Together we are facing a truly unprecedented situation. The Covid-19 crisis is bringing about huge change to all of our lives, to our work here at ATE and the charity sector, whose role as society’s lifeline is now more vital than ever. With coronavirus being a truly global pandemic, we are extremely concerned about the people of Lawra Municipal in Upper West, Ghana at the border with Burkina Faso, where the majority of the population already live in extreme poverty.
As confirmed cases in Ghana are rising, surely too will the deaths. For up to date information see: Ghana Health Service. Ghana’s national response to stop the spread of the virus has meant social distancing measures such as closure of all schools and suspension of social gatherings, including all religious services, and funerals, and we anticipate a move to total lockdown very shortly.
What are the impacts and anticipated impacts on the people we support in Lawra?
The virus along with the national measures to prevent its spread will be devastating for the people of Lawra, particularly for the most vulnerable and marginalised such as disabled children and their families. We anticipate losses of income, and increased hunger, especially though the hardest part of lean season (April-June). Food prices are already rising in response to panic. We also anticipate an increase in protection risks, for women and girls, children and disabled children, alongside psycho-social impacts of deaths and the ban on funeral gatherings. Our beneficiaries will be experiencing reduced access to services that they rely on, including our own, and we fear that health services will rapidly become overwhelmed.
What actions have we taken?
- Working from home – Following national guidance we have temporarily closed our UK office and ATE Inclusion Centre in Lawra and all 34 of our team of staff are working from home or on special paid leave (for example, our 21 school cooks; women employed from rural communities in Lawra)
- Suspension of projects – We have temporarily suspended most parts of our projects to observe social distancing guidelines and protect the lives of our staff, those we support and the wider community – we have had to close our school kitchens which provide free school meals, and our disability support groups and small businesses workshops cannot take place.
- Essential monitoring – We will continue to closely monitor the situation as it unfolds in the following ways – 1) the rising number of confirmed cases, number of deaths, and the location of the spread of the virus, 2) the national governmental and non-governmental responses in Ghana and neighbouring Burkina Faso, and impacts on daily life and the economy, and 3) we are implementing a new monitoring tool, and regular telephone monitoring to track levels of infection, poverty, hunger and impacts on the most vulnerable in Lawra.
- Continued support to people in Lawra – We have adapted ways to continue to provide whatever support we can to the Lawra community – for example, ongoing telephone mentoring with our ATE-supported small business owners. We have re-focussed our efforts on the priorities of tackling hygiene and hunger through provision of food and soap where we can do so safely, and play our part in community sensitisation on handwashing and national health guidance.
- Urgent appeal for support – We have had to cancel all our fundraising events in the UK, so we have launched an emergency appeal to raise £30,000 for urgent support to for the people of Lawra, whilst also applying for longer term funding to resume our vital programmes beyond this period so that we are in a strong position to help the people in Lawra to rebuild their lives in the wake of this crisis.
- To stand together with the people of Lawra through this crisis and beyond
- To continue to be adaptable and use creative ways to achieve our goals
- To continue to be inclusive of the most vulnerable, and leave no one behind
- To safeguard our staff, infrastructure and finances to ensure our organisation can continue our vital work beyond the crisis.
Our mission to end poverty in Lawra Municipal, leaving no one behind, stands as much now in our immediate response as it will when we can resume our key initiatives in the months ahead. The communities we serve come first in our decision-making and programming and we stand together through this uncertain time.
Our thoughts are with everyone who is currently being affected directly or indirectly by the virus and as we go forward we will be sure to keep you updated on the situation in Lawra.
To find out more about our emergency appeal see: bit.ly/ATEAppeal
Know your facts: Information about coronavirus is everywhere. Misinformation during a health crisis leaves people unprotected and vulnerable. Be sure to get your facts from reliable sources like the World Health Organisation. Please protect yourself and your family.