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The coronavirus (2019-ncov) epidemic could put the lives of millions of people already suffering from undernutrition at risk. Our staff who are on the field are also vulnerable and getting ready to respond to this health crisis.
Our organization takes this pandemic very seriously, it is going to affect us in many ways. Action Against Hunger works in more than 45 countries across the world. At this date 25 of them have confirmed cases of covid-19.
Besides our staff and the community health workers that help us on the field, this pandemic could endanger the life of more than 821 million people already struggling with hunger and more or less advanced states of undernutrition. The majority of the people we support are children under the age of 5 whose immune system is already weak and could not be strong enough to survive the virus.
In the face of this epidemic, we call for the strengthening of local health systems through the implementation of specific water, sanitation and hygiene activities in the affected areas. By adding this dimension to our nutrition and food security programmes, we continue to fight hunger and support the most vulnerable while preparing them to face the virus.
In addition to maintaining protective measures for our teams in order to avoid their exposure to the virus or any transmission to healthy communities, we want to support the Ministries of Health of the countries in which we operate, and which could be affected by the epidemic. We will support them through specific actions in support of local health systems, without providing medical care for cases.
Our priority will be the identification and referral of infected people to health centers, the reinforced implementation of hygiene actions to accompany behavioral changes, the deployment, when possible, of community support activities (mental health support in particular). In all our actions, we will particularly pay attention to the protection of girls and women.
We also want to pay a close attention to the people living in camps, as the risk of the virus spreading among the inhabitants is extremely high. The staffs have already defined the activities that are essential for the continuity of the support they provide in normal times, including precautionary measures related to Covid-19. This is especially the case in the Cox Bazar camps in Bangladesh, where activities, including treatment and management of malnutrition, are being maintained and reinforced.
For nearly 40 years we have been working closely with vulnerable people in various contexts. Our expertise not only in the field of health and nutrition but also in water, sanitation and hygiene gives us the means to implement prevention and response activities to this crisis. In 2018, we have reached more than 8.9 million people, among whom we raise awareness on handwashing and basic hygiene practices to prevent the spread of diseases, including coronavirus.
In Pakistan, another study showed that giving soap and handwashing awareness to children under five years reduces the likelihood of developing pneumonia.
We have already faced similar health crises in the past, such as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, or the cholera epidemics in Yemen and Haiti. In Haiti, Action Against Hunger has helped eliminate cholera in part by distributing hygiene kits to households with suspected cases and by raising awareness among high-risk communities on proper handwashing, the use clean water and improved sanitation.
On 15 March, Action Against Hunger was asked to provide hygiene block cleaning kits (showers and latrines) in Azraq camp in Jordan. As established water and sanitation actors in Azraq camp, we need additional funding to distribute cleaning products for the existing latrines and to continue its work to promote hygiene practices in the camp.
Humanitarian coordination groups in the water, sanitation and hygiene and health sectors have called on national and international NGOs to take preventive actions and prepare specific emergency response plans in coordination with the Jordanian authorities to address the risks of transmission of the COVID-19 virus, especially for vulnerable communities such as those in often overcrowded refugee camps.
Today there are 35,000 refugees living in Azraq camp. We pay special attention to people living in camps. The risk of the virus spreading among the inhabitants is extremely high in confined spaces. The teams have already defined the activities that are essential for the continuity of the support they provide in normal times, including precautionary measures related to Covid-19. This is also the case in the Cox Bazar camps in Bangladesh, where activities, including treatment and care for undernutrition, are being maintained and reinforced.
In order to be able to ensure the continuity of our activities while preparing actions to prevent and respond to this crisis we need support. We appeal to the solidarity of donors whose funding is essential for the continuity of our activities.
We also appeal for solidarity from individuals and companies so that we can successfully complete the addition of this dimension of awareness raising on good hygiene practices and access to water and sanitation against the Coronavirus epidemic. With your help, we could prevent this epidemic from spreading to the most vulnerable.
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