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 and growing number of coronavirus cases. The virus has been spreading quickly despite restrictions, due to high-density populations and a lack of awareness. The healthcare system is struggling to cope with the rising numbers. Bangladesh withdrew nationwide lockdown at the end of May and has transitioned to smaller-scale lockdowns in areas identified as high risk. Schools are closed. Over one million Rohingya refugees are at risk of contracting the virus, due to poor and cramped living conditions.
Staff from our local partner organisations are working from home. All group activities are currently on hold in our sponsorship projects. 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’re also supplying emergency food packages and hygiene items, including masks and soap, to 2,150 vulnerable community members as well as local health workers.
Cambodia only has a small number of cases, and initial lockdown restrictions have successfully contained the spread so far. Most confirmed cases have now recovered. Many of the original restrictions have been lifted, however all schools remain closed and large public gatherings banned.
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, are still working from home. They have been raising awareness in communities about the continued risks of coronavirus, focusing on prevention activities and distributing information about good hygiene practices. Sponsored children and their families are practicing handwashing and encouraging others who visit their homes to do the same. FH has been utilising technology to maintain strong, safe contact with them.
Malawi has had a relatively 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 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 has a significant and growing number of coronavirus cases. Transmission risk levels are high due to mobile populations and dense urban areas. The nationwide lockdown (in place since 24 March) began to be eased in certain areas on 15 June. All schools remain closed and public gatherings banned, and a nightly curfew is in place. The length of lockdown has been having a detrimental impact on livelihoods and the economy. Many families in rural areas are struggling to survive due to loss of work and income.
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, though no sponsorship families have been affected at this stage. 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. Over 3000 families have received emergency food packages. UMN has also been supporting local health workers and health facilities, to make sure they’re ready to respond to the virus. This includes providing training, personal protective equipment, infrared thermometers and hygiene items.
The Philippines has a significant and growing number of coronavirus cases. Lockdown was implemented in mid-March, and thousands of families have been suffering from unemployment, hunger and poverty. Restrictions began to be eased in mid-May, despite rising case numbers, in an attempt to help these families and ease economic losses. High-risk areas are still under strict lockdown and schools remain closed.
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. The island-wide lockdown and curfew (which started on 20 March) have both now been lifted, as restrictions were gradually eased from mid-May. Schools and churches remain closed though and large public gatherings banned.
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.
Uganda has only had 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. Many families however have still been experiencing food shortages, surviving on only one meal a day. Schools and churches remain closed and public gatherings banned. Cross-border goods trucks and refugee immigrants still pose a risk of bringing the virus in from elsewhere.
All face-to-face group activities are on hold, but staff from our local partner organisations have been maintaining regular contact with sponsored children and are able to meet with individual families. Staff are increasingly concerned about possible outbreaks in high-density refugee settlements. 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. 2000 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: 26th June 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:
helps provide 3,000 protective gloves to five health clinics near the Syria-Lebanon border.
can give 50 front line workers quality face masks to protect them from coronavirus.
can pay a month’s wages for an emergency health worker helping to stop the sickness from spreading.
Donations of $2 or more are tax deductible. All donations are in Australian Dollars.