The year 2020 was one of the most unique periods of time in recent human memory. It was long, lonely and full of uncertainty as we witnessed the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, the unprecedented lockdowns around the world, the weaknesses of the rich and developed countries and the poorest being pushed further down into poverty.
The World Bank has coined the term, the “New Poor” as it looks at the data where an estimate of more than 115 million people have been added to the below the poverty line and its largest share would be found in South Asia, followed by Sub-Saharan Africa.
While poverty has only increased, a gamut of new social problems has affected people and communities. Millions have lost jobs, businesses have shut down, the cost of healthcare has increased dramatically, the production levels have fallen down, mobility has been severely restricted and social stigma has become rampant.
The New Year started with the introduction of the Covid-19 vaccine in many countries and cautiously we are moving back to normal life. However, the rapid changes of 2020 have modified our way of working and we know the world is not the same anymore.
NGOs and donor agencies also went through the shock and are now introspecting new ways to work for the communities. In fact, their responsibilities have now increased more than ever as they need to address the unexpected challenges arising out of the pandemic. Challenges such as the increased poverty rate, high level of unemployment, poor access to affordable healthcare, disruption in food supply chains, loss of opportunities for youths, fall in the quality of education and mounting inequality and discrimination demand NGOs to play a greater role as these Covid-19 consequences will continue to impact the populations long after the pandemic is completely gone.
So how will the donor agencies address these problems? What strategies are they going to introduce in 2021? How will they build up NGO partnerships to bring about a ground-level change? We discuss all these points below.
Addressing the Covid-19 Impact will be the Number One Priority for Most Donors
As Covid-19 has impacted every walk of life, it is apparent that all donor agencies including bilaterals, multilaterals, foreign governments, aid organizations, private foundations and even individuals will place the pandemic as its top priority. Recently, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced the single largest contribution of $250 million to fight Covid-19.
So far, the foundation has committed around $1.75 billion to support the global response to fight the pandemic. More than $680 million in newly allocated funding, to help slow transmission; support responses in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia; fund the development and procurement of new tests, treatments, and vaccines; alleviate the social and economic effects of the pandemic; and a new focus for 2021 to ensure equitable, timely, and scaled delivery of proven interventions.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has made more than $1 billion available for combating Covid-19 as it works with governments, multilateral organisations, NGOs, the private sector and other agencies not only to slow down the spread of the virus but also to equip communities so that they can fight it effectively. USAID has been launching projects on hygiene, providing life-saving equipment to needy hospitals in poor countries, building the capacities of frontline workers and create information awareness campaigns to reduce the impact of Covid.
UKaid committed £764 million last year to fight the pandemic. It has allocated £130 million to support the UN’s Global Humanitarian Response Plan for Covid-19 and another £50 million to work with NGO partners for promoting good hygiene practices, including a public awareness campaign on the importance of handwashing, measures to increasing access to hygiene products, and a hygiene behaviour change programme
Looking at the above trends, it is evident that NGOs will now be looked upon as partners to fight Covid.
Addressing Covid-19 will be a Cross-Cutting Theme in Projects
Like gender, addressing Covid-19 and its impact will not become a cross-cutting theme across all projects. Donor agencies will demand a special note on how Covid-19 will impact the project and what steps will be undertaken to reduce it. We will also observe a combination of issues with Covid in order to better address the problem.
For example, Women Saving for Resilience (WS4R) announced the launch of a challenge fund n Africa to support innovations in gender intentional COVID response and recovery efforts related to Savings Groups.
Similarly, the Democracy and Media Foundation announced a call for proposals for initiatives that reinforce democracy and rule of law in the Netherlands in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The EfInA in Nigeria which works for the financial inclusion of the poor communities recently announced its tenth request for proposals (RFP 10) for the COVID-19 Grant that will focus on supporting solutions that can mitigate the far-reaching impact of COVID-19 on low-income individuals/households (defined as those earning N50,000 or less per month) and MSMEs in the country.
Reduction of Donor Funding for Non-Health Issues
While Covid takes the top position in the issues to be tackled with the donor funding, other issues, mainly non-health, will experience a significant reduction in aid. According to E-International Relations, “COVID-19 seems likely to trigger a broad contraction in non-health aid.”
This means that those donor agencies which considered issues related to human rights, education, social research, youth development, environmental protection or gender equality as a priority all these years will now allocate a significant portion of their resources to provide Covid relief to communities.
This can also mean that NGOs framing proposals for non-health-related issues will now have less chances of winning funding as a larger portion of resources has been diverted to address Covid-19.
The Emergence of New Donors
As Covid has exposed the vulnerability of human life, it has led to the emergence of new donors and funding types. Many private agencies and individuals have realized that they need to do more contribute towards and the life and welfare of mankind and they have started expressly participating in charitable programs to help suffering communities.
For example, Facebook launched its $100 million Small Business Grants Programme to provide funding to small businesses impacted by Covid. The Local News Relief Fund Grant was another new type of funding from the tech giant.
Google gave over grants totalling more than $8.5 million to thirty-one nonprofits, universities, and other academic institutions in support of COVID-related artificial intelligence and data analytics projects. In May 2020, it also announced a $100 million contributions to COVID-19 relief.
Private donors such as Jeff Bezos committed $125 million. Other rich Americans such as Jack Dorsey and Ray Dalio also publicly donated money for Coronavirus relief.
Funding for Emergency Relief
In 2021, there will not be much large-scale interventions to address the long-term socio-economic impact of the Covid. Rather, donor funding will focus on improving production and supply of Covid medicines. As vaccines have just been launched, resources will be allocated for ensuring its fair distribution, outreach and support for vaccinating the populations. The Gates Foundation’s $750 million financing enables the rapid procurement of essential medical supplies, like tests, and helps companies finance the production of COVID-19 products for low- and middle-income countries.
The UN Foundation contributing towards the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund has deployed the resources to Speed personal protective equipment, testing kits, and other important supplies to where they are most needed. Conduct research on potential COVID-19 treatments, diagnostics, and vaccines. Enable information about the virus to be shared. Support vulnerable populations with infection prevention control and other services.
NGOs developing COVID-19 proposals independently should integrate solutions for providing emergency relief to those suffering from the Covid pandemic and how the vaccination process will reach out the to poor and the vulnerable people.