INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT COMMITTTEE INQUIRY RE: IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
SUBMITTED ON 11 MAY 2020
As fragile, crisis and conflict affected countries face challenging choices on how to flatten the curve in their contexts, national lockdowns are putting most marginalized children and communities at immeasurable risk. Children are one of the most vulnerable categories in this crisis.
Disruptions to learning, livelihoods and lives are interrupting life-saving, life-sustaining access to essential information, supplies, services and safe spaces for children and their communities, exaggerating extreme poverty and exacerbating physical and psychosocial stress and trauma.
Street Child is a specialist in low-resource environments and emergencies, with particular experience and expertise as a frontline responder in the 2014-2016 Ebola Epidemic in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Street Child calls on DFID to –
ABOUT STREET CHILD
Street Child is an international humanitarian organisation with its central office in London, United Kingdom, and branch offices in various countries across Europe, South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and the United States of America. Street Child seek that all children are in school and learning and specialises in working with children and communities in low-resource environments and emergencies.
Since 2008, where we commenced working with 100 street-connected children in Sierra Leone, we have continued to increase the scope and scale of our work in fragile, conflict and crisis-affected countries. At present, we have operations across 14 countries across South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burundi, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Uganda, as well as a significant collaboration in Somalia and South Sudan. As an emergencies specialist, our first rapid response was to an infectious disease epidemic in Liberia and Sierra Leone, through our 2014-2016 Ebola Emergency Response. Further interventions include climate-change induced crises in Nepal and Mozambique, protracted political crises in Afghanistan, Cameroon and North-East Nigeria, and refugee responses in Bangladesh and Uganda, as principal partners of the Department for International Development [DFID], United Nations [UN] and US State Department, amongst others. Street Child launched a COVID-19 international appeal on 28 March and to date, has reached over 525 000 children and communities in under-reached, under-resourced areas of the countries where we work.
We welcome the opportunity to offer evidence of the impact and implications of the current coronavirus pandemic on children and communities in developing countries.
To date, there are more than 4 million confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus across the globe, with increasing numbers of confirmed cases across the fragile, conflict and crisis affected countries where we work. A strong campaign of sanitation and social distancing is critical to containing the spread of the disease in developing countries: however, restrictive measures threaten to turn a hovering health crisis into a humanitarian catastrophe. Preventing and preparing for a pandemic that threatens millions of lives in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa needs an intensive, intensified global response.
Health Risks and Threats
1.1. Street Child experience and expertise as frontline responders to the Ebola Epidemic illustrate that prevention and preparedness efforts of a significant scale and scope are essential to slowing the spread of the disease and ensuring the survival of vulnerable children and communities.
1.2. However, as during the epidemic, governments and organisations at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic response are confronting critical challenges in promoting preventative practices in low-resource environments and emergencies. Essential information on health and hygiene is inaccessible due to distance or discrimination.
1.3. Street Child is concerned about children and communities from isolated, stigmatised groups who are at risk of being left out of life-saving, life-saving information, as the pandemic exacerbates existing inequalities in socioeconomic structures.
1.4. In rural and remote areas such as Uruzgan in the southern provinces of Afghanistan and Uvira in the high plateau the Democratic Republic of Congo, information isn’t reaching isolated communities, or is reaching too late. Though these communities are arguably at a reduced risk of infection due to their isolation, they remain at risk from incursions or excursions to markets and other crowded areas, where their lack of access to information results in increased exposure. Our experience suggests that groups such as the Batwa, an indigenous group in Burundi and the Musahar, a lower caste community in Nepal require intensive interventions to reach.
1.5. At the same time, Street Child is concerned about the circulation of misinformation and rumours, often to coincide with a chronic lack of trust in the government and authorities. In Afghanistan, we have heard reports of rumours that the government will remove anyone suspected to be symptomatic of the COVID-19 disease, resulting in a reluctance to reach out to support services or report symptoms amongst communities.
1.6. DFID should prioritise programmes that propose the resources investments required to reach isolated, stigmatised children and communities with essential information.
1.7. DFID should support partners to coordinate with national governments and organisations to ensure essential information reaches these areas free from misinformation and rumour and ensure relevant, reliable communication with communities.
1.8. Street Child is calling attention to existing inequities in access to essential services and supplies that are exposed in this pandemic.
1.9. In congested, crowded camps and urban slums, a chronic absence of sanitation supplies, structures and sources of water means that even with the right information on prevention, communities are unable to adopt preventative practices to protect themselves from the spread of infectious disease.
1.10. In rural areas, where overcrowding is less of an immediate issue, sparse infrastructure and services encourage congregation around markets and shared restrooms, for example, which creates a risk of rapid transmission that can ravage communities.
1.11. As long as social distancing and self-isolation strategies are impracticable and impossible in compact and over-crowded circumstances, the poorest of the poor remain in danger of rapid transmission of COVID-19.
1.12. DFID should scale-up investments in prevention and preparedness initiatives that minimise exposure to infection in the first instance, through increasing reliance on local level actors as frontline responders to reduce the risk of transmission from outsiders.
1.13. DFID should support innovative initiatives to ensure social-distancing and self-isolation strategies in such circumstances, including interventions to advise against non-essential social contact and establish appropriate rotation and spacing systems.
1.14. Children on the move are at the centre of this crisis. This includes millions of displaced, refugee and returnee children and communities living in congested, overcrowded camps and settlements with limited resources and little access to soap, sanitation supplies and sources of water, and limited possibilities for social distancing and shielding of immune-compromised and older members of the communities.
1.15. Language barriers, lack of trust in authorities and governments, and a lack of access to accurate, independent information limit the effectiveness of prevention and preparedness efforts and create challenges for access to essential humanitarian services.
1.16. DFID should scale-up investments in essential information and supplies in under-resourced, under-reached areas, and encourage international organisations to work with national governments and organisations to ensure consistent, context-sensitive information sharing.
1.17. A dependence on aid – that is compromised due to movement restrictions – and distance from their original networks of support contribute to low resilience to shocks, including loss of livelihoods induced by lockdowns. The stress and trauma of severe disruptions to life and learning are compounding insecurities and instabilities arising from conflict and crisis – creating a negative cycle that increases the risks of adverse coping strategies.
1.18. Street Child notes that in certain cases, these communities are ineligible for government relief, and that trust in governments and international organisations is low or lacking - this is where national organisations have a comparative advantage of trust in communities.
1.19. DFID should support work with local-level organisations to inform advocacy and accountability apparatuses at the local, national and international levels.
1.20. Street Child is seeking to raise the alarm, alongside other actors, regarding the risks facing hundreds of thousands of refugee children cramped into close quarters without sufficient soap, sanitation supplies or sources of water to wash their hands, such as children in the camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
1.21. Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar are on the brink of a second wave of suffering in under 3 years. For over 850 000 Rohingya refugees who have settled in camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh having fled from neighbouring Myanmar following decades of persecution and recent bouts of extreme violence, the grave dangers posed by the spread of COVID-19 are most pertinent.
1.22. Rohingyas refugees have already been victim to the gravest atrocities; for example, it is estimated that at least 448 000 refugees have experienced gender-related abuse and violence. In precarious, densely population camps that are creating a tinderbox for transmission, these refugees – over 450 000 of whom are children and adolescents – are unprepared for yet another potential threat to their survival. Early reports and rapid assessments suggest a concerning lack of awareness of the virus and its symptoms amongst Rohingya children and adolescents, and the spread of harmful misinformation and misperceptions – such as that the virus is non-existent, or that people should gather at places of worship to combat the spread of the virus; and stigma surrounding disease leading to reluctance of communities to seek necessary medical assistance.
1.23. DFID should prioritise prevention and preparedness efforts at scale in refugee camps and settlements where there is high risk of rapid transmission.
1.24. As national lockdowns are in progress in fragile, conflict and crisis-affected countries, the mass movement of migrants is posing another critical risk to prevention and preparedness efforts.
1.25. In Afghanistan, for example, the last month has seen one of the biggest cross-border movements of the pandemic, with the largest number of returnees ever in its recent history. There has been a huge surge in official crossings from Iran, and despite border closures in Pakistan, this has seen a significant spike in informal returns. A total of 74 265 refugees have returned in the last fortnight alone. It is estimated that over half of the returnees are possible carriers of COVID-19, placing an enormous strain on a fragile government and social services already ravaged by decades of conflict and crisis. As authorities struggle to monitor and restrict these movements, it is feared that these returnees could become vectors of rapid COVID-19 transmission in their communities.
1.26. DFID should increase investments to fragile, conflict and crisis-affected countries where the current crisis places an enormous strain on overstretched systems, and thus increases the risk of intensification of conflict and crisis.
2.1. As during the Ebola epidemic, governments and organisations in fragile, crisis and conflict-affected countries are confronting critical challenges in preparing for the COVID-19 pandemic.
2.2. A concerning combination of insufficient and inadequate testing facilities, treatment facilities, monitoring systems, medical staff and medical supplies suggests the frightening likelihood that the pandemic will overwhelm them within weeks.
2.3. Street Child recognises that for most marginalised communities, distance and discrimination cuts across access to testing and treatment.
2.4. DFID should support partners to map the needs of most marginalised communities and prioritise last-mile investments designed to address distance and discrimination, including mobile clinics and healthcare services.
2.5. In countries where there are next to no intensive care facilities and even fewer ventilators, contracting the virus could spell a death sentence for children and communities in remote rural areas where there is no hospital or health post at an accessible distance, or for children and communities in camps, urban slums and settlements where competition for scarce services could lead to a fatal fight for survival.
2.6. In Afghanistan, for example, there are only three testing machines for a population of 38 million; all of these are in Kabul. Even if testing capabilities are scaled, there are insufficient systems for contact-tracing in order to contain community transmission; even more alarming are the insufficient systems to service confirmed cases of COVID-19.
2.7. In Sierra Leone, there are only 13 ventilators for 8 million people and in Liberia, there are only 3 ventilators for a population of 5 million.
2.8. DFID should scale up support to strengthen health infrastructure and services in conflict and crisis-affected countries.
2.9. The ability to access health posts and hospitals is attenuated during national lockdowns, where the hardest-to-reach communities will be unable to access health services or supplies.
2.10. Coupled with existing co-morbidities such as cholera, malaria, measles and tuberculosis, COVID-19 creates an intensified stress on health systems: with services already stretched to their limits, there is insufficient capacity of systems to cope with the demands of the pandemic. Chronic shortages of trained doctors and nurses, hospital beds, ventilators and personal-protective equipment (PPE) severely constrain the abilities of authorities to manage a surge in cases and create an intensified risk of increased mortalities.
2.11. For children in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the health care system is already stretched to its limit. These children are already at the mercy of many preventable diseases: in the last year alone, more than 5 300 children were lost to a measles epidemic and 17 000 to malaria; thousands of children were affected by cholera.
2.12. Street Child has increasing concerns that the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo - including confirmed cases in conflict-affected North Kivu and South Kivu provinces - can cause pressure on an already precarious system. Existing health and humanitarian needs are enormous, and the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children could cause extensive devastation and expose them to further to fatal diseases and death.
2.13. DFID should increase investment in community outreach capacities to ensure services reach the most marginalised, including investments to address chronic shortages of health care services in urban, rural and remote areas.
Humanitarian Risks and Threats
As fragile, crisis and conflict affected countries face challenging choices on how to flatten the curve in their contexts, national lockdowns are putting most marginalized children and communities at immeasurable risk. Children are one of the most vulnerable categories in this crisis.
3.1. Over 1.5 billion children are out of school as a result of school closures in over 188 countries [UNESCO 2020]. Interruption learning and a reduction in instructional time can have an adverse impact on cognitive and non-cognitive development for children, and every effort must be made to mitigate against these interruptions. It is absolutely vital that children have access to education even, and especially, in emergencies.
3.2. DFID should increase investments to close the education in emergencies financing gap, both through multilateral instruments including Education Cannot Wait [ECW] and the Global Partnership for Education [GPE] as well as through increased investment in central funds including the Girls Education Challenge [GEC], UK Aid Direct and UK Aid Match for COVID-19 rapid response interventions.
3.3. Establishing alternative avenues for education is essential to ensuring that children are not cut off from life-saving, life-saving information, services and support.
3.4. As education systems and institutions are turning towards technologies as an alternative to in-school instruction, this is exposing existing inequities in access in low-resource environments and emergencies. South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa – with some exceptions – rank in the bottom third of countries in terms of internet availability and affordability; online learning is inconceivable in these contexts. The most marginalized children aren’t able to access alternatives – and are cut off from life-saving, life-sustaining access to learning as a result.
3.5. DFID should support innovative initiatives that promote remote learning in the absence of technologies in remote, rural and urban areas in low-resource environments. In equal measure, DFID should support increased investment in technological infrastructure designed to close the digital divide in these areas.
3.6. In certain countries, radio and television offer simpler infrastructure for remote learning, with the potential to reach large numbers of learners and teachers.
3.7. In Nepal, Street Child is working with the United Nations Children’s Fund to create curricular scripts that can be purposed into radio programming: close coordination with the Education Cluster is enabling effective, efficient curriculum creation to translate into immediate action.
3.8. In Liberia and Sierra Leone, Street Child is working with education actors to create and contextualise current radio learning programmes for remote and rural areas, allowing children to create and maintain a routine that promotes protection, psychosocial security, stability, and continued acquisition of curricular content and skills.
3.9. DFID should champion and support the coordination low-level technologies for learning to ensure rapid, relevant and reliable education provision for children in remote and rural areas.
3.10. In crisis and conflict affected contexts, none of these options are available, nor are they necessarily viable. In Afghanistan and Cameroon, conflict-affected children do not have access to phones, or even to paper and pencils to engage in learning.
3.11. For first generation learners in families affected by protracted political crises, parents are unable to offer home schooling and support. In countries where children have crossed borders, children are unable to access curriculum and instruction in a foreign language.
3.12. In Bangladesh and Uganda, thousands of children in refugee camps are unable to access government-run radio programmes that are run in Bengali and English respectively – there is an immediate imperative for humanitarian actors to ensure education is available in Arabic, French and Rohingya as appropriate in these contexts.
3.13. DFID should engage and endorse specialised education interventions for conflict and crisis affected children. In particular, DFID should scale-up efforts to introduce targeted, tailored interventions for refugee children where there are no available, affordable or accessible government initiatives and support government engagement and endorsement as required.
3.14. The longer that these children are out of school or learning spaces, the greater the risk of disengagement and dropout and the lower the likelihood they will ever return and reintegrate.
3.15. As school closures interface with a loss of income in families, families are likelier to prioritise survival over schooling, with children with disabilities, girls and other marginalised groups likely to bear the brunt of these difficult decisions by being deprioritised.
3.16. A long-term loss of learning for an entire generation of learners risks a reversal of decades of advancement against the Sustainable Development Goals – with significant economic, social and political impacts.
3.17. Street Child calls on DFID to increase investment and support for international and national organisations to ensure that life-saving, life-sustaining learning is restored or realized for each and every child, especially those in greatest need.
4.1. The COVID-19 crisis is, at its heart, a protection crisis. Disruptions to learning, livelihoods and lives are exaggerating extreme poverty and exacerbating physical and psychosocial stress and trauma.
4.2. An interruption in access to in-school resources means marginalised children risk missing out on school meals; coupled with a reduction in rations, this increases the threat of hunger, malnourishment, reduced immunities and increased mortalities.
4.3. Interrupted access to school and safe spaces for learning also implies interrupted access to safety, stability and support: school is often one of the only elements of routine, stability and support for conflict and crisis-affected children whose families bear the burden of displacement or deepening poverty. Social isolation due to a lack of social support from peers and teachers threatens an increase in post-traumatic stress.
4.4. DFID should promote protection mainstreaming across all response efforts, ensuring that the psychological and psychosocial impact of the pandemic is actively addressed in all programmes.
4.5. The social and economic impacts of the pandemic create an increased financial strain on household incomes and contribute to an increase in stigma against marginalized groups thought to be at increased risk of infection and transmission.
4.6. The closure of schools and safe spaces for learning coupled with increased strain on communities creates an environment where the risk of adoption of adverse coping strategies such as child labour, child marriage, survival sex, transactional sex and teenage pregnancies increases exposure to abuse, exploitation and violence.
4.7. In conflict-affected contexts such as Afghanistan, Cameroon and Nigeria, this increases children to the risk of recruitment into armed groups.
4.8. Already in areas of active conflict, armed groups are taking advantage of the COVID-19 crisis to gain ground, including in Cameroon's Anglophone region and Mozambique's northernmost province Cabo Delgado. Street Child is especially concerned about the advances made by insurgents in Cabo Delgado, who have used the movement restrictions to significantly gain territory and begin attacking government buildings and services, including health centres. This has led to major displacement - more than 110,000 people to date - in an area already highly affected by the 2019 cyclones and other extreme weather, a new cholera outbreak and now COVID-19. Half of Mozambique's current COVID-19 cases are in Cabo Delgado.
4.9. DFID should champion the Safe Schools Declaration and continue to advocate against the recruitment of children into armed groups. DFID should scale-up specialised support initiatives for interim care and family tracing and reunification in conflict-affected contexts.
4.10. Children also face the risk of separation from families, as the COVID-19 pandemic sees increasing restrictions on movement and enforced quarantine and isolation.
4.11. Incarcerated children are at extreme risk of separation and isolation as families are prevented or prohibited from meeting their children. There are an estimated 1500 children incarcerated in prisons in Afghanistan. Incarcerated children are extremely vulnerable due to the threat of COVID-19 as unsafe and unsanitary facilities are at risk of rapid transmission should there be an outbreak. A high volume of correctional officers, social workers and visitors traversing in and out of the prison creates an increased risk of infection of incarcerated children. In the long-term, correctional facilities face the risk of becoming incubators of the virus, risking later waves of outbreak that threaten the lives of incarcerated children, correctional officers and the Afghan population.
4.12. Children who lose their caregivers are at extreme risk of being orphaned, or of becoming caregivers in child-headed households; the 2015 Street Child Ebola Orphan Report highlights the stigmatisation and social isolation these orphans stand to face.
4.13. There are significant gendered dimensions to the pandemic and its differential impacts: in vulnerable communities, men are at greater risk of forced labour or forced recruitment by armed groups (in conflict-affected areas), whilst women are at greater risk of forced labour, forced marriage, sexual abuse, exploitation and violence – in particular, intimate partner violence – survival sex, transactional sex and teenage pregnancies. Women who are still carrying out domestic chores such as gathering firewood are at an increased risk of harassment or harm, as the lack of crowds in the community leaves them alone and exposed. Frustration arising around an ability to provide income and food for the family can lead to an increase in depression and damaging coping strategies amongst men.
4.14. All of the above issues stand to have a significant, severe psychosocial impact on children. However, even as risks are intensified, interrupted or reduced access to services resulting from lockdown and movement restrictions leaves children cut-off from physical and psychosocial support that can help them recognise, respond to and resist these risks. In Kenya and Uganda, for example, schools are a core component of referral mechanisms, and closure implies protection cases cannot be properly reported and reported.
4.15. Street Child is calling on DFID to prevent this pandemic from turning into a crisis of child protection by increasing investment in remote support solutions to keep children safe, secure and protected.
5.1. In responding to these significant and shared threats, it is imperative that communities be armed with effective, efficient coping strategies at the onset, during and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
5.2. The pandemic is positioned to have a disproportionate impact on the poorest of the poor; immediate, targeted and tailored support is essential to prevent health crisis from spiralling into a humanitarian catastrophe.
5.3. DFID should prioritise programmes that address the humanitarian impact of the pandemic, in particular, for populations whose coping capacities are limited due to chronic conflict or crises.
5.4. For vulnerable children and communities, loss of learning is exacerbated by the loss of livelihoods and lives in their families. Amongst the poor, limited savings are stretched by increased complexities in accessing essential goods and increased expenditure on medicine and medical care whilst amongst the poorest of the poor, a lack of savings makes stockpiling essential supplies for subsistence impossible.
5.5. In fragile, conflict and crisis affected states, disruption of food supply chains is leading to intensification in food insecurities, whilst a lack of safety nets escalates the risk of malnourishment, reduced immunities and increased mortalities [FAO 2020].
5.6. As a result of the lockdown in Uganda, the purchasing power of the poorest of the poor has reduced, even as the availability of food has dramatically declined due to market closures. This has pushed many families even further below the poverty line and affected their ability to source essential food supplies. The situation is even more extreme for those families that were already vulnerable, such as child headed households, many of whom are now in desperate need of food and undertaking negative coping strategies to survive. Street Child is calling for urgent relief for these vulnerable children and communities, to ensure their survival and sustenance
5.7. Families are facing interrupted access to essential capital and competition over scarce resources due to lockdown; as a consequence, children are exposed to a rise in intra-family and inter-family conflicts.
5.8. In Afghanistan, we are receiving increasing reports of inter-community tensions arising due to competition over food and sanitation supplies. The loss of livelihoods and lives is set to further stress surviving caregivers, including children who are caregivers in child-headed householders, again creating an increased risk of child labour, child marriage and other exploitative survival strategies.
5.9. In conflict-affected areas, movement restrictions are interrupting the provision of humanitarian aid to displaced, refugee and returnee families who are entirely dependent on aid for survival.
5.10. Recent reductions and cuts to humanitarian aid risk cutting off life-saving, life-sustaining support for children and families; in Afghanistan, an announcement of $1 billion in immediate aid reductions from the United States of America threatens to push a protracted political crisis past a tipping point.
5.11. As countries in South Asia approach their third month of movement restrictions, Street Child is receiving distressing reports of children at risk of malnourishment and mothers being unable to breastfeed infants. In certain cases, communities report eating livestock provided through livelihoods programmes.
5.12. As the humanitarian impact of the pandemic threatens to multiply mortality rates by many orders of magnitude, Street Child is calling on DFID to prioritise the immediate needs of the most marginalised children and communities.
5.13. Street Child notes with concern an increase in state-sanctioned corruption and violence during lockdowns. In South Asia, despite an announcement of relief packages for the poor, centuries of caste-discrimination are leading to the names of lower-caste communities being struck off relief distribution lists and replaced with the friends and family members of politicians with access and influence over public officials. Our recent rapid assessment evidences that only 75% have received committed sanitation supplies; less than 20% have received committed food supplies.
5.14. Street Child is calling on DFID to commit to collaboration with government and other inter-agency initiatives seeking to reach those at most risk, supported by evidence on needs and gaps.
Lessons Learnt from Infectious Disease Experiences
Street Child was one of the foremost frontline responders in the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Our role illustrates that the fight against infectious diseases isn’t confined to the hospitals and health posts: each and every actor, organisation and government has a critical responsibility to break the chain of transmission in communities.
6.1. Street Child welcomes DFID engagement with organisations with experience and expertise from the Ebola Epidemic to advise on appropriate measures to combat the current COVID-19 crisis.
6.2. A key lever to containing the transmission of the Ebola Epidemic was containing its transmission in underreached and under-resourced communities in remote, rural areas of the countries.
6.3. In Kpondu, a village in the Kissi-Teng chiefdom, contact with the deceased during a funeral lead to the first 325 confirmed cases of the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone. Despite its proximity to Guinea and Liberia, where the disease had already taken hold, prevention and preparedness messages had not travelled to Kpondu as there were no diseases in Sierra Leone at the time, and its farthest regions were assumed to be safe. The consequences were devastating, as disease and death ravaged the village.
6.4. Street Child calls on DFID to increase investments in containing community transmission through the mobilisation of local level actors, community elders and community leaders.
6.5. In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, the risk of transmission in these communities is much higher. As a respiratory virus, it spreads through droplets generated when an infect person coughs or sneezes, through droplets of saliva, and discharge from the nose. As carriers aren’t always symptomatic, and as the virus survives for hours on hard surfaces, it is challenging to trace and track [WHO 2020].
6.6. For the urban poor, it is difficult to adopt social distancing strategies in the crowded, confined spaces of shanties, slums and single room houses. For both the urban and rural poor who depend on food sourcing and trading for their livelihoods, congested, crowded markets create a challenge for containing transmission; market stalls, shared latrines and the surfaces of wells and other water sources increase risk of infection.
6.7. Critical lessons learnt suggest it is essential that prevention and preparedness efforts are carried out at scale.
6.8. Despite the notion that infectious diseases are more acute in dense urban areas, life-saving, life-sustaining information can encourage the adoption of protective actions that reduce risk in remote and rural areas and contain transmission throughout.
6.9. At the height of the Ebola Epidemic, our agile, adaptive, rapid response mobilised over 2100 Ebola Educators to increase awareness and address misinformation and rumours across Liberia and Sierra Leone, accompanied by essential sanitation supplies that served to stem the spread in under-resourced, under-reached communities.
6.10. In the case of COVID-19, Street Child suggests that these successful strategies are of immediate relevance to reduce infection –
7.1. Street Child is calling on DFID to increase funding for local level organisations positioned to respond to the COVID-19 crisis in their communities.
7.2. A critical tactic in managing and mitigating the humanitarian impact of the Ebola Epidemic was the provision of life-saving, life-sustaining supplies to isolated families. As entire communities and catchment areas went into lockdown, Street Child identified and offered immediate relief to isolated families: ensuring their survival through the loss of income during isolation and encouraging them to remain isolation and avoid infection of others. In Westpoint, the largest slum in Liberia, Street Child arrange mass distributions of aid including rice, cooking oil, cooking stock and mattresses that supported the survival of vulnerable families.
7.3. The success of these support strategies was entirely dependent on our strong, sustained partnerships with national organisations Street Child of Liberia and Street Child of Sierra Leone.
7.4. Our partnership with Street Child of Sierra Leone allowed us to mobilise 2100 Ebola Educators in under a fortnight; our partnership with Street Child of Liberia allowed us to trace and track children in crowded slums to offer relief that saved children and their families from starvation. Communities trusted the advice of credible, committed community animators from our national partners over and above government-issued billboards and radio messages and responded with immediate action that led to the protection of thousands of vulnerable families who would have otherwise turned victim to the disease.
7.5. On our own, international organisations are not only expensive and inefficient – in a case where time is of the essence, we risk being ineffective and losing lives.
7.6. DFID should support local level organisations to scale and sustain programmes; this includes immediate funding allocations that are available and accessible, with proportionate due diligence requirements, that allow for rapid response.
7.7. Despite this insight, the United National Mission Emergency Ebola Response [UNMEER] failed to involve, let alone leverage for optimal impact, the enormous experience, expertise and community mobilisation capacities that national organisations could contribute to the response.
7.8. Street Child urges governments and international actors to avoid repeating this grave error: in the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing involvement, representation and leadership of national organisations is not only an optimal option, it is the only option.
7.9. Street Child is a recognized, reputed leader in “localisation” working with the Global Education Cluster and the Global Protection Cluster [Child Protection AoR] on a series of innovative initiatives to localise humanitarian action and coordination architecture.
7.10. Street Child is advising humanitarian clusters and coordination architectures on the adoption of localisation strategies that see a direct increase in funding to national actors, and increased national leadership, representation and voice in humanitarian response, in line with Grand Bargain goals.
7.11. The scale and scope of our operations is underpinned by a deep, diverse network of 44 national partners across these 14 countries. In a context where there is an immediate, increased reliance on national actors as movement restrictions limit international action, Street Child has already activated its national network to design and deliver rapid responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in the poorest urban, rural and remote communities across 14 countries.
7.12. Our experience and expertise in working with local level organisations illustrates that these organisations offer –
7.13. All of the above are absolutely crucial to our ability to adapt to the fast changing-circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic – else, we risk a response that is too little, too late.
7.14. The COVID-19 crisis calls for governments and global funders to ensure national organisations are core to central level planning, partnership arrangements and action. It creates critical opportunities for international organisations to pivot - not only to deliver operations and programmes through national organisations - but to increase investment and engagement in enabling national organizations to design, develop and deliver their own rapid, relevant and responsive programmes.
7.15. Street Child calls on DFID to champion and create opportunities to advance these goals through the provision of flexible funding for international and national organisations to promote sustainable shifts towards localisation.