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NGOs at the forefront of COVID-19 efforts with OCHA’s pooled funds

08 May 2020

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Credit: CARE Sudan

COVID-19 is testing the humanitarian community and its ability to help people in crisis. Flight cancellations, restrictions of movement and border closures are making it difficult for humanitarians to reach those most in need. Now more than ever, local solutions and networks are needed to quickly adapt so that life-saving efforts are maintained, and additional capacity is scaled up to contain the pandemic.

With their local knowledge and proximity to people in need, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are at the heart of these efforts. They are critical for the humanitarian community to stay and deliver in an already challenging environment that is now further compounded by COVID-19.


Al-Birr & Al-Ihsan NGO has set up mobile medical clinics in Syria’s rural Aleppo to bring health care to communities in need. Credit: Al-Birr & Al-Ihsan/Syria

For OCHA’s pooled funds, NGOs are a key partner to reach people in need and have swiftly come to the centre of COVID-19 related efforts. Many of the 18 Country-based Pooled Funds (CBPFs) have long-standing partnerships with national and international NGOs, which has made it easy to come together and prioritize funding for where it is needed the most.

More than half of the $71 million allocated by the CBPFs will be granted to NGOs directly. And $1 in every $3 from global allocations – excluding funding for logistics and procurement of supplies – from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) will go towards implementing partners, including local and government partners and the Red Cross/Red Crescent. 

Maximum flexibility has been granted to all recipients in the use of funding, within the parameters of the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), to ensure a time-critical response with the greatest possible impact. Additional efforts have been made by CBPFs to support NGOs, including by enabling temporary flexibility through allowing simplifications in the current funding arrangements, yet keeping accountability over the use of funds, so that partners can easily adapt, reprogramme or scale up efforts.

In Sudan, emergency funding from CERF is helping to sustain sexual-reproductive health services during the COVID-19 crisis, with a focus on people with disabilities. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and local partners are scaling up efforts to ensure continuity of the referral systems for women and girls while also providing training to midwives on protection, hygiene and prevention measures in maternity units. “What we are doing is very important to defeating corona,” said Yassir Ibrahim from the local NGO CAFA in White Nile State.


After training and outreach campaigns, new COVID-19 prevention measures are being observed at maternity units in White Nile, Sudan. Credit: UNFPA/Sudan

In neighbouring South Kordofan State, CARE Sudan is setting up isolation centres in health facilities across the state and has trained 150 community volunteers to carry out COVID-19 specific awareness campaigns. Most of these activities were funded with additional allocations from the Sudan Humanitarian Fund (SHF) to scale up COVID-19 response across the country. But CARE Sudan also adapted existing SHF-funded efforts to observe specific prevention measures. “We requested for minimum reprogramming,” explained Programme Director Ms. Eatizaz Mohamed Yousif, “and changed the approach to observe social distancing,” she added.


CARE and partners are producing face masks in South Kordofan State, Sudan. Credit: CARE International/Sara Azhari

In Yemen, the Humanitarian Fund (YHF) has partnered with the Abyan Youth Foundation (AYF) to include COVID-19 specific measures into existing programmes. AYF and partners are carrying out outreach and awareness campaigns for IDPs and host communities in Abyan and distribute much-needed hygiene kits. “We heard the name corona a lot but did not know what it was about. Now we know more how to protect ourselves,” said one of the beneficiaries.


Abyan Youth Foundation volunteers are conducting awareness-raising campaigns on COVID-19 prevention in host community and IDP sites in Khanfar and Zinjubar districts in Abyan, Yemen. Credit: AYH/Yemen

In Myanmar, the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) is one of hundreds of local organizations that are working hard to make sure people living in camps for IDPs have access to clean water to practice hygiene and protect themselves from the virus. With funding from the Myanmar Humanitarian Fund (MYH), KBC has worked with local communities to install a network of handwashing stations with soap across 15 camps for IDPs. More than 2,400 vulnerable men, women and children can now take the necessary hygiene measures to contain the spread of the virus.


A woman cleans her hands at a public handwashing station set up by KBC in Myanmar. Credit: KBC/Myanmar

These are just some of the achievements that have been made possible because of the generous funding donors have provided. Additional resources are urgently needed to help OCHA’s pooled funds maintain these life-saving efforts.

On 7 May, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock released a $6.7 billion appeal and updated global plan to fight COVID-19 in fragile countries, and called for swift and determined action to avoid the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is hurting us all. But the most devastating and destabilizing effects will be felt in the world’s poorest countries. Unless we take action now, we should be prepared for a significant rise in conflict, hunger, and poverty. The spectre of multiple famines looms,” said Mr. Lowcock.

OCHA’s pooled funds have been critical instruments to fight the pandemic and channel resources to where they are needed the most. So far, a combined total of $177.4 million has been allocated to support efforts across 37 countries. Additional countries are being identified under the Global Humanitarian Response Fund.

All of the latest information on funding and allocations is available in real time via: https://pfbi.unocha.org/COVID19/