AJWS and Our Partners Respond:
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- DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: When the government rolled out a vaccine plan that left out minority populations, OBMICA launched an advocacy campaign and succeeded in ensuring vaccine access for all.
- INDIA: Kashtakari Panchayat supported women essential workers to stay safe at work, supplying over 3,500 with PPE and organizing vaccine drives.
- KENYA: Even after winning a precedent-setting land rights case, the Indigenous Ogiek community faced evictions by government forces in 2020 amid a COVID-19 lockdown. Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program is fighting back to protect their ancestral land.
COVID-19 Threatens the Communities AJWS Supports around the World
COVID-19 is causing displacement and death in all 18 of the countries where AJWS works—threatening the lives and livelihoods of some of the world’s most vulnerable people. And from loss of employment to vaccine inequity to lack of food, the effects of this pandemic beyond the virus itself are creating multiple layers of crisis in these communities.
But we will not abandon them.
Right now, AJWS is working with each of our 502 grantee organizations around the world to work to stop the spread of COVID-19. The pandemic is an existential threat to the vulnerable people who depend on us across Africa, Asia, Central America and the Caribbean—and we are guaranteeing a reliable source of funding to all organizations we support through this crisis. We are listening to our grantees—shifting grants to be flexible, so they can be used to address critical needs as they arise.
When the pandemic began in 2020, AJWS grantees jumped into action, addressing the most immediate needs of the communities our grantees serve around the world. Today, AJWS is addressing both short- and long-term effects of the ongoing pandemic. Our current response includes:
- Addressing Urgent Humanitarian Needs
We are enabling organizations to provide threatened communities with desperately needed aid. When COVID-19 first struck, our grantees distributed emergency food, personal protective equipment (PPE) and other essentials. AJWS is investing in the long-term wellbeing of these communities by ensuring that they can access key services, like reproductive health care, legal aid and psychosocial support, while continuing to distribute PPE to communities that need additional support.
- Spreading Life-Saving Information
Because many communities lack accurate information about COVID-19—due to false reporting and limited internet access—AJWS developed a toolkit on infection prevention in 10 languages to help our grantees spread safety information via the radio, loudspeakers and social media. Further, AJWS is supporting networks of local journalists to provide their communities with accurate COVID-19 coverage.
- Building More Sustainable Communities
The pandemic has led to massive job loss globally, and families increasingly cannot afford food, medical care and other necessities. AJWS grantees are supporting their communities to become more resilient—developing alternative sources of livelihood, producing their own food, accessing local markets to sell homemade goods and more, so they can not only survive this crisis, but become better prepared for whatever lies ahead.
- Advocating for the Rights of the Most Vulnerable
AJWS grantees are launching powerful advocacy campaigns to ensure that their governments are accountable and responsive to the needs their people. The activists we fighting against issues such as discrimination that bars minorities from hospitals and oppressive laws passed under the guise of containing the virus. To amplify the advocacy of these global activists, our staff in Washington, D.C. are calling upon Congress, the State Department, fellow funders and international institutions to support policies that protect the most vulnerable people caught in the crossfires of COVID-19.
For 35 years, AJWS has responded to major disasters and humanitarian crises, always directly supporting local organizations and trusting that communities know what is best for them. And in this time of crisis, we are standing with our partners as they lead the way to protect their communities.
For Communities AJWS Serves, New Challenges Arise Amid the Pandemic
COVID-19 threatens every community we serve. In many places, it is nearly impossible for local people to take shelter and distance physically from others. In areas with crowded housing, poor sanitation, limited medical infrastructure and high economic insecurity, the effects of this crisis are catastrophic. And across low-income countries around the globe, vaccines are far less accessible to all people.
For so many of the communities AJWS serves, COVID-19 is introducing a new danger to an existence already filled with poverty, oppression, and inequality. Based on our work in past crises, we know the dire toll this pandemic will have on the vulnerable communities where we work—a toll compounded by the virus itself.
The communities we support are likely to face, or are already facing:
- A loss of the most basic needs without a safety net: Vulnerable people can lose their housing, food and healthcare when they or a family member become ill, are placed in quarantine and can no longer work.
- A lack of access to and education about vaccines: Just a fraction of people in low-income countries have access to COVID-19 vaccines — and some countries have pushed vaccine policies that actively leave behind minority populations.
- Discrimination based on nationality, refugee status, sexuality and gender identity: Marginalized people are being barred from hospitals, experiencing harassment or physical violence, or become the victims of discriminatory laws passed by their governments under the guise of containing the pandemic.
- Ineffective health systems and unequal access to healthcare: In many countries, the pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing barriers to care for women and girls, refugees, sex workers and others seeking healthcare.
- An utter lack of government transparency and information about the virus: Misinformation spread by governments and lack of reliable information is preventing marginalized populations from educating themselves and keeping themselves safe.
- Sweeping roll-backs of human rights protections: Governments are undermining human rights as they take severe steps to limit the virus’s spread. These setbacks are likely to persist long into the future.