Yearly Archives: 2021

by Bonaventure Sokpoh

Senior Advisor on CHS & Outreach, CHS Alliance

“We need to look at localisation in a broader sense in terms of exchange of knowledge & having our own philosophy, and not just in an operational context.” Themrise Khan told an online audience of 75 aid workers mostly based in Pakistan. “Localisation will mean much more if we use our own existing resources and build them further.”

Themrise Khan, an independent development professional and researcher based in Karachi in Pakistan, was speaking at CHS Alliance’s first in-county workshop on “Bringing the CHS closer to the people we serve”, which was virtually held in Pakistan and co-hosted with CHS Alliance member Community World Service Asia (CWSA).

We were also honoured to hear from Marvin Parvez, Regional Director, CWSA. Both speakers talked about seeing the “localisation” process as an opportunity for knowledge exchange between international and national actors and encouraged Pakistani organisations engaging in the global aid sector to use their own philosophies and values.

I was pleased to see the level of interest and engagement in this national workshop. We had 75 participants including representatives from national, international NGOs and networks as well national disaster management authorities, research join us for this interactive session.

A group of Pakistani women in a rural community raising their hands during a leadership skill training session in Sindh © Community World Service Asia

Participants heard some experiences of using the CHS and being members of CHS Alliance from Mr Shahid Ali, Executive Director at Fast Rural Development Program and Aamir Malik, Director RAPID Fund, Concern Worldwide – Pakistan. The opportunity to increase accountability to people we serve through engaging with the CHS was shared. Other benefits highlighted were improving an organisation’s own systems as well as partners’ systems, including community-based organisations.

My main take-aways for how CHS Alliance can support national organisations in Pakistan based on the vibrant discussions with participants are:

  • Intensify awareness on the CHS with national NGOs, community-based organisations and people to amplify the already visible interest and curiosity on the CHS among these actors.
  • Inform organisations of the existing options to address resource and cost barriers for CHS verification for national organisations (e.g. the new CHS self-assessment tools and the Humanitarian Quality Assurance Initiative’s subsidy fund for Independent Verification and Certification) while continuing efforts to increase accessibility to the CHS and CHS verification including availability in local languages and user-friendly tools.
  • Continue exploring and advocating for the potential of CHS verification to contribute optimising the resources for multiple funding partners’ due diligence and capacity assessment, including requirements from national governments.

The atmosphere of the workshop was energising and encouraged the Alliance to continue the conversation with national and local actors. Stay tuned for more as this important work progresses!

Let me know if you have any questions or would like to get more involved:

Competent and well-managed staff are at the heart of an accountable and effective organisation, therefore they need to be equipped with the right skills and behaviours. The Core Humanitarian Competency Framework explains the link between the organisation’s ability to deliver impact, and what it takes to be successful through personal and organisational excellence.

Some background

The Core Humanitarian Competencies Framework (CHCF) as first developed in 2011, by representatives from a cross-section of humanitarian organisations under the Consortium of British Humanitarian Agencies (now the Start Network) led by ActionAid and facilitated by People In Aid (now the CHS Alliance). The competencies framework recommends a set of core competencies that organisations could adopt to systematically build the skills of their employees and thereby improve their efforts to assist people affected by crisis throughout the world. Six areas of core competencies defined as “the essential behaviours required by all staff, influenced by their skills and knowledge”, were identified. The framework was successfully embedded in many of the participating agencies’ operations and members of CHS Alliance.

Ten years on, is the CHCF fit for purpose?

In 2017, and as part of the Start Network/DFID-funded Talent Development Project (TDP), the CHS Alliance completed a review of the CHCF taking feedback from a wide range of stakeholders on the relevance and practical use of the CHCF in humanitarian organisations, and asking for recommendations for its revision.

The review affirmed that the CHCF is fit for purpose, adds value and is highly relevant for staff development and humanitarian efforts in general and serves as a useful reference point. The review, however, also indicated that there was only low to moderate level awareness and hence corresponding lack of ‘know how’ of the CHCF. It was unclear how it links to career paths, how changes in behaviours can be identified and measured, and HR practitioners were not familiar enough with competency frameworks to guide project managers and field staff on how to adopt them.

There were encouraging cases of how the framework has been used in various contexts, suggesting that it is an important tool to professionalise the sector. The review also revealed that it would be helpful to have more tools on how to use the framework.

Following the review, additional materials and tools were developed, translated to several languages and made accessible to support the application of competency-based human resources (HR) management practices, including an introductory animation in six languages!

To download the CHCF guide, click here.

How is CHCF used within CHS Alliance’s membership?

Three years after the review, we have decided to put the CHCF under the spotlight and share the “user experience” feedback from two very different Alliance members who have adopted the framework.*

To help more of our members understand how to get the most out of the CHCF, as well as practical considerations for rolling it out, we hear from:

Asma Shehzad, Head of Support, Community World Service Asia

Colin Rogers, Head of Disaster Preparedness & Response, Plan International

When and how did your organisation first implement the CHCF?

Asma Shehzad (AS): We started this process back in 2017 by working on the CHCF with CHS Alliance for piloting within Pakistan through academia. The initial idea was to share the framework with our partner universities in Pakistan and develop a tool/guide for teachers to assess student performances on competencies. Later, in 2018 we started the implementation process of CHCF within our own organisation. In 2020 we moved to include the framework in our Annual Appraisal System, which means all CWSA employees will now be evaluated against the core competencies highlighted in their job descriptions. All staff have now been briefed on the new appraisal system, the core competencies and how to appraise against them.

Colin Rogers (CR): It is only more recently that we have started to integrate the CHCF into our work. We chose to focus on the competencies required for Plan International staff to join our roster for surge capacity.

Why did you decide to adopt the CHCF in your organisation?

CR: For us, it was important as we sought to build the strength of our roster, ensuring we had the right people with the right competencies who we could deploy within Plan International to provide additional surge capacity when our Country Offices were responding to new crises.

Using the CHCF provides Country Offices with reassurance that the deploying staff member has the right competencies to support their response activities. It also provides a framework for evaluating applicants who want to join our roster.

We are now looking at how to use the CHCF to develop standard competencies against emergency response job profiles, integrating the CHCF into the role profile, and also framing interview selection questions around the CHCF. This is based on a request from our country office teams who are looking for a level of guidance on hiring humanitarian staff.

AS: We felt that the CHCF could providing clarity to all staff about the behaviour and competencies the organisation expects from them, from recruiting through to retainment. CHCF helps to focus employees’ behaviour on things that matter most in a humanitarian or development organisation. The CHCF provides a common and standardised way to harmonise, select and develop talent.

What areas of your organisation did you start with?

AS: We embedded the CHCF in job descriptions, annual performance appraisals, the recruitment process and also objective setting at the beginning of each calendar year.

CR: Our emergency response roster was our starting point and this is now being expanded to other areas of humanitarian staffing.

How has the implementation of the CHCF in your organisation evolved?

CR: This is still very much a piece of work in progress. We have been revising our Emergency Response Manual and as part of this we are looking at how to integrate the CHCF in to our guidance to support country offices identify competencies needed for programme technical specialists.

AS: We have moved step by step since adopting the framework in 2018 and have come a long way since then. The framework is part and parcel of all our organisational activities whether at head office or in the field.

We started with development of job descriptions, aligning them with CHCF, then we moved to the appraisal system, and are now crafting all our recruitment procedures according to the framework. We have trained our staff through various capacity enhancement platforms and have now finally embedded it into most of our HR systems.

What were the main challenges? What about successes?

AS: Introducing a new framework and resultant policies and practices requires significant investment of resources, technical expertise, staff time and energy alongside other competing priorities.

Initially it was a challenge to develop understanding on CHCF framework. For that we had to conduct a number of sessions with staff so that they could have clear understanding of it.

Most of the references in the framework are linked to people in humanitarian crises, which might not be the case for many situations in our work. We took on the challenge by contextualising examples to our own working scenarios.

It was also a challenge to link this framework with support staff like drivers, helpers etc. As key stakeholders in our operations, it was vital they complied with the institutional stance including the CHCF.

For countries where English is not the first language, explaining the CHCF and helping staff apply it in their appraisals and job descriptions has been a challenge. The framework needs to be explained simply to be understood and applied. It has proven more complicated to roll out for staff in our project implementing countries.

However, the hard work is paying off as we have seen a number of successes. It’s really helped us to focus on key competencies for each position – making our objectives more purposeful. Annual appraisals have also become more relevant and result oriented.

By clarifying the competencies we expect our staff to achieve, and by explaining how they link to the organisation’s ability to deliver impact, we have been able to send clear messages about what is expected to be successful and attain personal and organisational goals effectively.

CR: I’d say that the main challenge has been a lack of familiarity with the CHCF outside of the Disaster Risk Management team.

What are your future plans for the CHCF? Do you think any further guidance and support is needed?

AS: We are planning to implement the CHCF in all our HR processes, next up is integrating the framework into our interview and supervisors’ assessments.

We would appreciate sessions to develop further understanding of the framework. We are also hoping to see a more localised collective approach to applying CHCF by Alliance members.

CR: We plan to use the CHCF to guide recruitment, designing job descriptions and developing interview questions. This is of interest for our Country Offices who have asked for guidance on how to recruit the right level of staff with the relevant competencies required to support their humanitarian response activities. We want to ensure a diversity of people on our roster and who are hired. We are also looking at how to use the CHCF to help us update our core learning and development  programmes for roster members.

How does the application of a competency framework improve the overall effectiveness and accountability of your organisation?

CR: Whilst the competency framework is not embedded across the whole organisation, we hope that it will support establishing key requirements for different technical and managerial positions. Recruiting with the framework in mind will ensure that Plan recruits at the appropriate capacity level to fulfil our dual mandate as a development and humanitarian organisation.

AS: Competencies have helped Community World Service Asia to identify the visible behaviours that successful performers should demonstrate while working on any given job.

Focusing on competencies has underpinned the progression and success of the organisation.

How and where should organisations start if they are interested in adopting competency-based approach?

AS: The following steps are key to start with:

  • Support and buy-in from leadership.
  • Staff must fully commit and understand the framework.
  • Making the framework part of organisational standards.
  • Adopting it to local contexts.
  • Ensure feedback is taken and given.
  • Link the CHCF to existing HR processes, forms and formats.

CR: Identify windows of opportunity, small areas of work where you can demonstrate the impact and the usefulness. From this you generate buy in and support and this in turn leads to greater integration. Don’t give up – persevere and you will find your job descriptions become clearer, and the interview and selection process easier and with that stronger programmes with greater impact.

We are currently evaluating people management resources of the CHS Alliance with the intention to ensuring their content, format and purpose continue to meet organisational and user needs of our members.

If you are using the CHCF in your organisation, we would greatly appreciate hearing your views and learning from your experience. Please contact Gozel Baltaeva on for more.

* Some responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.

In the humanitarian sector, the term ‘accountability to affected populations’ (AAP) means humanitarian actors making an active commitment to use power responsibly by taking account of, giving account to, and being held to account by the people they seek to assist[1].

By being more accountable to affected populations – increasing their participation and feedback in programs identification, design, delivery, and lesson learning – organisations are simultaneously ensuring quality program implementation and a more sustainable impact of their humanitarian and development interventions. This also allows communities to shape their own response and recovery and enable aid organisations to effectively deliver against its commitments to stakeholders, including the people they assist and those who provide resources to make that assistance possible.

Community World Service Asia collaborated with Concern Worldwide, to enhance and strengthen the capacity of its staff and partners in Pakistan on quality and accountability standards and its integration in organisational structures and programming. This will help to mainstream and build discourse around quality and accountability to affected populations (Q&AAP) in the humanitarian community. A series of trainings were jointly conducted to promote the inclusion of humanitarian standards on quality and accountability in all stages of Concern Worldwide’s project life cycle, such as design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

The first training, which was virtual in nature due to the COVID-19 pandemic, took place in January 2021. During this training, Concern Worldwide staff identified key initiatives such as Sphere Standards and CHS[2] contributing to Q&AAP and outlined the opportunities and challenges in implementing Q&AAP. Eighteen program staff members, representing program and support units (HR, Finance & Administration) of the organisation participated and learned how to design a Q&AAP learning action plan that was tailored to their working context. During the training, the staff also identified means and platforms to collaborate and coordinate with other partners to improve Q&AAP in the areas that they work.

The same training was conducted with various other partner organisations in the following months with a participation of thirty humanitarian practitioners from sixteen partner organisations in the country. The workshop introduced Q&AAP as a concept, and discussed the role of Sphere and how to use the revised Sphere Handbook 2018 Edition and apply its technical standards in the program cycle. The framework of Do No Harm, Complaint Response Mechanism (CRM), and Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) along with the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) were also discussed thoroughly.

The facilitator of these training sessions engaged the participants in interesting group activities such as case-study analysis, documentary screening followed by an open-call discussion session, and revision of each day’s learnings by the different groups. Participants showed great interest on particular modules such as, ‘What is Sphere – the Handbook and Sphere & CHS Guidelines in response to COVID-19’.

One of the participants recommended that “the testing measures in the Sphere Handbook need to be updated as they overlap with each other when applying in field in times of a crisis and that the nature, and magnitude of a disaster varies from area to area so applying one Sphere Standard to all of it is not possible”.

The facilitator then introduced them to the changes that took place in the Sphere Handbook since 2018 and how the participants can apply the updated frameworks in their fieldwork.

A profound discussion took place between the facilitator and the participants on the similarities and differences of COVID-19 and its impact on other pandemics, like Ebola that emerged in Africa some years ago. The facilitator familiarised participants with the chapters in the Sphere Handbook that were more relevant in response to the COVID-19 pandemic such as “WASH and Health”.

“It was an overwhelming experience as it was important for us to learn whether the Sphere Protection Principles were applicable in the context of COVID-19. We faced challenges and queries from communities while responding to emergencies. However, our understanding of the Sphere standards and accountability to affected people has definitely been enhanced. This will allow us to respond more effectively and efficiently, ensuring our programs are designed and implemented to fulfill the needs of the communities we are working with,” shared Arbab Saeedullah, a staff representing one of Concern Worldwide’s partner organisations in Pakistan.


[2] The Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability sets out nine commitments for humanitarian and development actors to measure and improve the quality and effectiveness of their assistance. The CHS places communities and people affected by crisis at the centre of humanitarian action.

This article is extracted from a recent issue of South Asia Disasters on ‘Accountability to Affected Populations in Times of the Pandemic.” You can read the full study here:

By Shama Mall, Community World Service Asia, Pakistan

At the onset of COVID-19, guidance put forth by Sphere and the CHS Alliance reminded us about the importance of ensuring human dignity, rights of affected people, as well as principled and people-centered approaches in our response and adaptation to COVID-191. There are many lessons to be learnt from experiences of organisations during COVID-19 in this respect.

Localised approaches and ownership are crucial in shaping the degree of access, inclusion and relevance of assistance. Some of the operational challenges of COVID-19 could not have been addressed without the engagement of local and community level structures (village groups, steering committees, community leadership, local govt. Line departments, etc.). Their involvement in decision making processes and implementation is helping to ensure assistance is relevant to the needs of and access to some of the most vulnerable groups – such as people with disabilities, women, children, the elderly and minorities.

Supporting local capacity and engaging community structures, including trust-building is essential to accountability and must be a long-term approach, not only during a pandemic. Organisations that have invested in such processes over the past many years are relying on such structures and continue programming to meet the needs of affected communities. There needs to be a more consistent effort to strengthen and scale up localised approaches and make such processes more meaningful.

Community level capacity must be strengthened to hold each other to account in order to avoid conflict of interest and exploitation of any kind. Remote management has resulted in an increased level of responsibilities and reliance placed upon the community level structures, without necessarily involving a due process or factoring in power-imbalances within such structures. It has increased prospects of individual interests taking precedence and even financial exploitation of affected communities by some individuals in community structures, causing negative consequences. Besides discourse on such issues with community level structures, organisations must support affected communities with strong remote monitoring, verification and complaints processes to ensure that they are not misled in any way, especially when assistance is in the form of any resource transfer.

The risks organisations perceive for affected communities and those communities perceive for themselves vary, so the engagement process must include sufficient dialogue to develop mutual understanding. For affected communities, risks are often defined by context, needs and day to day challenges. For instance, the health implications of COVID-19 for many are relatively insignificant compared to loss of livelihoods, providing for their families or meeting other immediate/long-term healthcare needs. This is affecting social and behavioral changes to limit the spread. Community engagement needs to involve listening to as well as addressing the concerns and on-going needs of communities, whilst supporting them in making informed choices and decisions in risk mitigation. Local organisations and community level structures are best positioned to achieve this.

COVID-19 has exposed the in-ward looking bureaucratic systems of funding partners/Governments. Some local organisations are left in a difficult position owing to immediate suspension of on-going projects by funding partners re-directing funds for their own needs. This is depriving local communities of life-saving services at a time when they need it most. Such action undermines the principles of partnership – by putting own needs before the needs of affected people without due consultation or a dignified exit process.

Though some funding partners are demonstrating flexibility by allowing their partners to adapt existing projects or use reserved funds to meet the needs of people affected by COVID-19.


The current operating context is going to be the new normal, experts predicting more global pandemics, increasing in size and impact. The humanitarian and development sector must take concrete actions based on the learnings of COVID-19 and scale up people-centred and localised approaches to be truly accountable to those most affected.


2021Tue20Apr10:30 AM12:00 PMWEBINAR: Organizational Sustainability and COVID-1910:30 AM - 12:00 PM WebinarTheme:Quality and Accountability,CEPType:WebinarRegister

Training Date: June 8 – 10, 2021
Last date of Registration: 28th April 2021
Link for the Registration:
Location: Murree

Covid-19 has challenged traditional leadership styles and forced leaders to adapt their leadership approaches in dealing with the uncertainties brought about by the virus and its widespread impact. NGO leaders have also been faced with dilemmas and ambiguities that they have never been exposed to.

This training on Leading in Complexity and Uncertainty will use the ‘Authentic Leader’ approach and will provide opportunities to participants to reflect on their leadership style and its relevance and effectiveness in the context of Covid-19. It will give them knowledge on leadership competencies based on research with contemporary leaders. They will also have opportunities for practicing and sharpening their personal leadership skills and competencies.

The methodology of this training includes self-reflection and analysis, working with friends and colleagues, and a range of practical exercises (but considering social distancing).
These will be interspersed with presentations by the external trainer and experience sharing sessions by prominent leaders from the development and corporate sectors.
Coaching and mentoring support will be provided to 30% of participating organizations to help them effectively apply their learning.


At the end of the training, participants will:

  • Understand the different leadership styles and competencies.
  • Reflect on their leadership style based on their self- assessment and others’ perceptions/feedback.
  • Sharpen/strengthen their leadership competencies.
  • Develop action plans for peer support and coaching/mentoring.


The approach used in this training is the ‘Blended Learning’ approach developed by CWSA in its previous phases. The approach is participatory and needs based in nature. It consists of a selection of participants from diverse organizations at different levels, content, and methodology designed with and based on the needs of the training participants, use of experienced and knowledgeable trainers, flexible content and methodology during the training, development of action plans and follow up refreshers and coaching and mentoring support.

Number of Participants

18-20 participants will be selected for the training. Women staff and those persons with disabilities and from ethnic/religious minorities are encouraged to apply. Preference will be given to participants from organisations based in underserved areas.

Selection Criteria

  • No previous exposure/participation in leadership training.
  • Mid or senior-level manager in a civil society organisation, preferably field staff of large CSOs or CSOs with the main office in small towns and cities.
  • Participants from women-led organisations, persons with disabilities, religious/ethnic minorities will be preferred.
  • Willingness to contribute PKR 20,000 for the training. Exemptions may be applied for by CSOs with limited funding and those from marginalized groups. Discount of 10% on early Registration by 20th April 2021 and 20% discount will be awarded to women participants.
  • Commitment to apply learning in their work, including dissemination of learning within their organisation.

Download Brochure

Inequalities have always existed. Despite improvements in health outcomes globally and in the Asia region, these gains have not been shared equally across different countries or communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has had grave consequences for people already experiencing inequalities and has disproportionately impacted communities that were already socially, economically, or geographically disadvantaged.

Working to tackle the causes of equality, Community World Service Asia continues to work towards achieving health equality and provide basic health services in remote communities of Sindh in Pakistan. The health team initiated awareness raising sessions on prevention and safety from COVID-19 and other vital health issues in relation to Mother Neonatal and Child Health (MNCH) for the communities that they work with in the region. These sessions were planned and conducted in coordination with local government health departments, Community Health Management and Village Health committees. A total of thirty-six awareness sessions with staff, health workers and communities have so far been conducted by our health teams.

“The Village Health Committee came to me when I was expecting my first child. They advised me to avail Antenatal Care services provided at the Taluka hospital Samaro by the health team of CWSA. The close vicinity, affordable consultation and free medicines allowed me to regularly visit the health centre during the nine months of my pregnancy and get vaccinated timely. On February 5th this year, I delivered a healthy baby girl at the THQ hospital Samaro without suffering any complications. The health staff has been efficient and responsive in every consultation. My husband and I now visit the health centre for postnatal care and health sessions on family planning and maintaining a hygienic lifestyle,” shared twenty year old Baby, wife of Kishor, living in a remote village in Umerkot.

Baby visiting the THQ for postnatal care.

“We were totally unaware about health issues. In fact, most people here never took health issues seriously.  Ever since the health centres have been set up here and we received health awareness sessions, many people of our community have become health conscious and visit the health centres whenever needed,” shared Meera, who is a 52-year-old village resident in Umerkot and a core member of the Village Health Committee (VHC). She joined the committee in 2019 and has since participated in a number of trainings, include on management skills and Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA).

To ensure progress in tackling health disparities during the pandemic, a WhatsApp group was set up with the Health Management and Village Health Committees[1] based in remote villages to conduct virtual health sessions on awareness on COVID-19 symptoms and precautionary measures. The members of the committees replicated the sessions within their communities to build mass awareness on COVID-19 and how to best protect against it.

Meera participated in the virtual trainings on health education with CWSA’s health team and then shared the same learnings with the communities through community sessions.

“I have been attending the COVID-19 sessions held by HMC and VHC members in our village since last year. Before participating in these sessions, I had firmly believed that COVID-19 did not exist and was something made up.  I was not serious and neither was I following any Sops or wearing a mask. But ever since I have learnt more about the virus, its symptoms, and its fatal impact, I was at first astonished but also careful. Now I wear a mask whenever I am leaving my home and I avoid public gatherings. I also make sure I wash my hands after returning from town. I am also ensuring that my family follows the same practice,” expressed Behari who is a 35-year-old resident of village Major Pali in Umerkot. He has been a regular participant of the various health and hygiene sessions conducted in their village.

The awareness sessions included discussions on other vital health topics such as family planning, importance of breastfeeding, recurrent curable diseases, HIV/AIDs and other communal diseases as well. Special health sessions have also been conducted in schools in coordination with the School Management Committees, for teachers and students to ensure they follow Covid-19 SoPs in school premises and at home. School Hygiene Clubs have been formed by bringing together students who lead in building awareness on various WASH lessons and COVID-19 prevention for fellow students and parents. These clubs have played a pivotal role in increasing the adoption of COVID-19 Sops among children and local communities.

“I am Hera Lal and a student of 5th class. I go to a government primary school in a village in the Umerkot district and am a member of the Health and Hygiene Club set up in our school in February (2021). My primary responsibilities are to keep my school clean and to educate students of my school about health and hygiene. I also inform my family members and siblings about what we learnt in the health hygiene club and what they should do to keep safe from viruses and diseases. I feel very happy to be part of this club.”

In consultation and coordination with the local health departments and district administration, Community World Service Asia’s health centres in Sindh are providing essential healthcare services to help local, impoverished communities live a healthy life regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, disability, economic situation or livelihood. These centres have been established under our health portfolio supported by Australian Aid and Act for Peace. It is actively providing health services and clinical support in two THQs[2] in district Umerkot, equipped with trained health staff including medical officers, lady health visitors, medical technicians and community mobilizers. Community participation is ensured from the inception of the project through their representation in Village Health Committees and Health Management Committees and district advocacy forums.

[1] Community-level structures formed to ensure community participation in project implementation. The members consisting of key persons from the community coordinate with the project team in terms of organising and coordinating project activities, awareness raising and sensitizing communities.

[2]  Taluka’s Health Quarters

Under its Education portfolio, Community World Service Asia is supporting fifteen public schools in Pakistan’s Sindh province to promote and facilitate inclusive and good quality education while promoting a safe learning environment to disadvantaged children amid COVID risks looming in the country.

WASH services such as hand-washing stations and water filters have been set up in these schools to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus among students. Hygiene kits including soaps and disinfection supplies have also been distributed among these schools for effective prevention and safety from COVID-19. Through our support, we are focusing on creating awareness on implementing COVID-19 SOPS and providing a safe learning environment to students and teachers.

Hygiene Promotion sessions sharing thorough hand-washing techniques and hygiene practices have been conducted with students, teachers and parents. Information, Education and Communication (IEC) material has also been provided to these fifteen schools to raise knowledge among stakeholders on safety protocols and measures against the spread of the virus.

This video, published by a local media news channel, shows one of the schools supported with water supply system installations by Community World Service Asia. Shahida Parveen, the head teacher of a school in Umerkot, shares how the school has benefited through the WASH services and teachers’ training on COVID-19 SoPs and Early Childhood Care and Education. The school is also utilising the water supply services to water trees and plants in the school’s vicinity and surroundings, therefore also ensuring a greener and healthier environment.

Living with her seven children, Shaibaan is constantly multi-tasking to meet the everyday needs of her family. The children demand attention and unconditional care.

“All day long I am busy taking care of the children, engage in household chores and in cooking meals. My husband, Karshan, is a labourer, earning a monthly income of PKR 7500 (Approx. USD 46). My five younger children go to school but my two elder son and daughter don’t because we cannot afford to pay the fees of all seven.”

Shaibaan and her family live in the remote village of Ratan Bheel in Umerkot district of Sindh. Though many households depend on local vegetation in the area, Shaibaan never thought about growing a kitchen garden in her front yard.

“I had no experience of growing crops before and it was not very common to grow crops at home. We purchased vegetables to cook. When we did not have money to buy vegetables or any other food item, we ate red chilies with rotiⁱ,” said Shaibaan.

Selected alongside thirty other women from Ratan Bheel and nearby villages, Shaibaan was trained on kitchen gardening techniques in March 2019. The group of women were familiarised on the concept of kitchen gardening and how it improves food security of households. They were taught different vegetable sowing and pest control techniques. Shaibaan and other participants were also trained on how to conduct seed germination tests which would help them save time, energy and resources when cultivating difficult to grow seeds. Germinationⁱⁱ tests measure the resilience of seeds, thus allowing farmers the option to decide on how many to plant or whether to plant at all.

Shaibaan replicated the training in fourteen other households in her village.

“I did not think of growing a kitchen garden in this desert area. When Shaibaan came to my house with this initiative, I was amazed to know how we can grow clean and healthy vegetables in our yards for our daily consumption when cooking food. We now have the pleasure of eating homemade nutritious vegetables of various kinds. The garden in the kitchen is now a means of food diversification and food conservation for us,” said Saleemat, another Ratan Bheel kitchen gardener.

“Today, my family supports in maintaining the kitchen garden with me. My two elder children take keen interest in taking care of the garden and growing new vegetables and plants in it. It has been a year now since we have been growing vegetables in our green garden. We are now growing cluster bean, lady finger, ridge gourd and brinjal. Moreover, we are also able to save PKR 500 (Approx. USD 3) every week, which we previously consumed in purchasing vegetables from the market. We use the money we are saving to buy other household essentials such as linens, bed sheets and curtains.”

Shaibaan prepared grounds for sowing vegetables in the recent winter season.

“I prepared half an acre of land in my garden to plant spinach, mustard leaves, coriander, radish and fenugreek. I plan to sell the surplus in the local markets and support my family financially.”

ⁱ Roti is a round flatbread native to the Indian subcontinent made from stoneground wholemeal flour and water that is combined into a dough.

ⁱⁱ Germination is the process by which plants, fungi and bacteria emerge from seeds and spores, and begin growth