Catholic aid agency CAFOD has launched an urgent appeal to respond to the unprecedented global challenge of tackling the spread of the coronavirus in some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities.
“Coronavirus is a tsunami heading towards the homes of millions of poor communities who have nothing to protect themselves from its devastating impacts,” said Christine Allen, CAFOD’s director.
Aside from the many deaths that are likely due to infections, millions of people around the world who already struggle to feed their families will face extreme hunger as jobs are lost and markets shut down because of coronavirus.
“The potential scale of the pandemic across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East – as well as among refugee and displaced populations in places such as Syria, South Sudan and the Rohingya camps in Bangladesh – is truly frightening.
“These are vulnerable families who are unprepared to fight this virus and are being pushed to the brink of hunger and poverty,” said Ms Allen.
CAFOD is scaling up its support to local aid experts who are providing food and improving handwashing and sanitation facilities in communities and households. It is also helping churches use their networks to share hygiene messages through Catholic radio stations and producing posters in local dialects on infection prevention.
“We have a narrow window of opportunity to reach communities with the basics for life – food and clean water, and the messages they need on how best to keep safe,” said Ms Allen.
“Our local aid experts are already responding and trying to alleviate what is likely to be a catastrophe in terms of hunger, poverty and death as a result of this pandemic.”
According to the UN over a third of households in Africa have no access to handwashing facilities, and almost another third has limited access with either no water or soap. Millions of lives are at risk, with estimates that between 300,000 and 3.3m people could lose their lives as a direct result of coronavirus (UN Economic Commission for Africa COVID-19 in Africa Report, 2020).
Trust is essential for winning over communities, changing behaviours, and reducing the spread of coronavirus,” she said, adding.
“We will maximise the reach of the global Catholic Church aid network, particularly in Africa – where a third of healthcare is provided by the Catholic Church, and trusted faith and community leaders are known in their communities.
“We must not wait until we see the terrible headlines about millions of people whose lives have been lost to the coronavirus,” said Ms Allen. “Donations have never been more urgent, providing steadfast support to those who are in greatest need.
“We can all be infected by the virus, but this crisis has revealed just how unequal our world and society are. Its economic and social impacts will be long-lasting and most devastating for the poorest. That is why we are calling for the cancellation of debt owed by some of the world’s poorest countries so that they can finance their response to coronavirus, shore up fragile health systems, and relaunch their economies.
“It is our collective actions now that will make all the difference and save countless lives,” concluded Ms Allen.
In Pope Francis’ Urbi et orbi Easter message called on the world not to “yield to fear” regarding the spread of the coronavirus, but to unite and take action, “…because the challenge we are facing is shared by all without distinguishing between persons.”
Donations to CAFOD’s Coronavirus Appeal can be made via cafod.org.uk/coronavirusappeal or by calling +44 (0)303 303 3030