
“So thank you for standing alongside Compassion’s local church partners during this season. Thank you for caring for your global neighbour. Thank you for remembering the poor. Together we will rise as one global church.”
Learn more about our COVID-19 Appeal
Parts of this blog were inspired by a post by our friends at Compassion Canada.
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