Yearly Archives: 2020

Photo Credit: AFP Photo

Fifty-two-year old Ayub Masih was working as a cook until this March when the coronavirus epidemic broke out in Pakistan. The meager subsistence he was bringing to the family through his work is now at stake because his employers have closed down until June and he won’t be receiving a salary until they reopen.

On March 24th, Pakistan imposed a countrywide lockdown for social distancing and self-isolation to reduce the risk of the coronavirus spreading further and fast. Since then, all shops, businesses and factories, except for medical, law enforcement, sanitation and food related services, have been closed down.

Before the lockdown, there were at least 50 to 60 million Pakistanis living below the poverty line. But as an economic survey now reveals, the number might be

going up to 125 million from the existing figureⁱ.

Masih and his family, who live in the suburbs of Lahore in a slum, are among the millions of Pakistanis who are going to experience the crushing jaws of poverty, hunger and despair because of the ensuing economic meltdown.

At his workplace, Masih was known for his hard work, humility and hospitality. In 1998, he had an open-heart surgery and since regularly takes medicine for heart and diabetes. Despite his ailing health, Masih has always been alert and proactive in providing assistance and support to everyone at work and at home. Today, Masih is not just without a job and an income, but is also experiencing the agony of being “of no use anymore”. With his diabetes and heart medication being costly, he might also be reducing or entirely missing his medicine dosage in this crunch time.

This is a very testing time. I have to make a tradeoff between my medicine and the food for everyone in the family.

Masih lives with his family in a three-bedroom house. His aged father and mother live in one room. In another room lives his son Haroon Masih with his wife and two children. In the third room, Masih lives with his wife Nasreen and his daughter Maria. Nasreen works as an attendant in a private school, and Maria works as a midwife at a private hospital. Masih had wanted to rent out a portion of his house for additional income but this hasn’t been possible due to his extended family staying in the house.

Masih’s son, Haroon, drives a rickshaw for a living. Before the COVID-19, he was able to bring home about PKR. 1,000 a day (roughly US $6). During the lock down however, all public transportation is suspended. Haroon cannot take his rickshaw on the road because the police have imposed a fine on commuting passengers. So now the only breadwinners for the family are Nasreen who earns PKR. 7,000 a month (roughly about US $45) and Maria who earns a monthly income of PKR. 13,000 (roughly about US $81).

In addition to the loss of livelihood, there has been a price hike because of the sudden increase in buying and storage of grocery, an interruption in the food supply chain due to the lockdown and hoarding by shopkeepers.

Yesterday, we cooked lentils and added more water than usual. Today, we have cooked potatoes. But, again, we have added more water so that everyone can eat. Before the outbreak, potatoes were for Rs. 40 a kilo but today I bought them for Rs. 80 a kilo.

The government has bailed out households in utility bills of electricity, water and natural gas. It has also launched a cash and voucher assistance mega-program under which each poor family will receive PKR. 12,000 a month (roughly US $75) during this difficult time.

I have got myself registered for this support on the prescribed government website but so far I have not received a confirmation if our family is going to get this assistance.

We have been trying to provide the best for our children within our means. Earlier, each day the children had demands like ice-cream or a chocolate, which we could meet. But now, if the current situation continues, we fear that they might soon be often going to bed hungry. So, we just hope and pray that this situation does not persist for long, normalcy prevails and we return to our work.

When: May 13, 2020

What time: 2:00 PM (PST)

Where: ZOOM – Link to be shared

Language: English

How long: 120 minutes

Who is it for: Humanitarian and development practitioners working in or with hard-to-reach areas, NGOs, and INGOs involved in COVID-19 response all over the world

Format: Presentation – Experience sharing on Best Practices & Discussion

Moderator & Facilitator: Ms. Ester Dross


The webinar will help explore;

  • Key principles of safe and efficient complaints handling
  • Ways to develop key messages on raising awareness on the need for complaints systems among the most vulnerable populations as well as our own staff
  • Increased challenges during Covid-19 crisis and potential solutions


A key aspect of our shared commitment towards Accountability to Affected People is an organization’s ability to receive and handle complaints efficiently, safely and transparently. Community World Service Asia and Act Church of Sweden have collaborated on hosting a webinar on Remote Complaints Response Mechanism (CRM) and Community Feedback Mechanism in context of COVID-19 facilitated by Ms. Ester Dross, who is a specialist in the field of humanitarian accountability,  complaints handling, prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse, gender and child protection.

The webinar will help in reinforcing participants’ awareness on the importance of setting up and maintaining an accessible, safe, and confidential complaints system, taking into account additional difficulties in reaching out to communities for awareness raising, but also for communities to reach out and report potential concerns or misconduct.

This two-hour webinar will also be an opportunity for sharing best practices among participants and on how organizations are managing programs in the current crisis, while maintaining high levels of quality and accountability and adhering to relevant standards, specifically the Core Humanitarian Standard, which is key for successful complaints handling.

Community World Service Asia (CWSA) is a humanitarian and development organization, registered in Pakistan, head-quartered in Karachi and implementing initiatives throughout Asia. CWSA is member of the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) Alliance, a member of Sphere and their regional partner in Asia and also manages the ADRRN Quality & Accountability Hub in Asia.

Act Church of Sweden is a faith-based organization that works for positive, long-term and sustainable change. Collaborating and cooperating with other organisations is at the core of Church of Sweden’s international mission. By working with local organisations, Act Church of Sweden contributes to long-term sustainable development in the contexts in which their partner organisations operate.

If you wish to participate, kindly register here: Registration – Remote CRM and Community Feedback Mechanism.

Applicants will be informed by May 7th about their confirmation status. Up to 200 participants will be accommodated on a first come first serve basis. All participants will be requested to share best practices on the topic under discussion in the webinar. Out of all the contributions, up to 7 participants will be selected to share their experiences.

Moderator & Facilitator

Ms. Ester Dross – independent Consultant

Ms. Dross is an independent consultant with over 25 years of experience, specializing in accountability, prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse, gender and child protection.

Ms. Dross had extensive exposure to humanitarian certification systems and accountability to affected populations while working with HAP International as their Complaints Handling and Investigation Advisor, later as their Certification Manager. She has been closely involved in the Building Safer Organizations Project since 2005, dealing with sexual exploitation and abuse of beneficiaries, particularly focusing on gender and child protection. Over the last 6 years and since working as an independent consultant, Ester has been leading a pilot project for FAO on accountability and gender mainstreaming in emergencies and working with numerous NGOs including ACT Alliance members, supporting and training their staff on gender issues, child protection, accountability, complaints handling and investigations. She is an experienced investigator herself and has conducted investigations in Asia, South America, Africa and Europe.

The rapid spread of COVID-19 is having an impact on organizations and businesses around the world and, notably, on your relationship with your staff. The impetus is now on organizations and their leaders to begin to both anticipate and mitigate the effects of this crisis. The role of the Human Resource (HR) department is crucial here. The decisions taken by HR will impact the livelihood of the employees, and the entire workforce in a nutshell.

 Shifting to a work-from-home culture, especially during a time of crisis or uncertainty, brings its own unique challenges. Managers and leaders overseeing teams working remotely for the first time need to put in place common-sense measures to maximize the effectiveness of their teams.

Commitment 8 of the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) on staff competency states that communities and people affected by crisis must receive the assistance they require from competent and well-managed staff and volunteers. How is this possible when most organizations have adopted remote working and management of their staff?

Webinar on The Role of Human Resources (HR) in Remote Management during Covid-19 Response

This interactive webinar organized by Community World Service Asia and its Q&A partners, on April 28th, discussed the challenges encountered in remote management and promoted the role of HR in facilitating an effective remote management process among the regional humanitarian and development community in Asia.

Human Resource professionals and senior management members of organizations representing twelve countries from around the world participated and contributed to the discussions in this two-hour webinar.

Access was highlighted as key to remote management during the session.

Remote management has a lot to do with access. Advanced technology has made it possible to stay connected at times like these when we are facing non-reachable access. But we have to also consider those countries and areas where there is limited or no technology to maintain connectivity. This is where the different categories of remote management play a prominent role where management delegates, control and support remotely,

stated Uma Narayanan, webinar facilitator.

Putting in place clear guidelines on the various categories of remote management for staff and employees is critical.

Before COVID-19, we used remote management guidelines for certain restricted areas or locations which we could not access frequently. However, the importance of remote management has increased immensely in this crisis. As a Monitoring & Evaluation professional, we should aim at developing simple tools, having clear guidelines that cater to all parameters of the project. For remote management, we have to utilize the digital platform for increased access,

 shared Fayyaz Ahmed Fayyaz, from Agha Khan Development Network in Pakistan.

In a group exercise where participants were divided into virtual breakout rooms during the webinar, participants discussed and highlighted the key challenges of remote management. Participants raised that many organizations lack remote management policies or performance management systems that effectively evaluate remote working. The limited capacity of some staff on digital and advanced technology and software used during remote working for communication, coordination, planning and monitoring was also recognized as a challenge. Unstable internet connections at homes, lack of psychosocial support, ensuring staff commitment and motivation and implementing digital HR processes such as virtual recruitment were identified as common challenges. Most INGOs are typically well-resourced in terms of IT and digital systems, however this often is not the case with NGOs and CBOs.

Best Practices & Reflections

Participants shared various measures taken by their organizations to increase effectiveness of remote management. Organizations are ensuring staff awareness for response to COVID-19 and how to protect themselves and others. Clear guidelines and principles with regards to work from home have been defined in workplaces. Emphasis have been put on staff well-being and consequently, psychological first aid for staff and volunteers is made available when the need arises. Online mentoring for leadership level and dissemination of health and safety policies are also among the best practices.

We were well prepared as we are used to working remotely. We have different management teams and a contingency plan which mentions the guidelines for working at home. The plan identifies different scenarios and mentions the risks, according to which measures are taken to provide maximum support to staff for convenient work from home. In addition, our organization has developed policies regarding work from home to ensure staff’s knowledge on the terms and conditions of working from home. Likewise, we utilize social networks including WhatsApp to reach staff and community.

Yeni, Care International

We are all going through similar situations and circumstances. We have always had a work from home policy. But this time around, this is not our usual work from home kind. This situation has specifically influenced our deliverables of the project that need to be implemented and we are answerable to our donors. As an HR professional we are constantly keeping in touch with the staff who are scattered around Nepal and providing them the flexibility to work at their own space. We hold weekly meetings just to know how the staff is coping and offer counseling when needed.

Prajana, Nepal

My key takeaway from today’s session was the different techniques to adopt for remote management such as use of technology, and various modes of increased communication with staff and community via telephones, mobile phones and online groups. In addition, to conduct productive and interactive meetings, organizations should adopt various online tools including GoToMeeting, Zoom, Business Skype and many others easily accessible on the internet. We can observe the features of the software and see which best suits our nature of work. The group activity was interesting as each group was divided in separate virtual rooms to discuss the challenges of remote management. Learning different challenges provided a broader view of looking at how remote management can be well-managed to bring out positive outcomes.

Fayyaz Ahmed Fayyaz, AKND, Pakistan

When: May 7, 2020

What time: 2:00 PM (PST)

Where: ZOOM – Link to be shared

Language: English

How long: 90 minutes

Who is it for: Humanitarian and development practitioners working in or with hard-to-reach areas, NGOs, and INGOs involved in COVID-19 response

Format: Panel Discussion

Purpose: Leaders from the sector will share their experience on how their respective organisations navigate the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on their staff, organisation and most importantly on the people they work for and with.


When faced with a crisis, most leaders are forced to think and behave in ways that feel unfamiliar. What leaders need during a crisis is not a predefined response plan but behaviors and mindsets that will prevent them from overreacting and help them look ahead. Crisis has a way of revealing, course-correcting and recalibrating what leadership really means. This webinar will explore such behaviors and accompanying mindsets that can help leaders navigate the coronavirus pandemic and future crises.

The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is the defining global health crisis of our time. In addition to the loss of lives and the disruption to millions of lives, the economic damage is already significant and far-reaching.

The humanitarian community continues to respond to the needs from the COVID-19 pandemic while sustaining on-going humanitarian operations and life-saving programs, which is essential to avoid further loss of lives and suffering. In the face of various risks, challenges and uncertainty, many humanitarian leaders are rightly concerned about how their organizations and the sector will be affected.

Organizations around the world may be in different phases of the pandemic, dealing with the crisis in its own way, given that the impacts vary by geography and sector.

Community World Service Asia is pleased to host a series of learning and experience sharing events in Asia, particularly focusing on the steps taken by organisations to blunt the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Community World Service Asia (CWSA) is a humanitarian and development organization, registered in Pakistan, head-quartered in Karachi and implementing initiatives throughout Asia. CWSA is a member of the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) Alliance and a Sphere regional partner.

If you wish to participate register here: Leading through the Covid-19 Pandemic 



Ms. Tanya WoodCore Humanitarian Standard Alliance, Director, Switzerland

Ms. Wood is the Executive Director of the CHS Alliance, a network of more than 150 organization making aid work better for people, through application of the Core Humanitarian Standard. She brings more than 20 years management and leadership experience in the international humanitarian sector, predominantly in international membership organizations.


Ms. Deepmala Mahla Care, Regional Director for Asia

Ms. Mahla has worked for two decades designing and implementing humanitarian and development programs in Middle East, Africa to Asia. She is a strong humanitarian voice influencing actively for better of most vulnerable communities and protection of aid workers; with distinct expertise in advocacy and communications.


Ms. Ayesha SalmaPakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, Group Head of Quality Assurance, Research and Design

Ms. Salma has over fifteen years of experience in international development during which she has successfully overseen a range of programs in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. She comes with a wealth of experience in Program Quality Assurance, Innovation, Strategy, Organizational Development and Communications. She is passionate about leveraging people’s talents to build high performing teams.



Ms. Uma NarayananIndependent Consultant

Ms. Narayanan specializes in human resources, organizational development and accountability in the humanitarian sector. She has a background in International Organizational and Systems Development and worked as an Organization Development and Human Resources practitioner in Southeast Asia and South Asia. She is committed to quality and accountability and is a Sphere and Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) trainer and advisor.

The COVID-19 virus has now spread to every continent except Antarctica in only a matter of a few months. Countries are racing to slow the spread of the disease by testing and treating patients, carrying out contact tracing, limiting travel, quarantining citizens, and cancelling large gatherings such as sporting events, concerts, and schools.

Pakistan has witnessed a massive increase in its confirmed cases from the initial two confirmed on 26th February 2020 to a soaring 9,749 cases as of today. As a country whose economy is highly reliant on manufacturing and service industries, shutdown measures and disruptions in supply chains will negatively impact the economy and its people drastically. The most vulnerable and poor will suffer the most to the say the least.

To strengthen support and emergency response in Pakistan, Community World Service Asia held a national webinar for humanitarian organizations working in the country today. The hour-long session was participated by 44 aid workers from the national humanitarian community, and was facilitated by Community World Service Asia’s in-house trainers. The webinar highlighted key points from the Core Humanitarian Standards (CHS) and Sphere guidelines that have been launched to help guide aid workers on how best and effectively to respond to the COVID-19 while ensuring accountability to affected populations.

Discussions in the webinar focused on familiarizing participants on the core commitments of the CHS that are relevant to the COVID-19 crisis and specific information from the Sphere Handbook’s WASH and Health chapters was shared to ensure national organizations are responding to the crisis in an inclusive, dignified and accountable manner.

The feedback provided during the webinar on the need to contextualize the standards in Pakistan came out as a key learning. There was a general agreement in the session on ensuring that the most deserving individuals and families, affected by salary cuts, unemployment are assisted in a way that upholds their dignity.  Another key learning was to improve coordination and sharing of best practices at a national level so that they can be incorporated in organizational advocacy activities.

Sanitation workers were cited as an example of frontline soldiers working in this crisis and how there is a need to ensure sufficient support is given to them.  Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is not being ensured for this group when compared to other groups of workers such as medical professionals.

Ensuring social distancing in rural setting was also identified as a challenge by webinar participants today. Ensuring active participation of communities in awareness raising and COVID-19 response plans was highlighted as a possible solution to this.  The key learning in this webinar is contextualizing and coordinating best practices on national level and incorporating them in our advocacy activities.

Participants’ Feedback

I am currently engaged in relief package distribution activities to the marginalized communities and differently-abled people. Today’s session has highlighted the fact that awareness building is required among communities using the guidelines of Sphere Standards in terms of WASH and Health. Keeping in mind the fundamental principles explained during the session, while distributing relief packages to communities we should respect and treat every individual with dignity.

Sabir Micheal, Civil Society Activist

The session was quite informative in terms of providing relief to vulnerable communities in the current crisis. I would like to take this opportunity to send out a message to all individuals and groups living in the urban cities who at least have access to all basic needs, that the majority of the most under-privileged population in Pakistan is currently deprived of access to basic needs and other essentials of life and our main focus should be them while planning and responding to COVID-19.

Khalid Shahzad

I would like to highlight some key points in terms of contextualization regarding some guidelines in the Sphere Handbook. Sphere highlights guideline for addressing gender-based violence, which mostly goes unreported in Pakistan. In response to this, we should highlight measures of support on how we can better respond to gender-based or domestic violence occurring in the current pandemic and how Sphere guidelines can be helpful in our context. Secondly, the indicator of Food Assistance (3.6) in the Food chapter, are highly relevant and can be contextualized with reference to the humanitarian response in Pakistan. Likewise, currently in Pakistan its post-harvesting season. The guidelines provided in the Livelihoods section with focus on Primary Production, Income and Employment proves to be very beneficial for the individuals engaged in agricultural activities. The cash-based assistance provided by the government and philanthropists in the country can be linked to the Sphere guidelines and localized with regards to food and income. I believe future trainings can focus on customization of Sphere and CHS guidelines in Pakistan’s context, while linking them to the national tools adopted by government and organizations to apply the learning practically for maximum and effective impact.

Jawed Iqbal, Doaba Foundation

When discussing about increased response to affected population and vulnerable communities, especially women, children, the elderly group and differently-abled persons, we have to inspect our national capacity and study the guidelines provided by the government to work towards social cohesion and work jointly to increase outreach and impact. As it is a new crisis for all of us, with the first case confirmed in March here, the situation has to be thoroughly examined to learn how we can support and respond effectively through a collective mechanism. The Sphere and CHS Standards are a source of guidance and support to better respond in crisis like this. When applying these standards, it is important to learn the context of the country to gain positive outcomes. Community World Service Asia has planned some learning activities in the near future. The needs assessment put emphasis on some key factors including staff care and community access when responding to COVID-19, which will be a main highlight in the up-coming webinars.

Khurram Saeed, CWSA

As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to engulf more cities and rural communities, all and any kind of travel and movement between cities and external borders has been halted in Pakistan. Before the travel restrictions were imposed, Community World Service Asia’s (CWSA) team working on a Food Security and Disaster Risk Reduction(DRR) project supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan, conducted awareness-raising sessions on preventive measures against COVID-19 with the communities that they work with. With the imposed lockdown, those activities had to be stopped as well.

As an alternate way to continue raising awareness and minimize the threat of the virus further spreading our teams decided to engage Village Committees[1] (VC) in the mobilization processes. CWSA project staff teams conducted online sessions over mobile telephones with members of Community Based Organisations(CBOs) and Disaster Risk Reduction Committees, both community-based structures established by the project to ensure community ownership and engagement, of eight villages in Umerkot. The sessions aimed at enhancing knowledge of community members on the COVID-19 disease, its signs and symptoms and precautionary measures to be taken. Through these sessions, selected community members were trained and were asked to replicate the same trainings within their communities.

We received soaps from the  Chairman of the Union Council, which we distributed door to door in Surto Oad village. We also informed the people in the village on frequent hand washing to maintain cleanliness at homes and the surrounding environment. We were told to maintain social distancing and avoid participation in social gatherings to reduce the chances of being infected,

 shared Shiva Ram President and DRR Committee Member in Surto Oad village of Umerkot.

To share our learning ahead, we are mobilizing people to avoid unnecessary movement during the lockdown situation. With the help and guidance of the CWSA’s team, we have identified an isolated place where any suspect of the coronavirus will be quarantined. These isolation rooms have been identified and set up in various villages where awareness sessions have been conducted. The villagers have converted their Otaqs, which are drawing rooms or guest rooms located at a distance from family homes in rural household settings, into isolation rooms. All community members been made aware of signs and symptoms of coronavirus and are advised to immediately shift suspected people to the isolated place identified in the village. We have also updated our DRR plan with the emergency contact details of government and other line departments to be used in case of suspected patients or emergency,

added Shiva.

The online sessions not only focused on sharing practical information on COVID-19 but also sensitized communities on building societies grounded in solidarity, equity, and care for one another. Motan, a DRR committee member from Haji Chenasar village in Umerkot said,

Farmers are busy hoeing and harvesting Okra crop. While working in the fields, all farmers wear masks or take over a cloth to cover their mouth and maintain six feet distance. Our earnings have decreased as a result of the lockdown as work opportunities are limited. There is limited aid from the government and civil society organizations. We are being offered to work in agricultural fields but at very low wages. If the situation is prolonged and markets do not open, the food security and livelihood situation will become challenging for us.

In order to minimize the spread of the virus, I wash my hands with soap at least 10 times a day and also teach the same to my children and other children of the village. We wear masks whenever we step outside our homes and cover our mouth when sneezing or coughing. My family and I are not going out or visiting our relatives now. We only go outside when we need to purchase food or household items. When a guest arrives at our place, we ensure social distancing and sit six feet away from each other,

shared Hurmi, who is a member of the Village Committee in Haji Chensar Mari village.

Some Village Committees’ members in Umerkot are forced to discontinue their jobs and stay at home until the situation is contained. Social distancing and home isolation are effective measures to control the spread of the virus but is simultaneously having adverse impacts on women and children in terms of gender-based violence (GBV), child-abuse and increased manual labour.

In Pakistan, figures on GBV are expected to rise as the poorest of communities are continuing to lose their livelihoods and income. Women are categorized as the more vulnerable in the current crisis and need to be at the forefront in all awareness-raising, mental and physical health activities associated with COVID-19 response. To ensure their inclusion and to address the risks associated with the pandemic for women, twenty-four sessions on gender implications of COVID-19 and best practices on minimizing these risks were conducted among rural communities (both men and women) in Umerkot in the month of April.

Establishing and strengthening village committees in target villages has proven to be effective in terms of awareness and knowledge building on COVID-19 among communities. This would not have been possible without the communities showing keen interest and being proactive in learning, practicing and sharing the information to reduce the risks of the virus spreading in their homeland.

While rural communities are struggling to make ends meet and to ensure a means of food security for their families, the pandemic is indiscriminately impacting both rural and urban communities in terms of businesses closing down and unemployment rising rapidly. It is expected that between 12.3 million and 18.5 million people in various sectors may lose their jobs in Pakistan. In Punjab province alone, at least half a million textile and garment-industry workers have lost their jobs[2].

[1] A body of like-minded people representing households in a certain locality for to help in improving the localities in terms of progress and awareness building on different matters. These community groups have been established by CWSA through its projects to ensure community participation and ownership of programs.

[2] Pakistan Workers’ Federation (since March 28th)

Basic Information:

When: April 28th, 2020

What time: 11AM (GMT +5) – 2 hours

Where: Online link to the webinar will be shared with registered participants via email

Language: English

How long: 120 minutes

Who is it for: Human Resource Practitioners working with I/NGOs, donors and UN agencies involved in COVID -19 response

Event description:

These are difficult times for individuals and organizations alike. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is felt across countries, societies and cultures as well as in the workplace. The world as we know it might never be the same again and the rapid changes taking place will be long-lasting for years to come.

The dynamic nature of the situation presents organizations with difficult decisions which need to be assessed and changed even by the hour. We have to learn new ways of working with and managing teams. This requires building positive intent and trust among the people we work with. We have to help our teams and staff understand that if they can do great work in offices, they can also do great work staying at home. The key is to adapt and act in the rapidly changing world.

Community World Service Asia (CWSA) is a humanitarian and development organization, registered in Pakistan, head-quartered in Karachi and implementing initiatives throughout Asia. CWSA is a member of the ACT Alliance, the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) Alliance and a Sphere regional partner.

Commitment 8 of the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) on staff competency states that communities and people affected by crisis must receive the assistance they require from competent and well-managed staff and volunteers. How is this possible when most organizations have adopted remote working and management of their staff?

This interactive webinar will help explore;

  • Challenges encountered in remote management; and
  • The role of HR in facilitating an effective remote management process

The webinar will seek to highlight effective and successful HR practices on remote hiring, evaluating remote teams and promoting a desired culture in a remote environment. Participants joining this webinar should be prepared to actively contribute to the discussions and conversations in this webinar.

Register here if you wish to participate: Registration – HR in Remote Management


Ms. Uma Narayanan, specializes in human resources, organizational development and accountability for medium to large-scale organizations in the humanitarian sector. Ms. Narayanan has a background in International Organizational and Systems Development and worked as an Organization Development and Human Resources practitioner mostly in Southeast Asia and South Asia, for more than a decade. In her OD capacity, she has carried out numerous assignments on program reviews, evaluations and organizational assessments.

Ms. Narayanan is committed to quality and accountability and is a Sphere and Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) trainer and advisor. She also assists organizations in conducting HR related and Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) related investigations. As an accredited associate executive coach, she has added coaching of middle and senior management as part of her portfolio.

As more countries become affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to keep in mind vulnerable groups and those already affected by other humanitarian emergencies such as conflicts, natural disasters and climate change that place them in acutely hazardous situations.

To ensure that the response to counter COVID-19 is inclusive and people-centered, the Sphere Handbook and Core Humanitarian Standards initiatives have issued guidance on the minimum response all crisis-affected people have the right to expect. The guides highlight the processes and minimum requirements that need to be established for affected populations to survive and recover with dignity.

As Sphere and Q&A Hub’s[1] regional focal point in Asia, Community World Service Asia (CWSA) has launched a program delivering a series of national and regional webinars introducing these tools to humanitarian organizations and aid practitioners providing relief to vulnerable communities in the COVID-19 crisis.

A second session of the regional webinar on Q&A Response in COVID-19 took place today with participation from aid workers from eleven countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, Indonesia, United States of America, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, United Kingdom, Nepal and Australia.

Uma Narayanan facilitated the session and highlighted fundamental principles from Sphere and Core Humanitarian Standards (CHS) that focused on peoples’ right to live with dignity, right to protection and the right to receive assistance during the crisis. These principals are crucial to a successful, holistic intervention and to ensure accountability to affected populations. In reference to the current crisis, the right to death with dignity was emphasized upon as infected individuals are dying every day without seeing their family members due to quarantine and visiting restrictions. Participants were reminded that people who are infected or those who even die from the virus should be treated with dignity.

Today’s hour-long session discussed relevant standards and guidance on emergency response from the Sphere handbook’s WASH and Health chapters. Participants were familiarized with CHS on Quality and Accountability as an essential tool that defines the humanitarian sector’s core commitments to affected people. The CHS guidelines encourage humanitarian actors to apply a principled and people-centered approach while responding to and managing COVID-19 programs.

The global scale of the crisis in terms of public health and its social and economic impacts is universally recognized. The crisis not only imposes limitations on travel and movement but has highlighted how these restrictions could potentially impact the quality and accessibility of health care and support that people are entitled to. Discussions in the webinar reiterated the need for a response that is free of any discrimination, ensuring that all affected are treated with dignity and respect, given equal and appropriate health assistance where needed.

Guidance notes and tools from the Sphere Handbook’s Health chapter were shared with participants of today’s webinar to ensure that their organizations’ health service delivery, healthcare workforce and provision of essential health products are efficient and in line with international standards.  Information from the chapter providing guidance on ways to prevent communicable diseases and strengthen organizational surveillance and reporting system for early outbreak detections and the early response was also shared.

The subject of staff mental health and psychological well-being while responding to COVID-19 was highlighted by participants in the webinar. Employees earning low salaries and facing challenges that result in economic distress were raised as major concerns by managers and organizations. Women and children were also identified as those segments of communities that were gravely affected by the crisis in terms of domestic violence, abuse and increased unpaid labor. To counter the many adverse impacts, some governments such as in Malaysia have launched various counseling channels for citizens to address such issues and challenges for people under lockdown. NGOs working primarily on gender-based violence were also cited as examples that are engaged in these interventions to provide maximum support to people in need.

A need to increase the quality and frequency of awareness-raising on COVID-19 among more marginalized communities was highlighted today.  Uma stressed upon the holistic approach incorporated in the standards which aim at addressing the on-going needs of the wider population through key messages while advocating and coordinating during such crisis. Participants shared several challenges faced by communities in this crisis. For example, one participant shared that some farmers in the Philippines and India are witnessing the destruction of their harvests before their eyes while people residing in close-by areas are starving due to lack of food. A participant from Zambia also shared similar challenges. In the case of Zambia, a practical example was shared of how standards such as CHS were used for lobbying with the government to continue the agricultural sector while still adhering to the restrictions imposed by the government. A position paper was produced in this regard which was accepted by the local authorities. Such good practices of using standards will be compiled by CWSA and shared with the webinar attendees.

During the webinar, participants also underscored the importance of risk-mitigation and striking a balance between the do no harm approach and addressing valuable community feedback.

Community World Service Asia is planning to conduct future webinars where agencies and organizations will be given a platform to share best practices and experiences on addressing challenges that are faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We can only grow in our good practices if we share the best practices as widely as possible. The Sphere and CHS standards exist for us to use it in various responses and for me, advocacy and lobbying are key factors through which we can contribute and play a prominent role in responding to COVID-19, directly and indirectly, 

concluded Uma.

[1] Asian Disaster Risk Reduction Network (ADRRN)’s Quality & Accountability Hub

Empty streets outside Rukhsana’s home in Umerkot.

Rukhsana Yasmeen is a primary school teacher based in Umerkot city of Sindh Province in Pakistan. She teaches at the Government Boys Primary School, Police Thana, and is a participant of the Education and Teachers Training project implemented by Community World Service Asia (CWSA) and supported by PWS&D and Act for Peace. Rukhsana worries about her students who are all forced to stay home amid the COVID-19 pandemic and shares her own personal thoughts of her experiences in lockdown so far.

The lockdown imposed by the government to control the spread of the coronavirus is having a drastic impact on the education of children here in Umerkot. They will forget all that was taught to them. Schools not only serve the purpose of providing education, but also gives children a chance to interact socially and keeps them energized and fresh. With this shutdown situation, children are frustrated and baffled. It is difficult to say whether the students will be able to perform well in the final examinations to be held in June.

Rukhsana and her family of 5 have confined themselves to home. She has three children including two daughters and a son.

At home, we try to maintain a sufficient distance between each other. However, living in a small, two-room house makes it challenging to avoid complete contact. The practicality of social distancing at home is difficult.

The economic situation in Umerkot is tense and most businesses have come to a standstill. Daily wage laborers are most at risk of poverty and food insecurity as their incomes have completely stalled. Before the crisis, their most basic expenses were met on a day to day basis, but now their daily needs are unmet.

Sitting at home without any money or very little money leads to anxiety and results in many conflicts among family members at home. This adds to the stress and uncertainty that looms over all these families that are completely homebound and affects the children at home too.

Rukhsana’s husband also worked as a daily-wage laborer. Due to the lock down, he is unable to go out of the house to find work.

I am worried about managing our monthly expenses, such as house rent, food and other household essentials with only my salary. I am not sure for how long my salary will be able to sustain our family. Our future seems uncertain

Rukhsana also recently found out that the Government of Sindh has deducted five percent of all government employee salaries as contribution to the COVID-19 relief funds. Rukhsana also falls in that category of government workers and has further strained their financial conditions.

Keeping her own children entertained and engaged in their studies at home has also been quite a challenge for Rukhsana.

There are very few entertainment resources at home. They do study for a while but cannot be engaged in school work the whole day. All their outdoor activities have been put to an end so there is no way for them to vent out their energy.

At the precautionary end, we are try to wash hands from time to time and use clean kitchen utensils when cooking and eating. Moreover, we are not drinking cold water nor taking a bath daily but instead bathe on alternative days. We ensure cleanliness at home as it the only way of keeping us safe at home from this pandemic.

We are happy to see how efficiently our government is working to control the spread of this infectious disease. All shops, malls and other public places have been shutdown to avoid social gatherings. Never did we think that we will experience such a stressful situation in our lifetime. Nonetheless, we have faith that we will overcome this positively and safely.