“Adapt, Improvise, Overcome – the human spirit will always survive”
These are the words of advice a colleague who worked in Ebola affected areas sent to me at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. I expected something much more technical and practical. He is right of course. At a certain point, it’s the spirit and ingenuity of people that shines through.
We also need to have the right practical approach. But what is that? The World Health Organisation (WHO) is recommending measures that include:
– Increasing testing, tracking and monitoring of COVID-19 cases so that early action can be taken
– Ensuring personal protection equipment for front line workers
– Securing supply chains for the essential equipment that health systems require to function in this environment
– Introducing behaviour change measures such as physical distancing, increased hand washing and hygiene practices. For example, ensuring you blow your nose into a tissue or sleeve, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
These are the obvious measures to take.
However, there are others which are just as important that are clear to most of the activists, change-makers and advocates the Scaling Up Nutrition Civil Society Network (SUN CSN) secretariat engages with on a daily basis. Many of them come from countries where the Ebola crisis is a far too recent memory, such as Sierra Leone and Liberia. So what measures do our advocates feel are important in addition to the overarching advice we are receiving?
– Creating communities of care locally. For example, neighbourhood WhatsApp and Facebook groups so that people can communicate and request support with finding essential items such as medicine and food.
– Sharing food and resources. Not sitting down to a big meal together but ensuring that those who are most vulnerable have what they need to get through. Prior to this crisis there were many people vulnerable to food insecurity or who struggled to obtain the nutrients they needed. Those who were most vulnerable before are likely to be even more so now.
– Communication is crucial. It’s the moment to put a note through the door of an elderly disabled, or chronically ill neighbour. It’s the time to check that those around you understand the guidance.
– Campaign and call out. Many activists in other countries are facing increasing pressure and intimidation from their governments or armed actors in their vicinity. We in nations with less restrictions on our voice have a responsibility to keep in touch with our allies and call out on their behalf if required.
At moments like this it’s a bittersweet pleasure and a privilege to feel so connected to others and to be part of a global network helping to combat the pandemic. It feels like a turning point in global cooperation – if we work together we can overcome!