During these unsettled times, I wanted to share what Evidence Action is doing to protect our staff, the communities we work in, and the people we serve – which together are our highest priorities. First, our hearts go out to those who are sick or whose family or friends have been sickened by this virus. We wish everyone affected a speedy recovery.
At Evidence Action we are very actively managing the unprecedented set of risks and challenges posed by COVID-19 to the communities and people we serve. Our work is focused on the global poor, for whom this disease poses an enormous risk – people who already cannot access the resources they need to live healthy, productive lives. In such circumstances, provision of basic services – such as safe water – becomes even more essential, to avert easily preventable disease and avoid further burdening fragile health systems.
Today, with health systems overstretched and under-resourced, and social distancing measures requiring school closures in many parts of the world, governments are rightly focusing their energy and resources on taking the steps needed to help their citizenry through this unprecedented crisis. Much of our work takes the form of support to governments – such as technical assistance for deworming and iron and folic acid programs – that rely on health and education personnel and infrastructure to be successfully delivered. We stand willing and ready to assist our government partners, where our people and expertise can be helpful in planning for and mitigating COVID-related challenges.
We are also clear-eyed in our understanding that the world is not operating as usual, and therefore our programs may not be able to either. The downstream disruptions of COVID are immense, and may be hidden – but the costs are high. We are rapidly working to proactively identify and address challenges as they emerge. For example, deworming medications for hundreds of millions of children rely on functioning global supply chains, with active ingredients largely sourced from China. As this supply chain falters, we are directly engaging with suppliers to map and identify sources of alternative production capacity, with a lens towards minimizing the disruptions hundreds of millions of children might face.
Meanwhile with Dispensers for Safe Water, we are very actively preparing if our Africa transport hubs are shut down. This includes teams working around-the-clock to make advance deliveries of chlorine and key supplies to sustain operations for three months. We have also rapidly adopted measures to support communities, including distributing soap to our volunteer community promoters across rural Africa. Despite these and other measures, there may be challenges we cannot surmount – children may not be dewormed as scheduled if schools remain closed, and dispensers may fall into disrepair if travel for maintenance is not possible. However to the best of our ability we are seeking to act urgently in service of the poor during this time of immense need. It is through the support of our donors that we are able to pivot to these challenges, holding true to our value of act urgently in this time of need.
With our duty both to the people who work for our organization as well as to the people who our organization works to serve, earlier this month we assembled a global rapid response team of leadership and key staff to manage our response. This team, alongside staff from across our organization, is analyzing risks, planning for a multitude of scenarios, and swiftly implementing preventative and responsive measures for our teams and programs. At the core of our response are the following goals:
- Protect the physical health and safety of our staff and their families
- Maintain a focus on the people we serve, seeking to prioritize programmatic continuity and minimize disruptions to the greatest extent possible
- Enable staff productivity and maintain staff mental health as much as possible
- Embody our social responsibility and obligation to flatten the curve by reducing the risks we impose on the communities in which we work and live.
The essential role our organization plays in the countries we serve – and our continued responsibility to the communities, individuals, and governments – depends on our excellence and support. As such, we commit to our staff, partners, and supporters that we will continue operating at the highest level possible during these challenging times.
We are all actively prioritizing to manage against this truly unprecedented set of challenges. We are incredibly grateful to our donors that have expressed support and a willingness to engage at this time – your support is more valuable than ever in unsettled times like these.
I will be reporting back with more information about our efforts in the weeks and months to come, and wish the very best for everyone’s health and safety in the meantime.