Thank you for your loving support and care for your sponsored children during this global pandemic. We are conscious that now, more than ever, it is important for us to stay connected with each other and for you to know what is happening with your sponsored child.
We hope this page will help to answer some of your questions and keep you informed about how the coronavirus is affecting your sponsored child’s community, and how your sponsorship is providing vital support as the impact spreads around the world. We are working closely with our Christian partners in the field to monitor and respond to the situation in each community.
Like Australia, countries where we have sponsorship programs are in lockdown. Although our partner staff in most countries are abiding by government isolation advice, they are busy maintaining contact with sponsorship communities and providing support where they can.
Here are some country updates and ways in which our partners are taking action right now:
Bangladesh has a large but declining number of covid cases. Area-based lockdowns in high-risk areas have been in place since the end of May. Lockdowns have proven to be effective in helping to reduce covid cases and has relieved some pressure off the largely under resourced health care system that has struggled to provide adequate treatment for those infected with covid. Schools remain closed; however, plans are moving forward for schools to reopen, combining online and in classroom education. Over one million Rohingya refugees are at risk of contracting the virus, due to poor and cramped living conditions.
All partner offices have now reopened and are operating in line with local health regulations. Staff have been distributing health information to prevent outbreaks in project communities and providing awareness-raising materials to reduce the risk of domestic violence. They have increased distribution of emergency food packages and have extended further support to protect livelihoods.
They are supplying further hygiene items, including masks and medicated soap, to more than 2,150 vulnerable community members as well as local health workers. In addition to these initiatives, project community members also have increased access to clean water for drinking and washing hands.
Cambodia only has a small number of coronavirus cases, and initial lockdown restrictions have successfully contained the spread so far. Most confirmed cases have now recovered and there are no recorded fatalities. Many of the original restrictions have been lifted and school have returned in August under strict conditions.
Many parents in the sponsorship project area, who usually depend on casual labour or cross-border work, have experienced loss of work and income, and are struggling to provide for their families. Staff from our local partner, FH Cambodia, have begun supporting families through home visits, taking into consideration social distancing and hygiene measures. They have been raising awareness in communities about the continued risks of covid, focusing on prevention activities and distributing information about good hygiene practices.
Malawi has only had a small number of reported cases so far, however the number has started to rise. Low testing rates are a cause for concern. A partial lockdown has been in place since 4 April, with large gatherings banned and schools closed. The High Court blocked a decision by the President to impose further restrictions, in order to protect millions of families living in poverty. A full nationwide lockdown could have devastating impacts on these families, leaving them without income and food.
Staff from our local partner, CSP Malawi, are continuing to meet with sponsorship communities as per guidelines regarding social distancing and the number of people allowed to gather. They have been adapting their programming to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus, focus on prevention activities and strengthen community health facilities. They are providing personal protective equipment and distributing information to raise awareness about the virus.
Nepal now has a significant and growing number of coronavirus cases. Transmission risk levels are high due to mobile populations and dense urban areas. The country has been in lockdown since 24 March and all schools are closed and the government is working to continue online education support. Casual workers have lost their jobs and been forced to return from the cities to their rural village homes, where many families are struggling to survive. The length of lockdown is having a detrimental impact on livelihoods and the economy. Health facilities are at capacity for testing, treatment and are struggling to support quarantine requirements for patients.
All staff from our local partner, United Mission to Nepal (UMN), are working from home. They are maintaining regular contact with sponsorship families via phone and child-friendly social media. There are now around 50 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the project area. UMN has adjusted its programming to focus on prevention activities. They have set up handwashing stations in communities. They have been providing hygiene information and psychosocial support for sponsorship families, to help them during lockdown. Sponsored children have learned to wash their hands regularly with soap and water. Our partners have also made a major shift to develop a new livelihood support program, as covid has had a detrimental impact on livelihoods across our projects.
The Philippines has a significant and growing number of coronavirus cases. Lockdown restrictions (implemented mid-March) began to be eased in mid-May. They are gradually being relaxed further, despite climbing case numbers, in an attempt to ease economic losses and help thousands of families suffering from unemployment, hunger and poverty. Reopening of schools has been delayed from August until October 1st. This will take place as a combination of online and in class learning.
Staff from our local partner, SAO Philippines, have adjusted their programming and are utilising technology as much as possible. This includes an online social media campaign with sponsorship families, to raise awareness about how they can take preventative measures and practice good hygiene. SAO has been creating activities that families can participate in during isolation. They’ve also been providing food items such as rice – 630 sponsorship families have received food assistance so far. All face-to-face group activities are on hold.
Sri Lanka has had a relatively small number of cases so far. Lockdown restrictions (which started on 20 March) began to be eased in mid-May, and the island-wide curfew is also being lifted. Schools and churches remain closed and large public gatherings banned. Lockdowns have unfortunately resulted in a rise in child abuse cases.
Our local partner, LEADS, has begun an emergency response to the crisis (to donate to this, visit our COVID-19 Appeal page). They have set up handwashing stations in communities and are raising awareness about the continued risks of coronavirus. Staff have been providing sponsorship families with hygiene items (including soap and sanitiser), food packages, counselling support, and education packs for home-learning. They’ve also been distributing protective equipment, such as gloves, masks, and gowns, for village health workers. As restrictions ease, LEADS will be supporting cleaning efforts to make community spaces safe to use. At this stage staff are still working remotely.
A further 200 families are also to receive protective and hygienic supplies including soap, hand sanitiser, safe water and masks.
Uganda has only relatively a small number of cases so far. Lockdown and curfew measures began to be eased on 26 May, with further lifting of restrictions taking place since early June. However, an increasing amount of people are being impacted by job loss across the country and many families however have still been experiencing food shortages, surviving on only one meal a day. Schools and churches may begin to reopen late September. Cross-border goods trucks and refugee immigrants still pose a risk of bringing the virus in from elsewhere.
In line with health regulations, project staff have begun visiting sponsor children and their family’s homes to help identify the specific challenges they are facing during the coronavirus pandemic. The information they collect will inform how the project staff how to best support the community in the coming months as face-to-face activities slowly resume. They have been distributing health information to promote good hygiene in sponsorship communities. They are ensuring families have access to water for handwashing and are providing hygiene kits to vulnerable households. More than 2,000 families have received soap for handwashing. A few farming villages in the project area have also been impacted by recent flooding. Staff are providing support to affected families who have lost crops or had their homes damaged.
“To our sponsors in Australia, we are very thankful for your support and prayer. Together we will beat this pandemic. Thank you for everything.”
– Jun, a sponsored child from the Philippines
At the rapid rate of change that is occurring with the coronavirus around the world, we will ensure this page is updated as regularly as possible with the latest news from the field.
Last Updated: 4th September 2020
Baptist World Aid is working closely with our local partners to monitor the situation on the ground, and to develop contingency plans if a community member or sponsored child is affected by the virus. Our key concerns are to respond to immediate needs, and to reduce further risk to community members and partner staff.
The wellbeing of the child partners in our sponsorship program is our highest priority. If they fall ill with coronavirus, we will be providing immediate support to them and their family where possible.
Child safeguarding is important to Baptist World Aid. Through your regular sponsorship you have already enabled life-saving hygiene training, with child clubs teaching the importance of practices such as handwashing. Our partners also have experience implementing child protection activities. These activities are now being implemented using mobile technology, building on the skills and strong community relationships that have been developed through our projects.
Yes! We are now able to send physical letters to and from children again, following a temporary pause on the international postage of mail. Please send your physical letters to:
Baptist World Aid Australia
Locked Bag 2200
North Ryde, NSW, 1670
If you’d prefer digital, you can still choose to send a Message of Hope to your sponsored child electronically by logging into your MyAccount online.
Our capacity for contact in the field is still more limited than usual, with restrictions varying in each country. Please expect delays in receiving regular letters and progress reports from your sponsored child, and in your letters being delivered to your sponsored child.
Baptist World Aid is responding by supporting partners to shift their activities towards a more humanitarian response. Our priority is making sure that partner staff and community members from our projects are safe.
Our partner organisations are working hard to support children, families and communities to respond to the risk of coronavirus, including through the distribution of health, hygiene and safety information. To reduce further risk of outbreaks, we have suspended large group gatherings and activities such as child clubs, savings groups, and graduation ceremonies. Through our COVID 19 Global Emergency Appeal, we are helping organisations to support health workers, conduct food and non-food distribution to vulnerable people, and provide protective equipment. We are working closely with our partners to monitor the situation, adapt activities, and make preparations for the recovery period, when enforced isolation ends and social and economic activities can resume.
Coronavirus and social distancing measures carry a range of impacts for children, youth and their communities. The closure of schools has the potential to increase dropout rates, especially for girls, and to further entrench gender gaps in education. At the same time, school closures may increase the likelihood of child abuse, trafficking, and child labour.
The economic impacts of parents or caregivers being out of work, is expected to be widespread and devastating.
As coronavirus cases increase, the burden on health systems in resource-poor settings will be immense. Clinics and hospitals will be overcrowded and overwhelmed. Other basic services such as immunisation programs, primary health care, and community-based maternal and child health activities will be disrupted. Even before the coronavirus, many children in sponsorship countries lacked access to clean water and sanitation to prevent the spread of disease. If caregivers get sick or die from the coronavirus, children will be at an increased risk of malnutrition, various diseases, and child protection violations.
Beyond physical health, social distancing also has impacts upon mental health and wellbeing. The pandemic is placing increased stress on families, community groups and governments. This may mean an inability to carry out daily tasks (such as caring for children), increased abusive behaviour, anxiety or grief at the loss of a loved one.
All emergency responses, including how sponsorship communities are being equipped, are enabled through the COVID-19 Global Emergency Appeal. To help protect more sponsored children and their communities and stop the rapid spread of the virus, why not give your most important gift ever?
Your prayer support during this uncertain time is more important than ever before. Please pray with us for all the children involved in our projects, as their education, health and wellbeing are impacted by coronavirus:
Your $100 gift provides 4 hygiene kits to protect families at risk of covid.
Your $200 gift provides 6 PPE kits for health workers in high risk, overcrowded conditions
Your $1,000 gift funds an emergency field worker in refugee camps for a month.
Donations of $2 or more are tax deductible. All donations are in Australian Dollars.