How to help vulnerable children under Corona – global sharing of best practices

Von Anna Lena Johannsen
Juni 2020

Dignity for Children e.V. organized a webinar series with our partners from Ethiopia, Rwanda and Afghanistan to exchange and learn together with the german and european civil society about the challenges that derived from COVID-19 for vulnerable children and NGO’s helping them. The first webinar focussed on kicking off the series and updating each other on the situation. Around 20 participants from Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Poland and the partner countries participated.

Challenge for all countries: Covid 19 has a negative effect on the mental health of the population. Schools have been closed, vulnerable population and poor children less easy to reach and misuse or violence in the family homes are increasing. All organizations in the Global South needed to change the approach of schooling and feeding, to emergency program.
The partners are all profiting from and are thankful for emergency fundraising done in / by the Western countries. Dignity for children had a fundraising site on for collecting emergency relief for Rwanda, Ethiopia and Afghanistan, which worked well.

– Exchange on challenges for the NGO work in the four countries Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Germany – challenges for the organizations, challenges for the beneficiaries.
– Present how the organizations are structured and what activities they are usually doing to help vulnerable children and to hear about special activities taken up during Corona
– Hearing about activities taken up and given up during Corona time. Shift from normal education activities to emergency activities – mainly in the prevention sector but also in food security
– Solidarity on a local, national or global level?
– Expectations to the webinar series and global exchange towards German public and civil society

Bright Star Ethiopia started by presenting the activities they’re now doing in Addis Ababa for the street people. They had to close down the girls- and the boys house and the schools Gurara and Entoto due to Corona in March. The virus has probably imported into Ethiopia from Japan. Now the children in need are sleeping in especially furnished classrooms. 1500 children are receiving a meal every day, even still now. The challenge is: how to keep up / take up again the day to day activities. Currently: emergency program. No routine medical check-up done currently e.g. And they only gather in small groups, wearing gloves and masks, washing hands and using sanitizers, teaching about hygiene and distancing. Both schools are preparing for final exam and it will be done with a small number without physical contact. More than 3500 Covid 19 cases currently and the numbers are going up. 10 extremely needy families were selected for monthly food support. Each received: 15kg wheat flour, 5kg Macaroni, 5kg Rice, 5kg Onions, 4 package Pastes, 4 soaps, 3 litters food oil, 1 liters desinfection. Bright Star is much interesed to hear about how MMCC is organizeing the Corona-parade in Kabul with the children.

Mobile Mini Circus for Children, Afghanistan is reporting that half of the population of Kabul has been affected by Covid 19. It has spread from Iran, as many afghan labor workers and from IDP camps had been kicked out of the country and returned to Afghanistan with the virus. MMCC is currently teaching a lot about hygiene, washing hands, social distancing etc. through their performances. They also produce face shields for hospitals, who are poorly equipped and the health system is more or less non-existent. MMCC children are painting social distancing circles in front of shops. The challenge is: how to reach out to the children? How to continue with the normal activities? Currently they are implementing activities that the health care system or society should take care of, but not done. This is frustrating: filling gaps you were not designated to do. It is frustrating that one cannot go on with ones “regular activities” and the impression is, that the population is experiencing a collective trauma due to the lock down without hope and perspective. Feeling “useless” and sitting at home doing nothing, as one isn’t able to go to work and children have nothing to do. Fall back in development: girls are remaining at home, not returning to school. Everything that was built up during the past years is deteriorating now. For the next 3 months schools and universities will be closed. Currently they are preparing for a big Corona-parade where the children dress up in costumes as the Corona-virus and demonstrate through the streets of Kabul. MMCC is also trying to apply for post-Corona funding, which has been difficult as they couldn’t “prove they have activities going on’ currently. MMCC is recommending everyone to check out their facebook page

Kinamba Community project, Rwanda had to close down their school as well. Most funds for the project are gathered by expat Rwandans, also during this Corona crisis time. The tailor program for mothers is still going on. It is a means for the vulnerable population to save some money and spread hope and faith. Also through the weekly food distribution of food packages to needy families, consisting of oil, soap, maize and porridge where awareness on the Corona virus, hygiene and social distancing is given.

Civil society members are commenting that the Corona time could have the advantage that people cannot spend their money for expensive holidays but could save it and maybe donate some more. This is the hope. Necessary for actually donating though, is the personal contact to the implementing partners in the Global south. So one idea is, to make the partners and their activities more present if Germany and Europe. DFC and others could be a bridge for this. To link up personally and raise awareness for raising funds. These webinars are one step into this direction.

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