When Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, many organizations quickly became more reliant on connectivity to carry out program activities. The public health strategy of “flattening the curve” to prevent the spread of the virus, added an extra layer of social protection measures to consider and implement. The imposed lockdown hampered the timely delivery of aid and disrupted supply chains. Many NGOs found themselves at a momentary standstill or completely halted activities as they explored ways to mitigate limited access to resources to support remote work. Getting information and support to staff and affected people to ensure their safety and wellbeing became even more of a priority to preserve the security of vulnerable communities.
Individuals already living in insecure environments, such as refugees and migrants, were left particularly vulnerable due to Covid-19. Access to reliable platforms for distributing trusted information and aid are vital for reaching such communities.
In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, NetHope was able to support three great Members in their work amongst vulnerable communities – particularly refugees and migrants. With a generous grant from Facebook, we were able to support International Medical Corps (Cameroon), the International Refugee Committee (Colombia) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela) in their vital programs. Pre-existing NetHope hotspots have also been used in these Members’ responses to Covid-19, as social distancing measures made connectivity more important than ever.
We’re proud to be able to partner and collaborate with trusted NGOs to help enable them to implement effective programs amongst communities in-need. During the Coronavirus pandemic, this took the form of connecting these three Members with funding from Facebook, partnering with them to support vulnerable communities through access to information, health, safety and awareness programs. Through partnership, NGOs become more enabled to implement programs to help affected communities as they seek to re-establish a sense of security and state of independence.
Thanks to our collaboration and partnership with Facebook, NetHope has able to bring Members closer to those they serve by providing funding, platforms and other resources needed for them to continue with programs that make a huge difference in people’s lives.
International Medical Corps (IMC): in Minawao Refugee Camp in Cameroon, which hosts 60,000 internal displaced people, IMC has been implementing Covid-19 prevention activities through hygiene promotion, training, as well as case management support at Mokolo District Hospital.
Training sessions to introduce the origins of Covid-19 and different modes of transmission, symptoms and good preventative habits, were organized at the IMC base in Batouri in Mbaim-boum and in three targeted sites, Lolo, Mbilé and Timangolo. The training events equipped community volunteers and IMC field staff to conduct and coordinate awareness raising activities and improved the level of knowledge of the community on Covid-19.
Awareness-raising activities reached 70.88% of the population in the sites of Mbilé, Lolo, Timangolo, and Mbaimboum. PPE was also distributed and awareness raising material (megaphones, Bluetooth speakers and batteries) provided for community health workers to use during awareness raising.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is piloting an Omni Channel call center to share information and key messages on how to prevent the spread of Covid-19, important information about processes and guidance for a safe return for migrants, protection and employment rights. In addition, NRC have started providing education and legal aid remotely through radio messages, phone calls and videos.
The project is being piloted in three regions in Colombia (East, North East, and West) and aims to replace NRC’s current messaging solutions through single line voice calls and WhatsApp messages assisting vulnerable communities. The call centers are being implemented on existing NetHope hotspots supporting the Venezuelan migrant crisis and as of now, only the area in the East of Colombia is active as they wait for licenses to connect the other sites.
The results since the pilots launch, as of 21 August, show a total of 2,653 calls received, at an average length of 4:38 minutes.
As the teams continue to plan to ‘go-live’, NRC will continue with the pilot and adjust the response during the following weeks, continuing to provide information, counseling, and legal assistance through regular phone lines.
International Rescue Committee (IRC) has launched Signpost to provide access to vital information to over 150,000 migrants across 80 NetHope Wi-Fi hotspots in Colombia. Through a suite of digital tools, Signpost provides up-to-date information in multiple languages on legal rights and documentation, accommodation, transportation, medical care and more to people who are in transit or starting life in a new country.
“Access to timely and accurate information is especially crucial for vulnerable populations fleeing crisis who are in dire need of localized information, and, what’s more, are at specific risk to Covid-19,” says Meghan Lopez, IRC’s Regional Director of Latin America. “Clear communications and trustworthy sources of information about their options for safety and services, and information about Covid-19, will save lives.”
While advice on Covid-19 is available and information overload may be impossible to avoid, there remains a gap in contextualized information at the community level, especially for vulnerable populations. The challenges which vulnerable communities face during a pandemic are compounded by new restrictions on movement, decreased services in both private and public sector and control measures to slow the spread of the virus. The ability to build trust with the populations is further compromised in a context where community engagement cannot be implemented face to face, and Signpost is helping IRC to deliver on its mandate to still provide trusted information to those it works for.
IRC has recently gained the interest of 12 new small and medium organizations in Bogota to participate in Signpost and are training social media moderators in Cucuta. So far more than one million refugees have been reached by Signpost across three continents.
The NetHope Virtual Global Summit 2020 will feature many conversations around aid and emergency response during Covid-19. Highlights include a plenary by Melissa Fleming, UN Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, on ‘Misinformation in Humanitarian Context’, breakouts like ‘Connectivity During Covid-19: Digital Connection in Social Isolation’ and ‘Using Routing to Keep Essential Field Operations Going During Covid-19’.