The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis has now become a real war as NGOs, governments and private institutions have put to use massive resources to address it. What appeared to be a minor health problem in Wuhan, China just a few months ago has now turned into a global pandemic affecting every aspect of our lives.
Healthcare services have been challenged and livelihoods have been destroyed. According to the World Bank, global poverty is expected to increase to 8.6% – for the first time in the last 20 years. While even the most advanced economies, which are currently most affected by the COVID-19 virus, are going to contract, the poorest countries, especially in Africa where the virus has still not widespread, are going to be economically most affected. Deterioration in health and economy leads to other social problems like inequality, discrimination, conflict, crime, lower education, violation of human rights and disorder.
NGOs are now required to play an even greater role in addressing the various effects arising out of the COVID-19 crisis. Donors are actively searching for partnerships with NGOs to work together. In this article, we discuss the ideas for partnerships for NGOs with donors and what types of projects can be proposed to receive funding.
Emergency Health Preparedness
As health is the primary area that has been severely affected by the Coronavirus, the first priority of donor funding has been to provide emergency relief to health workers fighting to save lives. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, along with Wellcome and Mastercard announced one of the early grants for identifying, assessing, developing, and scaling-up treatments against the epidemic.
The Islamic Development Bank’s Transform Fund Call for Innovation 2020 seeks to focus on emergency preparedness to curb the spread of the COVID-19, minimizing the socio-economic impact of the pandemic especially on poor communities, and building the resilience of their Member Countries in responding to outbreaks and pandemics.
As the epidemic has been caused by a new type of virus, research has been an important element of international funding as many questions related to its unprecedented spread, treatment and its long-term effects on an individual’s health are yet to be answered. TWAS and the Islamic Development Bank are offering up to $50,000 to gather knowledge about the epidemiology of COVID-19 and development of diagnostics and therapeutics in viral outbreaks. Research-based NGOs with experience in handling projects related to HIV, SARS and Ebola can participate in such a researched-based opportunity to implement their past lessons learnt and best practices.
Similarly, WHO has announced the Special Grant for Research in Priority Areas of Public Health across the Eastern Mediterranean countries “to promote health research as a tool for national development programming, and to increase the use of evidence-based action and health planning for provision of equitable health care.” Under this call, NGOs can propose projects in studies such as assessing the quality of health emergency services, access to medicines, impact on other health areas such as reproductive health and improvement in the quality of data.
Countering Fake News
As the impact of COVID-19 spreads across countries and societies, NGOs would be required to assess and propose projects to address the social and economic challenges of the epidemic. For example, the outbreak of the virus has caused an uncontrolled emergence of fake news regarding its spread and treatment. Across the internet websites and various social media channels, various myths are being propagated such as “using pepper in soup is going to cure COVID-19, houseflies spreading the infection, 5G mobile networks are responsible for the spread of the diseases“. Some of the most common myths have been listed by the WHO and the MedicalNewsToday.
It is very critical at this point for NGOs to spread community awareness not only on how to successfully prevent this health problem but also in removing these myths. Only through public education and continuous communication, NGOs can ensure that the people are well-informed and do not end up in adopting practices that are harmful to them. NGOs can develop advocacy proposals for community education to bust fake news and myths about cure and prevention. Community education also helps people to adopt hygienic practices and avoid the spread of the disease.
WHO’s social media monitoring call for proposals in the Philippines is a good example of why it is important to control fake news. NGOs can propose similar projects to donors that will help improve public awareness and bust the common myths.
The European Commission has announced a series of calls for proposals across the Western Balkans and nearby areas for projects that tackle discrimination during the COVID-19 times. The spread of the virus has affected certain vulnerable groups such as the LGBTQI community, minorities and the poor as they have been subjected to negligence, hate speech and boycott.
The purpose of launching the Coronavirus Fast Response Fund by the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation is to mobilize civic initiatives in the wider Black Sea region meant to help limit the coronavirus crisis and counter its negative impact on society, good governance, democracy, rule of law, and access to free media.
OutRight Action International has set up a COVID-19 LGBTIQ Emergency Response Fund to respond to this crisis and support LGBTIQ organizations around the world who are serving people impacted by COVID-19 while facing an uncertain future themselves.
It is for the human rights-based NGOs to take the lead to check the propagation of hatred against the vulnerable populations. They can develop proposals that seek to protect the rights of these marginalized people, especially when the governments are busy addressing the wider problems.
Women, girls and children can be at the receiving end of the pandemic as there can be a rise in the sexual corruption, sextortion, child abuse, domestic violence, gender discrimination and violation of basic rights due to public restrictions imposed by governments. According to a World Bank report released on 7 April 2020, “Violence against women tends to increase during every type of emergency, including epidemics. Older women and women with disabilities are likely to have additional risks and needs. Women who are displaced, refugees, and living in conflict-affected areas are particularly vulnerable.”
Speaking of refugees, the COVID-19 can have devastating effects in humanitarian settings – areas which are still under a crisis caused by a natural disaster, war or conflict. Elrha has a call that aims to fund public health research that will produce robust findings that will contribute to the effectiveness of the current humanitarian response and increase the evidence base for future responses to similar infectious disease outbreaks.
In Pakistan, the European Union (EU) has announced a call for proposals for strengthening civil society in addressing social and economic challenges and increasing the voice of youth in Pakistan following the COVID-19 outbreak.
NGOs can propose projects to donors on protecting the rights of women, girls and children especially in vulnerable areas during the COVID-19 crisis. WFT-Trust in Tanzania has a similar call for promoting women, girls and children rights in response to COVIID-19 crisis,
On the same lines, Peace First launched a rapid response grant process to help young people around the world lead projects that address community impacts of COVID-19, from providing meals to elderly neighbors to launching digital mental health campaigns to support youth feeling isolated.
The Centre for Applied Human Rights (CAHR) with the support of the Open Society Foundations has announced Art+Activism against repression grant to support activists and artists for promoting human rights. COVID-19 crisis can make it easier for dictatorial regimes to impose further restrictions on populations and it is important for human rights defenders to receive support to protect the people’s rights.
Governments and banks in many countries are coming forward to provide loans and grants to small businesses to help them revive the economy and improve employment levels. However, millions of subsistence farmers and rural enterprises have also lost crucial livelihoods and require immediate relief support. NGOs can propose projects on building their livelihoods, maintaining supply chains, arrange access to capital and loans and improve their living conditions. Private Enterprise Development in Low-Income Countries (PEDL) is inviting applications to this special Exploratory Research Grant (ERG) call for projects addressing the economic impacts of coronavirus.
Innovation and Creative Project Ideas
Lastly, innovation is the key to find easy, cost-effective and lasting solutions to problems. Dozens of donor agencies have opened up competitions and challenges to sponsor innovative and creative project ideas that will address the COVID-19 crisis and its overall socio-economic and cultural effects.
HERE Technologies in Partnership with IBM and many other global and local organisations, are organising the #HackForBetterDays, a fully online, 30-day virtual hackathon across Asia Pacific. It seeks to build innovative solutions to respond to the current & future needs of society following the impact of COVID-19.
Islamic Cooperation Youth Forum’s (ICYF) and Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s (HBKU) “In Solidarity Against Covid-19” Ideation Challenge aims to collect the best experiences, actions, and responses put forward by individuals and communities during the outbreak.
Overall, it can be concluded that NGOs will have a greater role to play in re-building the socio-economic and cultural structures than previously imagined. International donors providing support in different areas such as agriculture development, child rights, women’s empowerment, human rights, information technology and health will be willing to fund innovative projects to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on these areas worldwide.