CARE's Response to the COVID-19 Crisis

by CARE
CARE's Response to the COVID-19 Crisis
IYD/CARE
IYD/CARE

Adolescent girls are facing unprecedented challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including interruptions in essential services and an increased risk of experiencing negative health, education and psychosocial outcomes at a critical time in their lives. However, in communities from Colombia, to Niger, Malawi, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Somalia, girls are also coming up with innovative solutions to share life-saving information, continue learning, and shape the nature of prevention and response programs. 

Debbie Landis, CARE Senior Gender in Emergencies Policy Specialist says, “The COVID-19 pandemic places  a generation of young people – especially girls  in a particularly vulnerable situation, as their ability to access essential health, education, and protection services are limited, and the dynamics of the crisis create new risks to their safety and well-being.  As in the case of other crises, adolescent girls are often a ‘hidden’ group, with limited data available on their situation, and insufficient attention paid to their needs in response plans and in the priorities of donors.  

Despite these issues, we are seeing that when the voices of girls are amplified, and when girls are given opportunities for meaningful participation, they can shape the future in powerful ways,” adds Landis. 

Examples from CARE’s work around the world has shown that girls are vital to shaping the nature of the COVID-19 response from engaging in assessment, planning and accountability processes, to informing the design of prevention and response programs, to engaging in outreach and advocacy efforts with their peers and broader communities.  

Adolescent girls are also often best-placed to helshare information in new and innovative ways. In Niger, for example, girls supported by CARE are helping to spread essential information on available services for survivors of gender-based violence.  In other countries such as Mali and India, girls are leading in information sharing and peer support through WhatsApp groups, phone calls and text messaging.  

"I have come to realize that the restriction of mobility is the biggest issue that girls in my community face,” says Puja Gupta, a youth activist from Nepal. “This restriction results in girls getting confined into their houses, not getting the opportunity for education, facing gender-based discrimination and most likely getting married early. We believe that if we do not speak up for ourselves, no one else will. So, we have started to do something about it."  

Some further examples of the role played by adolescent girls in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic include: 

  • IBurundi, CARE organized a social innovation challenge for youth-led and civil society organizations to rapidly identify solutions to respond to the health and rights of vulnerable communities during COVID-19, especially in camps for refugees and internally displaced persons.  

  • In Bangladesh and Nepal, young girls in Tipping Point - a CARE-supported project have engaged in data collection efforts in hard-to-reach communities to build knowledge on the needs and experiences of adolescent girls during the pandemic. 

  • In Colombia, adolescent girls are working to promote continued access to essential health services.  In partnership with adolescent leaders, CARE is working to implement a community awareness campaign to provide information on adolescent health through murals, plays, social medial, and health fairs. 

Promoting the leadership and participation of girls has been an essential component of CARE’s work across all sectors, and this emphasis has only increased in importance since the start of the pandemic,” says Landis. “As the world faces an unprecedented challenge, these results remind us of the powerful potential of adolescent girls – and of the value of investing in them,” she adds.

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Dr. Mona with Amsha Hussein Mendo, Son/ Iraq
Dr. Mona with Amsha Hussein Mendo, Son/ Iraq

With more than 62,000 infections and over 2,500 related deaths[i], Covid-19 is pushing vulnerable communities in Iraq on the brink of survival. Highly vulnerable communities, including 1.4 million internally displaced people, are most at risk, warns CARE International.

In a recently conducted survey among more than 1,400 people in Northern Iraq[ii], CARE found out that 74% of the interviewed needed to reduce their meals, 66% were forced to buy less of essential supplies such as soap while 61% stated that making further debt was the only way to cope with the current economic situation since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

With humanitarian funding for COVID-19 falling short of an alarming rate of 87% for Iraq[iii], CARE urges donors to step up their financial support to manage the current health emergency while ensuring essential supplies reach those in need.

“Despite on-going violence and movement restrictions, we heard of families who have been displaced for years now going back to their home towns in Sinjar – places where they have nothing left and experienced horrific violence and trauma – because COVID-19 and related lockdown makes their lives unbearable in camps and other displacement settlements,” says Wendy Barron, Country Director of CARE International in Iraq. According to UN OCHA, in the month of June 2020, COVID-19 related movement restrictions and on-going hostilities hindered the access to an estimated more than 172,000 people in need of humanitarian aid[iv].

“We recently talked to a young mother living in a camp for internally displaced people who despite dealing with trauma and cancer for years, had been running a successful small restaurant supporting her family to meet their basic needs,” explains Barron. “But coronavirus restrictions forced her to close her business. Since then she doesn’t know how to feed her family or pay for her urgently needed doctor’s appointments.”  

As the economic situation in Iraq has remarkably worsened since the outbreak of the coronavirus, with poverty rates expected to double from 20% to 40% in 2020[v], CARE is especially concerned about the situation of women and girls. “Women face difficulties accessing healthcare because of stigma around COVID-19, they are more vulnerable to violence in their own homes and on top of it are highly economically disadvantaged, often carrying out insecure or informal work and have therefore less access to and control over meeting their daily needs,” adds Barron.

In addition to providing essential services like clean drinking water and hygiene items to prevent a further outbreak of COVID-19, CARE and partner organizations are playing a crucial role in camps for internally displaced people and host communities across Northern Iraq by providing business opportunities and psychosocial support, in particular to women and girls.

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CARE

Location: Atlanta, GA - USA
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Twitter: @CARE
Project Leader:
Nia Carter
Atlanta, GA United States
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