Thursday, 19 Mar 2020

A Message from our CEO

As many of us come to terms with the evolving impact of Coronavirus and the associated economic downturn, it highlights even more strongly what an interconnected global world we live in. To date much of the news has focused on China and then subsequently the impact on Europe. The risk is that the world stays silent on the emerging potential crisis in other parts of the world and communities far less able to withstand the shock of the pandemic.

The concept of social distancing is meaningless, when you are in densely overcrowded informal settlements such as Kibera in Kenya where our member USK works.  There the average home is 12ft by 12ft and can house up to 8 people[1] . Or the advice to regularly wash your hands for 20 seconds is simply not practical, in areas such as the informal farm settlements where our member FOST works in Zimbabwe. There, clean water is still carried over long distances by women and children on a daily basis.

Health care systems in Italy are at breaking point and there are grave concerns about the National Health Service in the UK and yet populations in these countries have access to a health system usually free at point of delivery. Our member Butterflies works with street connected children and their families in Delhi who are unlikely to have access to basic medicines or health care professionals even in ‘normal’ times.

The situation in the camps on Lesbos has long been criticised for their massive overcrowding and there are now reports of Coronavirus in that already highly vulnerable population. Metadrasi, our member in Greece,  works with unaccompanied children who will inevitably be marginalised and struggle to access any of the limited support that will be available in the basic healthcare in the camps.

The instruction from some governments for those over 70 to stay at home and self isolate may just not be feasible for those who are caring for their grandchildren. Throughout the world 1 in 10 children will be living with kinship carers, the majority of whom will be grandparents. This population is already struggling because very few countries provide financial support for these families. The elderly grandparents are often already facing a precarious economic situation when they take on the additional burden of childcare without additional financial support.

This will be compounded by the economic downturn  caused by the response to the virus, where those already living in poverty with insecure livelihoods will face extremely uncertain futures. In countries where there are highly unlikely to be government bailouts and cash injections this may well lead to family separation as either parents or children migrate to find a living.

The coronavirus doesn’t discriminate but the response and access to support will inevitably be unequal and those most vulnerable and marginalised will be the hardest hit and the least served.

[1] There are approximatly 2.5 million slum dwellers in about 200 settlements in Nairobi representing 60% of the Nairobi population and occupying just 6% of the land. Kibera houses about 250,000 of these people. Kibera is the biggest informal settlements in Africa and one of the biggest in the world.

Amanda Griffith

Chief Executive Officer