Like citizens, health officials and governments across the world, we are extremely concerned at the scale of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic both here in the UK and in other countries.
All of the Disasters Emergency Committee’s 14 member charities are currently working to adapt the aid they are delivering around the world to the rapidly evolving situation. Our members working in poorer countries and refugee camps will always prioritise those most in need of humanitarian assistance, including those most severely affected by Covid-19 over the coming months. With international travel becoming more difficult, our member agencies will also be increasing their support of local partners as part of the response.
The work that DEC charities are undertaking now in the communities where they are already present includes surveillance of the scale of local outbreaks; public health messaging and education; provision of healthcare equipment, masks and other supplies; provision of clean water and sanitation services; and helping feed malnourished people. For example World Vision has already delivered 400,000 face masks and 50,000 hygiene kits including hand sanitisers, soap, tissues and thermometers.
DEC member Save the Children is assessing the impact on children as schools close in the countries where Save the Children works, while Age International is focused on how their teams around the world can enhance their assistance to older people who are the most vulnerable to the virus.
In the UK, DEC member British Red Cross is supporting people in isolation as well as working with the Department of Health, NHS England, Public Health England and local authorities, while Islamic Relief has partnered with a range of British organisations to ensure that the most vulnerable are kept safe.
With the virus spreading rapidly around the world, all countries will be affected in some form. In line with our appeal criteria, the DEC will continue to assess whether there is large-scale unmet humanitarian need in poorer countries or populations with little capacity to respond to the outbreak in order to inform our decision-making about whether to launch one of our national fundraising appeals.
The DEC will also be assessing our members’ ability to use funds from any appeal quickly and effectively in response to an outbreak in these countries or populations.
While we are deeply concerned for vulnerable people in the UK, the DEC is unable to fund domestic emergency responses because our mandate is focused on delivering humanitarian assistance in the world’s poorest countries, as is most of the work of our member charities. You can find out more about how we work here.
However the National Emergencies Trust, set up last year to distribute donations in a similar way to the DEC but in times of national crisis, has launched an appeal in partnership with British Red Cross to help people affected by the Covid-19 outbreak in the UK. Donations to their appeal will go to various charities – mainly local community foundations – to help people suffering from ill health, but also from the economic and social impact of the virus. If you would like to support the NET in the UK response, further information can be found here.
We very much hope all of our supporters stay safe and follow the NHS guidance on Covid-19 at this unprecedented and immensely challenging time.