In everything we do, we seek to serve the whole person: physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually. Whether addressing the needs of a vulnerable child, the challenges facing a family in poverty, or the issues preventing a community from thriving, we deal with specific problems with the understanding that each issue interacts with and impacts others. In this series, we focus on one specific facet of the complex challenges facing those in need around the world.
Without a doubt, the COVID-19 crisis is truly unprecedented. The situation is changing rapidly, and like everyone, we’re adjusting and changing with it. What hasn’t changed is our commitment: we remain focused on serving those in need around the world, working closely with our local ministry partners. The complications and barriers created by this pandemic have only added to our challenges, which were already daunting. But far from being discouraged, we are strengthening our resolve and asking our donors and partners to join us in this work, now more than ever.
Our first step in crisis response is to work with ministry partners to identify their needs. You can imagine the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic for those who live in impoverished communities that are already without any safety net of social services. In communities like these, living on the edge is a daily reality, and the COVID-19 crisis has pushed resources to the limit:
- Shelter: Because so many live without adequate housing, they don’t have a safe place to ‘shelter-at-home.’ Women and children in situations of domestic abuse are particularly vulnerable, as their options to find refuge in a shelter are restricted by quarantines.
- Food: As schools shut down, many children miss their main–or only–meal of the day. Families who depend on food distributions are unable to receive meals and are finding it difficult to gather food.
- Healthcare: Social distancing is restricting access to already limited healthcare resources, and medical teams aren’t able to complete their usual child rescue operations. The meager healthcare systems in these countries risk being quickly overtaken by the needs of COVID-19 patients as the pandemic develops.
- Orphanages: Children in orphanages are at higher risk for the potential spread of the virus, due to their close living conditions. Quarantine orders have essentially locked out orphanage workers who live in the surrounding community. Only a handful of residential staff remain to keep the children safe, fed, healthy, and occupied.
- Clean water: For many in developing countries, accessing water is a community activity that is greatly impeded by the need for social distancing around wells or communal water sources.
- Education: Schools and educational programs have been closed due to necessity, and teaching through technology is not an option for the vast majority.
- Unemployment: Those who do not have stable or consistent employment in impoverished areas are in precarious financial situations, and unemployment relief from the government is not likely.
- Ministry Support: Many ministry partners are largely supported through church mission trips, which have seen a drastic reduction as all foreseeable trips have been cancelled. As a result, many ministries have already been forced to let go hundreds of workers, and more layoffs are expected.
Like the COVID-19 crisis, the scope and scale of these needs are unprecedented. Our ministry partners are facing challenges they’ve never faced before. They are needing to not only address the reality of the coronavirus, they also need to ensure their essential ministry services are able to continue. We are collaborating with them closely to create highly adaptable plans that will allow us to adjust as the crisis unfolds.
Our strategy in response to the coronavirus is to prevent and prepare. We are ensuring that best practices in social distancing and hand-washing are being followed as best as possible within the context of ministry partners’ limited resources. We’re reinforcing proper hygiene practices and taking sanitation precautions to limit the spread of the virus. Given that the spread of the virus is expected to increase, we are also focusing on procuring medical supplies and helping our partners take measures to mitigate the impact to their workers and those they serve.
We’re also helping our partners explore options and think through ways their ministry methods should evolve as we learn more about this pandemic. Women’s support groups in Malawi and Zambia are using the few cell phones available to coordinate distribution of goods. New, innovative feeding programs are being drafted to serve poor and rural communities while supporting social distancing. Orphanage workers in quarantine are taking on multiple roles, finding ways to not only fill in as cleaning staff and cooks, but to continue 2-hour tutor sessions each day for the children.
One of our priorities in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis is to stay connected with you, our donors and supporters. We know you want to stay up-to-date about these financial and situational needs and how Cross International is engaging around the world. As we share this information with you, please consider giving today to help us meet these unprecedented needs.
We understand that this pandemic is affecting so many families, including many of our generous and faithful donors. Please let us know how we can best pray for you, as we regularly remember you in our prayers. For we know that despite these challenges, God remains sovereign. We and our ministry partners continue to rely on God for our comfort and provision, and we encourage you to do the same!