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Covid-19 has changed and challenged many facets of human life, including the non-profit and development ecosystem. Restricted movements have led to limited access to communities and stakeholders, thereby adversely impacting most humanitarian programming. Shrinking economies and a shift of funding countries’ financial focus on internal health sectors has drastically reduced global aid and development funding. For operating aid organisations, these funding challenges are only an addition to the existing issues of staff care, health and limited mobilisation.

Forty-four aid organisations in Pakistan gathered to discuss these challenges and share their experiences in a virtual event organised by Community World Service Asia on Organisational Sustainability and COVID-19 in April this year. Arif Jabbar Khan, a well-known leadership coach with twenty years of humanitarian and development, moderated the session, joined by panellists, Anne Masterson, Country Director- Norwegian Church Aid Pakistan (NCA- Pakistan), and Hashim Bilal, Country Director- Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO).

Inequalities during the Pandemic

Participants in the session discussed the ‘Triangular Crisis’ which refers to the complex relationships among policymakers, humanitarian agencies, and the international news media and related it to the current pandemic. Their interaction is of increasing salience to the outcomes of effective humanitarian action. The panellists and participants touched upon the adverse effects of COVID-19 including a rise in unemployment, child hunger, domestic violence, child labour, and poverty. “Asia-Pacific’s least developed countries (LDCs) have suffered multiple supply and demand shocks as global economic growth collapsed under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the relatively small number of COVID-19 cases reported in these countries, the pandemic quickly developed into a multidimensional crisis, owing in part to their high levels of external dependency and exposure, but also to their low levels of resilience, such as their underdeveloped healthcare systems, large informal sectors in which workers do not have adequate social protection, and limited policy space or institutional capacity to respond to shocks. These factors have magnified the impact of lockdown measures introduced to contain the spread of the coronavirus.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a harsh light on inequality. “People living paycheck to paycheck in service sector jobs are in a very different position to those working in salaried jobs they can do from home. Stark gaps in wealth, health and work have gone from being chronic problems to acute ones. Additionally, the failure to control the COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching impacts on the global economy, with global GDP falling by 3.3 percent in 2020[1]. Even with the global economy projected to grow by 6 percent in 2021, recovery will depend on equitable distribution of the vaccine globally. Failure to do so could cost the world economy up to $9 trillion, according to the International Chamber of Commerce, with the costs born equally by wealthy and poor countries, causing more economic devastation than the 2008 financial crisis,” narrated Arif.

Moreover, the pandemic along with the economic downturn combined have hit everyone hard. But the impact has not been spread equally. While sharing the drastic effects of the pandemic on men and women, Arif said, “A report in November by UN Women found clear evidence that, although both genders have seen their unpaid workloads increase, women are bearing more of the burden than men. During the pandemic, widespread restrictions on daily life, school closures, disruption to businesses and a big rise in working from home have made many tasks more time-consuming and arduous. According to the UN Women report, more women than men have reported an increase in their workload in almost every aspect of domestic life.”

Revolutionising Humanitarian Action

Internal and external restriction on movement has gravely affected the delivery and implementation of aid. “We have not seen substantial funding for COVID, yet the situation is going to get worse. Many donors pulled back their funding from less-developed countries. The decrease in funding has a direct impact on people’s lives and our ability to sustainably provide life-saving aid to them and to reinforce fragile essential infrastructure in the way we need to,” says Arif.

According to Hashim, the virtual event has provided an effective platform to learn and adopt new strategies from various organisations in unprecedented times. While sharing VSO’s change in strategies, Hashim said, “VSO executed adoptive and integrated approaches for its strategies. We engaged our volunteer groups with communities and stakeholders to conduct awareness raising on COVID-19 and its SOPs. Additionally, we build awareness in schools on COVID-19 through poetry to gain maximum attention of students and enforce implementation of preventive measures. We also developed songs on how to avoid transmission of the virus and published them widely on social media.”

To cope with the rapidly changing situation, NCA reinforced its online communication systems to effectively use online platforms for meetings, trainings, discussions and follow-ups among staff and partner organisations. “We tried to improve our online communication systems due to the restrictions in movement and holding physical meetings. We encouraged the usage of mobile phones, WhatsApp and other internet facilities to up the online communication for updates and progress. Our main donors, particularly the Government of Norway, right from the beginning of the outbreak by March 2020, were already offering to be more flexible in the way our agreements and programmes could be utilised and implemented. This allowed NCA to immediately bring in a dimension of COVID and quickly adapt programmes to effectively operate within the restrictions of the dimensions of COVID pandemic,” narrated Anne. She further shared the change in information sharing and awareness raising programme, saying, “We expanded our existing programmes, particularly under WASH, GBV[2] and Peace Building, adding COVID-19 messages and communication for awareness raising on SOPs and preventive measures with focus on women, minority groups and affected-communities.”

Organisations will need to practice adoptive approach and civil society organisations need to invest more in education, livelihoods and health programming. “Civil society organisations and developmental institutions can work jointly and influence donors by giving them joint statements for the betterment of humanitarian actions. We need to work together to cope in this pandemic situation and reach the affected-communities effectively. Additionally, humanitarian organisations have to boost government ownership in reaching out to affected-communities and working with them in partnership in target areas. To make this possible we have to promote our humanitarian work and increase visibility,” remarked Hashim.

A participant brought forward issues of staff care while ensuring effective delivery of project activities to which Hashim shared the VSO’s health care policy during COVID 19 which included strict adherence to SOP’s, restricted staff movement, allowed flexible office timings and partial staff attendance in the office. “In addition to the healthcare policy, VSO designed and conducted mandatory trainings on duty care, safeguarding and risk communication. These trainings were delivered to national and international staff members of VSO, volunteers and community members. VSO further provided the provision of personal PPE[3] kits to avoid direct exposure to risk.”

In response to a participant’s question on ensuring continued funding, given the economic downturn globally, Anne shared NCA’s experience saying, “NCA addressed this concern while keeping face-to-face and online communication with the donors. We tend to keep them updated about how NCA is managing work and implementing the projects during a pandemic. Moreover, we identified the need of funds and prepared applications for and with national partners to raise funds further for emergency responses. We worked within and as part of different networks to advocate for continued funding in existing programmes and additional funding for COVID-19 response, particularly for vulnerable and most affected-communities.  We increased advocacy efforts and NCA has been successful in getting additional funds in Pakistan and other Asian countries.”

Key Take-aways shared by Participants:

  • “Humanitarian organisations have to work towards awareness raising through radio in order to reach rural and remote areas to encourage the communities there for vaccination.” Ifthekhar Farooq

  • “COVID -19 has affected women and minorities in the context of mental stress. For this reason, humanitarian groups should focus on organising trainings, Focus Group Discussions and sessions on psycho-socio economic condition.” Alyas Rahmat

  • “Local community leaders adopt the techniques and skills provided by the NGOs under COVID-19 response. It is difficult to adapt to quick changes; therefore, we need to support existing programs instead of introducing new ones in short time-span.” Liaquat Ali

  • “Fair distribution of vaccine needs to be ensured. Additionally, travel restrictions should also be checked as more restrictions between Pakistan, North America and Europe are affecting real stories to be conveyed to the international space.” Anne Masterson

  • “The topic of webinar, ‘Organisational Sustainability and COVID 19’, is a vast field. This discussion is just the initiation and we as humanitarian practitioners, have to work towards making efficient strategies, both at organisational and national level.” Arif Jabbar

[1] https://www.usglc.org/coronavirus/economies-of-developing-countries/

[2] Gender-Based Violence

[3] Personal protective equipment

Dodo (far right) with his family

Dodo Maru Bheel is a 74-year-old father of two children, a son and a daughter, and a resident of Moriya village in UC Sekhro district of Umerkot, Sindh. He and his wife and younger daughter currently live with their son and his family (of six members, a wife and four children). Dodo has a visual impairment but he has never considered that as a disability or something that would hinder his life plans or goals. He is as resilient as can be and everyone in the village admires his determination and strength.

Dodo experienced a fatal road accident a few years ago. Due to an unavailability of an ambulance or timely first aid in the area, Dodo was unable to access appropriate medical facilities which further worsened his injuries from the accident. Since his financial conditions were unfavourable, he could not even afford most of the prescribed treatment at a bigger health centre in the nearest urban city. Dodo suffered a severe head injury which eventually lead him to lose his eye-sight completely.

With his sudden visual impairment, Dodo was unable to find any employment or paid work. He used to work as a daily labourer in the Umerkot city and surrounding areas. The elderly couple, along with their daughter, hence became financially dependent on their son. Their son, a daily wager, worked as a mason and the money he earnt barely met his own family’s basic day-to-day expenses, let alone a whole household of now nine members.

As the COVID-19 pandemic hit Pakistan, the government imposed a country-wide lockdown to restrict the spread of the virus. Many daily wagers lost their jobs during the lockdown; Dodo’s son was among them. The family could barely afford a single meal a day. Dodo and his son were struggling to keep their house running and their families fed. This dire situation prompted Dodo to sell a few of his goats during the days leading up to Eid-ul-Adha in late July 2020. His goats were his only remaining livestock and a supporting income means. Dodo also borrowed some money during the early days of the lockdown from a local landlord to meet their household expenses.

In April 2020, Dodo’s wife had received cash assistance of PKR 12000 (approx. US $ 71) from Ehsaas Kafalat Program as a part of the government’s COVID-19 relief fund. With that amount, Dodo and his wife planned to run a small scale, home-based business but his former creditors pushed him to pay back his loans with that amount so he was unable to use it for anything else.

The lockdown in the country has now eased but COVID-19 has left the country in a severe economic crisis that has pushed many underprivileged communities into poverty. Dodo and his son sold almost all the resources they had to sustain their family’s survival needs and are left with nothing now.

Community World Service Asia and UMCOR have initiated a project to respond to the needs of hazard and COVID-19 affected marginalised communities in rural Sindh. As part of the project, together with the support of village committees, the project selected Dodo as a participant of its cash-assistance. This will ensure that Dodo receives PKR 24000/- in two monthly installments to start his own small scale, home-based business.

Dodo and his family are happy to be selected and are looking forward to efficiently utilising the cash that they will receive next week and returning to a somewhat normal semblance of their life, as they did before the COVID-19 crisis. Dodo also hopes to save some of this money to consult an eye specialist for his eye-sight treatment.

The PUKAR theater group performing at a local village after the training on Interactive Theater for Influencing in 2019.

Imam Uddin Soomro is an active member of the Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT), an alliance of small-scale and landless farmers including women farmers. Imam collects data on crops and conducts awareness sessions for farmers on sustainable agriculture, green revolution and globalization. As a member of a local theatre group named, PUKAR, since 2018, Imam also performs as an interactive theatre artiste in rural villages, organises learning events and writes articles on agriculture and farmers’ rights in local languages.

The PKMT was formed in 2008 as a result of a series of discussions among powerless farmers and social and political activists who felt that an organised platform to voice their demands was essential for small-scale farmers facing social and economic constraints.

“We perform plays that enable us to interact with different communities. The theatre plays address issues that are part of the PKMT struggle, including feudalism and the impact of corporate agriculture. As a theater performer, I was selected as a participant in a training tilted, Interactive Theater for Influencing, in July 2019. The training provided technical knowledge and capacity building opportunities on skills required to influence communities to bring about progress in the society. Our skills of script-writing, communications and character-building were further enhanced in the seven-day residential training.” said Imam.

All seven members of the PUKAR theater group participated in the training which gave them networking and experience- sharing opportunities with other like-minded participants. The session on ‘team building’ and ‘inhibition breaking’ helped participants self-assess themselves and understand their pivotal and influential position in society. Participants learnt about stage directions, allowing the audience to grasp every performers’ act and the message they are conveying through their role plays.

“We met with other theater groups from Peshawar, Sindh and Islamabad. All the groups had different interactive skills to perform as we all engage with different kinds of audiences. The members of other groups shared the issues they highlighted through their plays and how they passed on the resolutions,” shared Imam.

On the last day of the training, participants developed action plans to further implement the learning and skills learnt during the training.

“Initially, we would randomly select issues and base our plays on those issues. After the training, we altered our strategy. We now plan a meeting to identify the common issues that are prevalent in the communities through meetings with community members and develop a script for the play accordingly to work together to rectify the challenges people are facing. CWSA has extended support in reviewing the scripts which we plan to avail,” expressed Imam.

A group exercise that engaged the training participants in planning a theater play with other members of the group allowed collaborative learning and practical experience-sharing through coordination among the members. Imam narrated,

“When we acted with other theater performers, we learnt to show strong facial expressions as that also largely impacts the deliverance of the message and not just the dialogues. This joint exercise helped in modifying our acting and delivery gestures in order to have an even stronger impact in the communities we perform.”

2020Mon14Dec11:00 AM12:30 PMFeaturedThematic Event 4: Panel Discussion on: Is Accountability truly embedded in an Organisation’s core values and activities?11:00 AM - 12:30 PM Theme:Quality and AccountabilityType:WebinarRegister here

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted global humanitarian and development programming. It has severely affected aid organisations’ capacity to execute field activities and track project implementation, challenges and progress.  Inaccessibility to project locations and restricted direct physical contact with communities represent significant challenges to conventional M&E operations.

Understanding community’s situation – their needs, values and problems – is essential for aid organisations to respond effectively. COVID-19 and the ‘lockdown’ restrictions imposed in response, have led to some program operations being suspended or discontinued and in this case it is critical to consider the impact of these closures on the communities. Other programs that have continued amid the pandemic, adopting new methods and modalities for implementation and it is important to understand how new way of programming are meeting communities’ needs.

The pandemic has pushed us all to reassess and prioritise the types of evidence and data we need to inform programmes and adapt Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) strategies to the new environment. To share experiences and best practices and facilitate a productive discussion on monitoring and evaluation during the pandemic, Community World Service Asia and INTRAC jointly hosted a webinar on remote monitoring in the context of COVID-19 on August 11.

Dan James, Principal Consultant and Thematic Lead at INTRAC moderated the session and was joined by speakers Dylan Diggs, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, The State Department’s Democracy (DRL), M. Said Alhudzari Bin Ibrahim, General Manager – Programme Operations, MERCY Malaysia, Jonah S. Nobleza, Program Manager, Market Development and Financial Innovations for Agriculture at ICCO Regional Office Southeast Asia & Pacific, Michael Kendagor, Coordinator Emergency Response and DRR at Church World Service and Aung Phyo Thant, MEAL Coordinator with FinChurch Aid.

For those of us working in the humanitarian and development sector, the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the measures taken by our respective governments to combat the virus, have created unique challenges for programs and their functioning. The session focused particularly on how the pandemic has affected monitoring and how to effectively monitor program when access to communities and people who we are working with is restricted.

What has and has not changed with COVID-19?

There are three broad areas where challenges and changes can take place as a result of COVID-19. These include:

  1. Organisations’ ability to access communities restricted
  2. Organisations ability to carry out programmes in usual way
  3. Community needs and situation

“The lockdown measure, social distancing, the variety of interventions governments and local authorities have to make actually means that our access to communities for monitoring purposes can be limited or cut off completely in some cases, or curtailed in different ways. These restrictions, lead to changes in program delivery,” shared Dan, “The virus has also changed the needs and situations at community level. Thus, there is real need to have up-to-date information on how the situation is changing and how the communities’ needs are shifting.”

Have monitoring needs changed as a result of COVID-19?

We asked participants in a quick poll to share their top monitoring priority during the pandemic. While measuring predicted results is still a top priority (often for accountability purposes), understanding negative/unanticipated impacts on communities and questioning what else can be done to support communities are more important during the pandemic than during normal times.

There are however, some things that have not changed: the need for basic information about project and programme delivery, donor requirements for accountability data about programmes and organisational capacity for programming and M&E.

Dan reminded participants that we must “work with what we have” in terms of capacities, resources, relationships and structures as the pandemic has not given the global aid community the time to prepare and develop ideal strategies to combat the situation.

Best Practices of Remote Monitoring in the COVID-19 Context 

Working through volunteers using a HUB based approach – Mercy Malaysia

“The traditional approach where our M&E staff travelled to target areas to monitor was no longer an option due to the inter-state travelling ban. Mercy Malaysia established a complete separate COVID-19 Operations Hub whose functions included planning, verification, procurement, data consolidation and reporting,” shared M. Said.

The model Mercy Malaysia adopted for the Remote Monitoring of their project consist of the following steps.

Most of the operations of the Hub were based in Kuala Lumpur, but Mercy Malaysia handled the responses of all fourteen states of Malaysia.

Using Mobile-based Technology for Engaging Communities – ICCO

“As soon as COVID-19 induced restrictions were enforced, consortium members in Myanmar developed a business continuity plan to mitigate the risks of further delays in implementation.  We decided to customize a remote, mobile – based, methodology to conduct interviews and collect data from our target groups and beneficiaries, shared Jonah.

Digital Cash Transfer to Prevent the spread of COVID-19 – Church World Service (Africa)

As another example, Church World Service (Africa) shifted their approach to response and monitoring towards digital and virtual platforms when Kenya was affected by multiple natural disasters, conflict and eventually COVID-19. Digital cash transfer was utilized using the M-Pesa platform in partnership with the bank and mobile service provider (Safaricom).

Michael shared that CWS now has a database of program participants in the various locations which are acquired through identification and profiling. This is done through kobo tool kit that enables real time processing of data. Once cash transfer has been undertaken, the monitoring and evaluation team of the organisation conducts a post distribution assessment to determine the efficiency and effectiveness of the response as well as its impact in the lives and livelihoods of the target beneficiaries.

Keeping the Hope Alive – Fin Church Aid

“As a result of COVID-19, children were forced to stay at home as schools were shut down amid coronavirus. In Fin Church Aid, we wanted to learn the psychological well-being of children, staying at home. To assess this situation, we conducted assessments using the online data tools, which allowed us to reach to respondents without in-person contact during this pandemic. We conducted assessments via Kobo Toolbox[1]  and mobile phones,” shared Aung.

US State Departments Democracy Rights and Labor Division

Dylan Diggs, from US State Departments Democracy Rights and Labor division shared thoughts about working with donors on adapting M&E. DRL provides M&E assistance to grantees throughout the life cycle of the program.

“Even before COVID-19, we have had a flexible approach to M&E. We believe that our implementers know best. This doesn’t mean that we expect everyone to be an M&E expert. But, we do believe that M&E can be done by qualified internal evaluators and program staff that are interested in using M&E principles for logical program design and evaluation,” said Dylan.

Dylan highlighted four important considerations to adapting M&E during the current pandemic.

Assess Plans & Approaches: Encourage organizations to rethink M&E plans and review anticipated results

Adjust your M&E approaches and methods: Update your M&E to the new environment while reviewing indicators and consulting beneficiaries on contingency plans

Adapt Your Operations: Communications Methods are changing by adopting digital methods, phone interviews and monitoring with photographic and video evidence

Do No Harm: This comes in play in digital protection and in-person approaches including use of Personal Protective Equipment and maintaining social distancing

Participants’ Thoughts

Towards the end of the webinar, participants raised questions regarding verification being applied by different entities. M. Said responded,

Yes we do. Besides verification through other than the requesting party, we do have a local government agency, in Malaysia’s case the Welfare Department, who has data on vulnerable communities as well. However, they are not the only source of information for us.”

Another participant queried on how to monitor the progress or activities in remote settings where there is no access to any kind of communication modes. M. Said answered,

“Simplify the process and empower the local community to participate in monitoring. It is essential to know that programmes are more effective with community involvement.”

Participants highlighted data as the most frequently term used during sessions. They questioned if there is a healthy tension between data and people, in terms of their current contextual realities. Dan answered by saying,

“Definitely – our view is that monitoring needs to prioritise people. There is a need to review – perhaps from scratch – the kinds of data we are looking for to ensure monitoring activities are both low risk and have benefits for people.”

A total of 73% of the webinar participants found learning practical methods for remote monitoring as the most interesting discussion point. However, they raised questions on How organisations can ensure fair and unbiased remote assessments with only identified community members interviewed rather than a random selection?  To this, the facilitators responded,

“We collaborated with communities and local organizations actively to ensure that assessment is not biased. In addition, we involved religious leaders who tend to be influential people within communities but that did not restrict us from communicating with the communities directly. It is essential to involve local NGOs as they have direct interaction with the communities and therefore they are able to assist effectively and identify affected populations who are in dire need of assistance.”


[1] KoBoToolbox is a free toolkit for collecting and managing data in challenging environments and is the most widely-used tool in humanitarian emergencies.

On World Humanitarian Day (WHD) 19 August, the world commemorates the deaths and injuries of humanitarian workers during their service, and we thank all relief workers and health workers who, despite the challenges, strive to provide life-saving assistance and safety for those most in need. #RealLifeHeroes.

This year’s campaign focused on what drives humanitarians to continue to save and protect lives despite conflict, insecurity, lack of access and risks linked to COVID-19. Let’s watch hear what some of our #RealLifeHeroes had to say!  

Phul Jhakro in a casual discussion on health awareness with his fellow community members in Kheeral before COVID-19.

A local farmer from Sujawal[1], Phul Jhakro, has become a key member of the Health Management Committee[2] (HMC) in his union council. He is 50 years old and owns a small piece of land near his home in Phul Jhakro village located in Kheeral Union Council (UC). Phul Jhakro and his family’s primary source of livelihood is farming.

While crop production in Sindh is highly dependent on the availability of water, the continuous onslaught of droughts in the region has left Kheeral with an extreme water shortage since 2018. Village residents of Kheeral have been finding it difficult to maintain food security and access health and medical treatment that are far away from their village due to their wavering livelihood conditions. Most health facilities are at a distance for which they need sufficient money to travel to each time. The closest health center to Kheeral is a Maternal, Neonatal and Child Healthcare (MNCH) centre in the village of Ranta. Kheeral is five kilometers away and people approach by foot as Ranta is at center point of the UC. In addition, people also use motorbike or local transport to commute to the health facility.

The MNCH has been established by Community World Service Asia (CWSA) and its partner, Church of Scotland (CoS), in Ranta village to provide basic and accessible healthcare to rural communities in the area in 2015. However, the health centre has also been non-operative since the COVID-19 led lockdown.

“The lockdown in March has forced schools, shops and many small businesses to shut down. Children have remained in their homes without access to education for over four months. No classes have been carried out because the schools nor the students are equipped with remote teaching and learning  facilities.  As a result, education in our part of the province has suffered severely. Additionally, without access to health-care, it has been difficult to deal with the suspected or rumoured cases of COVID-19. To overcome the challenges, it was vital to raise awareness about the coronavirus as a key step to encourage people towards adopting precautionary measures and prevent the spread of the deadly virus,” shared Phul.

CWSA’s health team initiated awareness sessions on prevention and safety from Coronaviruses 19 for the communities that they work with under their Health and Livelihood programs. The sessions have been planned and conducted in coordination with local government health departments and the community Health Management and Village Health committees. As a member of the HMC, Phul was trained in April to organise and conduct awareness-raising sessions in his village and other surrounding villages. He was trained remotely through mobile phone videos and audio sessions through which his knowledge and understanding of the COVID-19 was enhanced and he was told about the preventive and hygiene practices that must be adopted to stay safe from the virus. Phul Jhakro, among other HMC members, was oriented on COVID-19 effective hand washing, the use of hand sanitizers, use of safety gear and the maintenance of social distancing.

After taking the virtual trainings, Phul started conducting his own health awareness sessions for his community members. He started with his own village on May 11th. As a person who was liked and respected by many in his village, Phul had a significant influence on his fellow community members and was able to sensitise them well on the threats and risks of being infected by the coronavirus.  He encouraged people to maintain physical distancing and wear protective gear such as masks and gloves when going outside.

“The Taluka Hospital is fitted with 37 beds and one isolation room. With minimal healthcare facilities, we need to make sure that the epidemic does not spread here. Twenty-eight people have so far tested positive with COVID-19 in the district. We need to keep sensitizing people to reduce the rapid spread of this virus,” added Phul.

Phul continues to share news, updates, and awareness messages through his mobile telephone and whatsapp messaging with the people who have mobiles in his community. People like Phul Jhakro are looked up as role models for others in the local community.

“If the communities are willing, we can bring about development and positive trends in our locality. Being united in following safe behavior patterns will help us defeat this virus.”

“So far no case of corona virus has emerged in my union council. It is my moral responsibility to educate people about the alarming threat,” shared Phul confidently.


[1] A district in southern Sindh, Pakistan

[2] Health Management committee is the body of 20 male and female members from different village of targeted Union council in order to monitor daily proceeding of MNCH Ranta and support staff members in building health awareness.

Champa and her family outside their home in St. John’s colony earlier this year.

Thirty-eight-year-old Champa is a mother to six children and a wife of a daily-wage carpenter belonging to St. John Colony in Umerkot. Both Champa and her husband are physically impaired and the family’s only source of income is her husband’s daily labour.

St. John’s colony is basically a remote village that has a difficult access and hardly any basic facilities like health centers, schools or market places. With a meagre income that is insufficient to meet the needs of a family of eight, Champa has always been struggling to feed her children well and fulfill their everyday needs.

“My husband works only when someone requests for him or there is a general call for carpentry.  The days that he does work, he earns PKR 600 (US $ 3.5) a day, which is immediately consumed to purchase kitchen essentials such as flour, oil and lentils. We cannot afford to send our children to school with this income.  We barely make ends meet and sometimes save a small amount to meet our healthcare expenses when needed.”

In early March this year, Champa had not been feeling well and was advised by her relatives to visit the health facility located in Samaro village of Umerkot district. This health facility is set up and operational under Community World Service Asia and Act for Peace’s health project. Under the said project, CWSA is providing clinical health support in two Taulka Headquarter Hospitals (THQs) in district Umerkot with focus on Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health (MNCH) Services. The health services includes routine outpatient services (OPD), provision of free of cost essential medication and a full range of preventive and curative health services and continuum of care including family planning, newborn care, and child health. Other community based interventions includes formation of Village Health Management Committees and their capacity building. The health centers are facilitating in addressing the health needs of the community and in raising awareness on health issues and rights of women and children. At the Samaro health center, which is, just two kilometers away, Champa was diagnosed with and treated for diarrhea and was straightaway delivered a wheelchair as well.

Like many other families in Pakistan and even across the globe, Champa’s family has also been gravely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has multiplied the economically struggling family’s challenges and have left them penniless.

“There is no work and no income now. Most of the days, my children sleep with an empty stomach because we cannot even afford a single meal in a day. We have no money to buy flour, rice or even a few vegetables. We did attempt to loan off some money from our relatives and friends but everyone around us is in a tough spot. COVID-19 has affected everyone, mostly financially.”

Sindh’s merciless summer has not made it any easier for Champa’s family. Extreme heat and sky-rocketing temperatures have left her children dehydrated and with little or no food, their immune systems have become very weak, catching infections easily. Her children have suffered from heat induced diarrhea, throat infections and high fevers ever since the pandemic hit the region. Alarmingly, Champa has nowhere to take her children for health care as the nearest health centre in Samaro is now closed due to the pandemic driven lockdown. Travel bans and financial limitations have restricted them from accessing other hospitals or clinics located farther off.

I cannot even think of taking my children to any other hospital other than the one in Samaro because we cannot afford it. We do not have the money to pay consultation fees, buy medicines or travel,” shared Champa.

Despite the temporary closure of the health centre, Community World Service Asia’s teams have initiated awareness sessions on prevention and safety from Coronaviruses 19 for many communities living in the Umerkot district. These sessions are planned and conducted in coordination with local government health departments, Community Health Management and Village Health[1] committees. Working collaboratively, the teams are raising awareness as part of a larger effort to unify communities to prevent the further spread of the virus in the area.

The health sessions on coronavirus focus on limiting movement, avoiding small or large gatherings, maintaining social distancing and healthy hygiene and sanitation practices. The teams utilised the vast array of informational educational material (IEC) available on the COVID-19 and translated it in local languages and thoroughly oriented the communities on it.

Village Health Committee members of St. John Colony delivered a training on COVID-19 awareness and safety measures against it and shared relevant awareness raising material with their fellow community members. Champa and her family participated in one of the sessions conducted in April, 2020.

“We know what the coronavirus is now. We learnt to keep our loved ones safe at home and adopt clean hygiene to avoid the spread of the virus. My children wash their hands frequently and do not play outside their home. They are mostly engaged in small indoor games now. My husband and I only go outside our home when there is a dire need. This is a dangerous virus and we have to stop the spread so that everything can be as normal as it was in 2019 for my husband to start work again and earn a living for our family,” expressed Champa.


[1] CWSA formed Health Management Committees (HMCs) at Taulka Level and Village Health Committees (VHCs) with equal representation of women and men (5 women and 5 men). The purpose of these Committees is to build and maintain accountability mechanisms for community-level health services provided by the Community World Service Asia and Government Health Department. The Committees play an important role in planning and monitoring of the health care services in collaboration with CWSA health team.

Naima, a 26 year old Afghan woman suffering from a physical disability she was born with, lives with her family in the Refugee Camp of Khaki District in Mansehra, Pakistan. She has two elder brothers who work as daily wage labourers, earning PKR 300 (US $ 1.78) a day. Their father is unable to work due to his old age and their mother is too weak to engage in any form of labour either. The family has been living in Pakistan since 1980 when they fled the war in Afghanistan.

“Naima was born a normal, healthy baby. But by the time she turned one we noticed that she could not move, crawl or try to stand. Both her legs started to look a bit unusual. We hurried to the closest doctor to get her checked. The doctor advised us that it would heal with time as she grew.  Sadly, just the opposite occurred. Her legs became more and more incapacitated with time and she could not walk at all,” shared Naima’s mother.

“To help us in any little way that she could, Naima started weaving from an early age and always helped us with small household chores. In 2017, Naima experienced another setback. Her right hand started showing signs of impairment which meant she was unable to move it much and eventually she couldn’t even engage in the activities that kept her busy and provided us financial support.”

In 2012, Naima’s sister-in-law was diagnosed with cancer. The family took her to a cancer hospital in Lahore, but she was refused treatment there due to her refugee status. She was then admitted in a private hospital in Lahore.

“We had to take a loan for the treatment of my daughter-in-law. We also received donations from our in-laws and community elders. Despite the generous donations, we were unable to afford all the expenses incurred at the private hospital. We were already unable to cover Naima’s medical expenses so this additional expense came as another burden on our shoulders.

Due to COVID-19, there are barely any work opportunities for my sons and we are all struggling to make ends meet. The family has not earned a penny since the lockdown in March. With a disabled daughter and an unwell daughter-in-law, it has become extremely difficult to manage our household expenses and put food on the table three times a day,” expressed Naima’s father with grief.

Community World Service Asia and Street Child – UK, with the support of the Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees (CAR) in Pakistan, conducted cash distribution activities under a ‘COVID-19 Rapid Response for Afghan Refugees in Pakistan’ project. As a project participant, the cash assistance provided to Naima’s family has brought some relief to the family.

“No organisation has come to our help. CWSA has been the first to respond to our grievance request. Upon receiving the cash support, I purchased food items and some medicines for Naima and my daughter-in-law. This support has provided some comfort for our families, as there was no source of income coming at home,” thanked Naima’s mother.

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