DONATIONS of £5 million were made in one day to the coronavirus appeal launched on Tuesday by the Disasters and Emergency Committee (DEC), on which the main Christian relief organisations are represented. Monies will be used to help vulnerable people fleeing conflict and instability, as well as the threat of Covid-19, in countries including Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and South Sudan.
The appeal is supported by Christian Aid, Tearfund, and World Vision UK. The first donations, up to £5 million, will benefit from the UK Aid Match Scheme, in which individual donations are matched by the Department for International Development.
Campaigners have raised concerns that the humanitarian situation brought about by the pandemic has become critical in several countries. In Yemen, where half the health services have been destroyed by conflict, one in four people who contract the virus is dying, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In Afghanistan, 24 million people are living in crowded temporary accommodation, while, in the Rohingya refugee camps of Bangladesh, the population density is one and a half times that of New York City, but its inhabitants have little access to health facilities or sanitation.
The head of Christian Aid’s humanitarian programme, Mike Mosselmans, said “The Covid–19 crisis is taking its toll all over the world, but for people living in particularly poor and fragile countries the dangers are especially real. In places like the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, where Christian Aid is working, it’s extremely difficult to carry out social-distancing measures and self-isolation. People there are already dealing with a host of other health problems, with medical services stretched to breaking-point.
“People living in countries that have suffered from years of conflict and unrest don’t have the luxury of the NHS and are especially vulnerable. This crisis is a reminder of how connected humans are and the need for global solidarity for people in the most need.”
The International Director of Tearfund, Myles Harrison, said: “We are seeing extremely challenging situations. People have fled from danger, fighting, conflict, and are living in camps with poor medical facilities, little access to clean water and not enough food. . . Having survived violence and hunger, they are now faced with the new threat of COVID-19 and the fear that brings.
“Faith leaders play a vital role in conveying public health messages to communities to prevent its spread and to correct any lies and misinformation about the disease.”
The head of humanitarian and emergency affairs at World Vision UK, Mark Bulpitt, said: “The coronavirus pandemic is a crisis on a scale we’ve never seen before, having a devastating impact on people living all over the world. But it could be catastrophic for families already living in — or who have been forced to flee — places ripped apart by conflict, violence, and hunger. The severity of the outbreak will be amplified in these areas already suffering from a lethal cocktail of disasters.
“These families are the most vulnerable. This deadly virus and its impacts could leave millions of children poorer, hungrier, less educated, and exposed to abuses like child marriage and sexual exploitation. DEC agencies, including World Vision, are already on the ground, working around the clock, but there is more to be done. We desperately need more money to make sure we can reach all those most in need, before it’s too late.”