Covid-19 pandemic: rapidly adapting response strategies to an unprecedented crisis

Published on Friday 12 March 2021

Article from our Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Barometer 2021

By Sophie Bonnet, Public Health technical advisor for SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL.

Over a year after Covid-19 started to spread throughout the world, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL takes stock of the pandemic’s impact and the humanitarian responses implemented in several countries lacking the healthcare capacities to tackle this unprecedented crisis.

With over 112 million confirmed cases at the time of writing*, the Covid-19 pandemic has placed enormous strain on the world’s healthcare systems. It has also widened the social divide and exacerbated the most vulnerable communities’ living conditions, especially in conflict zones. In response to this unprecedented crisis, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL has remained true to its mission as a front-line humanitarian actor, adapting its field activities (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Food Security and Livelihoods, etc.) to best fit the needs of the populations that we assist.

With over 153,000 registered cases, Nigeria is one of the worst affected countries in Africa. SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL opened a humanitarian mission in Borno State in 2016, where we carry out cholera prevention and response activities, among other programs. Drawing on our experience as regional Cholera Task Force coordinator over the last few years, our NGO proposed appropriate prevention and response activities to fight Covid-19. Our teams thus obtained funding to create special hygiene kits, to carry out awareness-raising activities (protective measures, social distancing, wearing a mask, etc.) and to improve sanitation and access to drinking water.

In Cameroon, where we have been working since 2014, 33,749 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been recorded. To fight the epidemic, SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL has joined forces with Action contre la Faim and the Cameroonian Public Health Ministry to implement a project funded by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD). Our teams are working in quarantine/isolation centres, and are concentrating their efforts on installing handwashing stations, managing waste, and infection control and prevention. SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL is also active in Central African refugee camps, where it is carrying out mass awareness-raising activities in collaboration with traditional leaders and community focal points.

In South-East Asia, Bangladesh has registered over 544,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19. SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL has been working in Rohingya refugee camps and host communities in the south-east of the country since 2010. Despite a rising incidence rate and a very strict lockdown that came into force in March 2020, limiting access to communities, our NGO managed to continue its essential activities by adapting them to Covid-19 (distribution of hygiene kits, disinfection of sanitary facilities, etc.). However, some activities that were deemed non-essential (building and rehabilitating latrines or water networks) were put on hold during the lockdown. Food security activities continued, in the form of pre-monsoon seed distribution. In Myanmar, where there are around 141,000 confirmed cases, we mainly focused our activities on the Rakhine and Kachin States, where the majority of displaced persons are living. This included water supply and treatment, distribution of Covid-19 kits, construction of handwashing stations and awareness-raising within communities.

These activities are just a few examples of the many actions taken. Our field teams’ efficient work, together with the expertise provided by SOLIDARITÉS INTERNATIONAL and other actors (UN agencies, local and international NGOs, health ministries, institutional donors, civil society) enabled the implementation of a large-scale response. Mobilizing human, financial and logistical resources on such a large scale presented challenges, but we faced these challenges together. And there is still much to be done: it is crucial to maintain the current level of aid, so that local authorities can build up their expertise to fight future epidemics and pandemics, and also to develop clear operational strategies for the post-pandemic period.


* Dashboard by Johns Hopkins University, 25th February 2021 : https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html