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:
The number of new covid cases has increased significantly over the last month. Area-based lockdowns in high-risk areas have been in place since the end of May. Lockdowns have been effective in reducing covid case numbers from the June-July peak. This has taken some pressure off the largely under resourced healthcare system that struggles to provide treatment for covid patients.
Plans to reopen school on October 31 have been delayed further. A new date is yet to be decided. Discussions are currently taking place among education leaders as to whether schools will open by the end of November. Many children have had access to remote learning through government TV broadcasts. As a result of children spending extended periods of time out of formal schooling, child marriage rates have increased across the country, as well as the rates of youth crime in rural areas.
Staff have been distributing health information to prevent outbreaks in project communities and providing awareness-raising materials to reduce the risk of domestic violence. From September, most sectors of the economy have reopened, and our local partner have extended further support to protect livelihoods of the most vulnerable. They are also supplying further hygiene items, including masks and medicated soap, to more than 2,150 vulnerable community members as well as local health workers. Leaders in the community have now also taking part in awareness raising activities. In addition to these initiatives, project staff have increased access to clean water for drinking and washing hands.
Many of the original restrictions have been lifted. Although the official number of covid cases in Cambodia is low, limited access to testing facilities means it is difficult to know the real number of cases and resulting deaths.
At the end of October, all schools across the country reopened their doors. This provided welcome relief to many children who have desperately missed schooling. Children are required to wear masks, practise social distancing, and regularly have their temperature checked to help keep them safe. On November 7th, schools in Cambodia’s capital, Phenom Penh, have temporarily closed for two weeks due to positive covid cases around the city. As the risk for localised shutdowns remain, many children across Cambodia are still at risk of permanent school dropout.
Although the recorded number of cases remain low, the Cambodian government has declared a third wave of covid, as of November 10th. This is expected to impact the gathering of project groups in the community. Project staff have implemented phone mentoring to ensure the health of the community continues to move forward. This has involved helping children learn how to protect themselves from abuse, ensuring education continues, supporting families to stay physically and emotionally healthy and training more community members to also implement these mentioning activities in their local context.
Malawi has only had a small number of reported covid cases so far, however the number of new cases has started to rise. Low testing rates are a cause for concern. In recent weeks, the national Dean of Public Health and Family Medicine has warned Malawians of a second wave. A full nationwide lockdown could have devastating impacts on these families, leaving them without income and food. The government has developed a response plan to invest into healthcare and targeted social assistance programs.
In late October, schools across the country reopened; a much welcome change for children who have mostly been learning through radio broadcasted lessons. Classes are running on a staggered schedule to spread out student numbers across the week. Classes are also run in line with recommended health regulations to avoid further spread of covid.
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. Due to concerns of a second wave, Youth and Child Club activities remain on hold. Project staff 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.
Project staff have been pleased to see that cases of other preventable illnesses in the community have significantly dropped due to better community hygiene practises. They have however, reported high child marriage rates, and increased alcohol abuse among youth over the last few months. Instances of these issues are expected to reduce with the reopening of schools.
Nepal now has a significant and growing number of covid cases, with case numbers peaking during October. In response to the recent dramatic increase, Nepal will now provide free testing and treatment to those infected. Health facilities across the country are already struggling to provide adequate treatment and to support quarantine requirements for patients.
The country has been in lockdown since 24 March. The length of lockdown is having a detrimental impact on livelihoods and the economy. Many 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 afford food and other necessities. A small number of schools have reopened across Nepal, and the government is working to continue online education support.
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. UMN has adjusted its programming to focus on prevention activities. They have set up handwashing stations in communities, as well as for 35 families with family members affected by a disability. They have been providing hygiene information and psychosocial support for sponsorship families, to help them during lockdown. Many families have used the counselling services during this difficult time. 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. Children are struggling with schools remaining closed in the area.
The Philippines has a significant and growing number of covid cases. Lockdown restrictions (implemented mid-March) began to be eased in mid-May. Restrictions are gradually being relaxed further, to ease economic losses and help thousands of families suffering from unemployment, hunger, and poverty. The government has implemented a financial support package to reduce the impact on vulnerable groups. Remote learning has begun to be rolled out across the country and the government have stated schools will not likely reopen until a vaccine is made available. Their government have made plans to lock in 50 million vaccine doses expected to be distributed late 2021, early 2022.
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, with 630 sponsorship families receiving food assistance so far. All face-to-face group activities are on hold. Household income has been negatively impacted as lockdown continues, and well as mental health, especially among teenagers. SAO hopes to reach 780 vulnerable families with support to reduce these negative outcomes resulting from covid.
After Typhoon Goni, project staff have been warned that more typhoons are to be expected in the coming months, potentially compounding existing vulnerabilities caused by covid. They are preparing their church networks to be ready to care for affected families if a typhoon does hit the project area.
Sri Lanka has a relatively small number of covid cases so far, however, the country has experienced a second wave in recent weeks. In response, the government will now enforce strict regulations across Sri Lanka. Schools were also closed again and are expected to reopen after the school holidays which been extended two weeks, until November 23.
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. A further 200 families are also to receive protective and hygienic supplies including soap, hand sanitiser, safe water and masks.
Considering the rise in covid cases, at this stage staff are still working remotely, and Child Club gatherings remain on hold until further notice.
Uganda has a relatively small but, rising number of covid cases so far. A large portion of Ugandan businesses will now begin to reopen, to protect the economy from further decline. A large amount of families has been being impacted by job loss and many families have still been experiencing food shortages, surviving on only one meal a day. Uganda has slightly reduced the cost of covid tests for individuals, in hopes to increase accessibility. All schools have now reopened across the country
In line with health regulations, project staff have begun visiting sponsor children and their family’s homes from August to help identify the specific challenges they are facing during the coronavirus pandemic. Our partners have found that the most pressing challenges are insufficient income, savings, and food security. As some restrictions have been eased, some small-group activities have resumed, including saving groups. Our local partner has 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.
“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: 13th November 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.