Working Through the Pandemic: Continuing Habitat’s Mission to Provide for Vulnerable Communities

At a time when many were slowing down, our partner Habitat for Humanity GB were as busy as ever. Hira explains how Habitat adapted to continue supporting those in need, despite all the restrictions...

At Habitat for Humanity, our objective is to create decent, affordable housing for vulnerable communities, with the vision of a world where everyone has a safe place to call home. We work hard to find solutions for communities affected by social, environmental, and economic factors through our Water and Sanitation (WASH) and housing programs.

When the coronavirus pandemic arose, our mission became increasingly difficult as our overseas trips, volunteering and housing and WASH projects were put on pause, for an indefinite period of time. In order to continue our mission, we collaborated with partners and governments globally, as well as other Habitat offices internationally to provide healthcare and shelter to those affected by the virus.

Protecting vulnerable communities and India’s fragile healthcare system:

Our largest coronavirus project at Habitat for Humanity GB, was the launch of a Crowdfunder UK campaign to deliver support to treat and contain milder cases and reduce pressure on India's struggling healthcare system. This ran throughout April and May 2021, and our team worked tirelessly to raise awareness by campaigning on our social media, reaching out to donors and partners for collaborations, and regularly monitoring the situation in India, communicating with our teams on the ground to ensure we were helping to meet their needs.

India holds the third-highest death toll reported globally, with more than 32 million Covid-19 Cases reported, and the highest peak of daily cases reaching a devastating 414,144 in May 2021. Hospitals were reaching the point of turning vulnerable people away from treatment, due to lack of capacity, staff and facilities.

To ease the strain on India’s overwhelmed healthcare system and reduce transmission of the virus, our team at Habitat for Humanity India has partnered with the Government of Maharashtra to build fully equipped Habitat Care Centres in the most affected areas. Some of the areas we have been working in are Maharashtra (Pune and Ahmednagar), Uttar Pradesh (Ayodhya and Noida) and Rajasthan (Alwar). Each care centre hosts between 60 and 100 beds, at a 6-foot distance to allow for appropriate distancing and hygiene control measures, and are are equipped with:

  • oxygen systems
  • drinking water
  • hygiene facilities
  • beds & mattresses
  • hygiene products
  • sufficient PPE for healthcare workers

To support with additional staffing capacity, our local government partners are recruiting surge staff on a contract basis, and requisitioning practical support from medical residents and final year medical students. We are also working with 13 other administrations and government agencies at a grass root level.  

 

A Covid-19 Care Centre

Our Impact:

In the first wave of the pandemic, we worked together with the government to provide 16 Covid-19 Care Centres. Over the last few months, we have provided bed spaces for over 4,000 people.

We were also fortunate enough to partner with COINS Foundation and M&G on this project, with COINS match-funding our donations, and to date, we have raised around £37,000 through partners and our generous supporters, including gift aid. A recent statement from one of the hospital’s we were able to provide healthcare for in India, summarises the impact that we were able to have:

“During this time of great uncertainty of Covid – 19 we’ve been comforted, encouraged, and humbled by the out pouring of generosity and support from your Team. Remarkable people, organizations, community groups, small businesses and corporations have all stepped up to support our Hospital in this critical time of Pandemic.
Our front-line healthcare workers and patients are grateful for the donations of beds, PPE and essential all material which was actually needed to treat Covid patients those who are poor and needy, our need fulfilled by your immense support.
To us, YOU are our heroes and we thank you for helping us to meet the challenges of this pandemic, so we can continue to provide the highest order of care with inclusion, integrity, compassion, accountability, respect, and excellence in our work to save the mankind.” - Major Devdan Kalkumbe, Administrator, Evangeline Booth Hospital, Ahmednagar.

Habitat’s coronavirus responses globally:

Our teams have been working hard internationally to minimise the impact of the virus. Some other notable projects that we have worked on include hygiene promotion and awareness, financial assistance, and providing shelter to healthcare workers.

Kenya:

In Kenya, we have been setting up 100 portable hand-washing stations in public locations in Homabay and Laikipia Counties, in partnership with community based-organisations to ensure the maintenance of these facilities, and to continue the practice of hand-washing. In line with this, we distributed hygiene kits to 100,000 slum residents.

To ensure that the families that have been hit hardest are being supported, we have started providing small cash grants and vital resources to 200 poor and vulnerable households that we have identified in a recent baseline survey. Habitat for Humanity in Kenya will continue to support these families for the next two years.

Ethiopia:

In Ethiopia, Habitat set up around 750 hand-washing drums with sitting tables and detergent liquid soap dispenser, and organised socially distanced demonstrations outlining proper hand-washing techniques. We also distributed detergents, soap bars, alcohol-based sanitisers, and paper towels.

To further promote hygiene awareness in areas that may be harder to reach, we recorded messages on local radio programmes with crucial information on Coronavirus transmission, prevention, and community best practices (in the local languages). Our Coronavirus communication material was distributed in our targeted locations through 7,500 posters and flyers and a text message campaign sending daily text alerts. 

In terms of financial support, we also provided the most vulnerable communities in Ethiopia with cash grants and resources, which amounted to around 2500 vulnerable households, including the elderly and disabled.

Indonesia:

Medical workers on the frontline are facing enormous challenges, with dozens of doctors and nurses across the country succumbing to the virus. Naturally being at a higher risk, we recognise the need to help those on the frontline in the battle against the virus by providing a decent place for them to sleep and reduce the risk of infection for their family members and housemates. That’s why we launched an initiative to provide temporary quarters in hotels for Indonesian medical workers during the Coronavirus pandemic. To date, we have exceeded the original target of supporting 600 front-line workers and have now reached more than 1,821 workers. 

 

These are some of many countries and communities that we were able to provide support for throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Although many of our projects and plans have been put on hold, we are pleased to say that we have still been able to continue to change lives and support vulnerable people in such unprecedented times.


Although our projects and volunteering will soon be resuming, Habitat for Humanity will continue to work with communities internationally and provide support to the most vulnerable, as the pandemic continues to spread across countries with less access to resources and healthcare.