COVID-19 Around the World: How Can We Help?
Update June 2020
Kathleen Cairnie-Sorensen, Director of Lifespan Learning at UCM, recently sent an e-mail to the members of the Social Justice Action Committee. She reflected on the effects of the pandemic on a country with a fragile infrastructure and substandard healthcare.
Kathleen taught English at a Theological College in Tanzania, East Africa for a couple of years and still has many friends there. During the last couple of months, she has been receiving an increasing number of messages from people who are in extreme distress.
Robert, a former student of hers, is an ordained Anglican priest. He lives with his wife and children in the city of Mwanza in northwestern Tanzania. As a Community Development Officer for his church, he is paid from church revenues. He is making a difference in his community. Unfortunately, with no church services taking place, there has been no revenue and thus no salary. He and his family exhausted their savings and were without food.
Tanzania is a unique and wonderful country but it has incredible challenges. Some of the largest refugee camps circle its perimeter. As one of the poorest countries in the world it is expected to pay to support huge numbers of refugees while relatively prosperous countries like Canada are chronically delinquent in their UNHCR payments. The money that Tanzania uses to support those, who it now houses, comes from their health and education budgets.
In one camp alone named Nduta there are as many as 75,000 people living in such close proximity that social distancing is impossible. Given the presence of co-morbidities like malaria, tuberculosis, HIV, and sickle cell disease the camps present a huge risk the everyone who thought they fled to safety. The only medical care is in the form of temporary tents staffed by Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
And up against this backdrop a population almost equal to Canada’s is starving. A report ranking the least to most dangerous countries ranks Canada in the top 20 and Tanzania in the bottom 10. The worst day in the trenches here may be better than any day elsewhere.
Information about aid organizations that work in Tanzania, can be found at: aidforafrica.org
Update from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)
While the COVID-19 pandemic has had profound effects here in Canada, refugees around the world have been pushed into an increasingly desperate situation due to economic downturns. The pandemic has caused hardship in countries hosting refugee communities, which has increased the vulnerability of refugees. Over 80% of the world’s refugees are hosted in low to middle income countries. Groups at high risk of exploitation and poverty in this crisis include unaccompanied children, the elderly, LGBTI people and female heads of households. UNHCR, continues to need financial support to assist refugees and internally displaced persons living in inadequate conditions with limited public health, sanitations facilities and social supports.
According to Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs, “We are facing a global health crisis that is spreading human suffering and upending lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has already overwhelmed the health care systems, economies and societies of some of the strongest countries in the world. We must be vigilant in our support for the world’s most vulnerable people, including forcibly displaced and stateless people who now find themselves at even greater risk as the pandemic spreads across the rest of the world. The pandemic compounds many of the longstanding issues faced by refugees, threatening not only their health and safety but their survival.”
UNHCR has been able to provide emergency cash to 200,000 Syrian refugees in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey who had not previously been receiving financial aid. These five countries host more than 5.5 million Syrians, the biggest refugee group in the world. UNHCR does not have the funds to help everyone who needs it. In Jordan, only 17,000 out of 49,000 recently identified vulnerable families received emergency cash.
Refugees from Syria are not the only group in need of immediate assistance. UNHCR recently launched a US$ 186 million appeal to help refugees, internally displaced persons, host communities and returnees in the central Sahel region of Africa, which includes the countries Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad, Mauritania and Niger. There are 3.1 million refugees in these countries. Local communities have been generous, but they are at a breaking point. In Burkina Faso the number of internally displaced persons has more than quadrupled from June 2019 to the end of April 2020, reaching 848,000. In addition to core relief the UNHCR will support education, provide more shelters to reduce overcrowding and respond to sexual and gender-based violence.
Donations to UNHCR Canada can be made at: give.unhcr.ca
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), is another organization at the forefront of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They treat tens of thousands of patients around the world for a variety of illnesses every single day. MSF has urged leaders to demand pharmaceutical corporations to commit to selling any potential future COVID-19 vaccines at cost. They are also appealing to governments to set up a fund to purchase vaccines for developing countries, putting the common good ahead of individual nationalist interests. More information about Doctors Without Borders Canada and to how to donate, can be found at: doctorswithoutborders.ca
Help with Technology
The COVID-19 pandemic has put people across the GTA into crisis. Social Service workers are in need of technology to connect with people who are homeless, survivors of domestic abuse or experiencing mental health problems. Your old cell phone, tablet or laptop could be put to use right now. United Way Greater Toronto is partnering with Ruckify, an online rental marketplace, and the city of Toronto to help community groups get the devices they need to connect with their clients. In a report on CTV News, Ruckify indicated that 33 community groups are in need of 1,000 devices. An online donation form can be found on Ruckify’s website:
The Mississauga Food Bank
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on those living in poverty in our community. The Mississauga Food Bank will require $840,000 to keep the shelves stocked during this crisis – $360,000 more than anticipated. The goal of the food bank during this pandemic is to ensure those living in poverty can continue to safely access the food they need.
TMFB is not primarily government-funded and relies on the generosity of the community to support families in need. As such, they need financial resources to meet demand. Please make a financial donation to The Mississauga Food Bank today. https://www.themississaugafoodbank.org/blog/covid-19-update/
Please note: Mississauga fire stations are not currently able to accept donations for the food bank.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it may seem that the media is painting a picture of doom and gloom. There is good news. Acts of kindness and charity abound. In the face of adversity, new groups are springing up to help those in need. The Good Neighbour Project is a GTA Facebook group mobilizing a task force of volunteers to help people who need delivery assistance for supplies and groceries during the pandemic.
Irfan Mehmood of Brampton was inspired to help his community after he realized that many people were afraid or unable to leave their homes to buy groceries when the pandemic hit Peel Region. For the last few weeks, Mehmood has been accepting non-perishable food items and delivering them to people he has heard of who haven’t been able to leave their homes or can’t afford groceries.
Anyone who’d like to contribute with food donations or by helping with deliveries can reach Mehmood at 437-993-4973 or through his Instagram page, @hypecarcare.
Global Medic is another Canadian organization that has stepped in at home and abroad. They have been able to offer field hospital tents to health officials, hospitals and local agencies. Their tents and donations of emergency food can also help food banks stay operational. Hygiene supplies have been provided to local shelters. Global Medic also has a stockpile of cleaning supplies that can be used to assist people who are self isolating. Your gift to GlobalMedic will help agencies who service vulnerable populations and provide cash transfers to families who are struggling. Manulife has offered to match donations up to $100,000.
One effect of the pandemic that might be overlooked is the need for legal advice by individuals, non-profits and small businesses facing unprecedented issues such as loss of work, evictions, and loss of business. Pro Bono Ontario helps Ontarians who have essential legal needs but can’t afford a lawyer. They are providing a Free Legal Advice Hotline:1-855-255-7256 (Mon to Fri, 9:30 AM – 12:00 PM and 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM). Pro Bono Ontario is in need of both donations and volunteers. Your gift ensures those in need have access to justice.
Canada Helps, a donation and fundraising site, maintains a list of organizations who are fundraising to help with the COVID-19 outbreak. https://www.canadahelps.org/en/donate-to-coronavirus-outbreak-response/
The Canadian Red Cross is also dedicated to supporting individuals, families and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Donations to the Canadian Red Cross can be made here:
The leading public health expert at the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, says prevention and inclusion must be at the heart of the response for displaced people, especially in areas with weak health services. The agency is working to slow the spread of the virus, reduce its impact and save lives. Please consider making a donation using the following link: https://give.unhcr.ca/page/57647/donate/1?ea.tracking.id=OL20_COVID-19#_ga=2.35648098.233444183.1585611529-1576550207.1585510909
While there is an urgent need for donations of money during this pandemic, many organizations are in need of volunteers. Volunteer Canada, https://volunteer.ca/index.php?MenuItemID=355, is one place to find volunteer opportunities. Spark Ontario is another organization playing a role connecting people with community response efforts to the COVID-19 Pandemic. You can search SPARK’s website for specific opportunities to help people affected by COVID-19. SPARK is also looking for organizations working to help people who are struggling as a result of COVID-19. https://www.sparkontario.ca/covid19
The Kid’s Kids Help Phone is on a mission to ensure young people are never alone as we all face an unprecedented global crisis. They are urgently in need of volunteers. ttps://kidshelpphone.ca/get-involved/give/you-can-ensure-nho-young-person-feels-alone-during-covid-19/
In the face of the pandemic, a new term is becoming popular: caremongering. People are using social media to work together to help one another. The CareMongering – Mississauga facebook page exists to encourage and facilitate sharing and organization of community resources in response to COVID-19. The purpose of this group is to organize the local community on the grassroots level to ensure vulnerable community members have access to food and other necessities. https://www.facebook.com/groups/caremongering/
Finally, I would like to remind the congregation that Canadian Blood Services asks Canadians to keep giving during the pandemic. Patients will continue to need blood products throughout COVID-19, including many cancer patients and those with blood disorders. Widespread cancellation of group donations has increased the need for individual donors to book and keep appointments. Learn more about donating blood here: https://blood.ca/en
Judy Benger, Social Justice Action Committee