Six months of transforming our COVID response

by 10th Sep 2020
Danica Casimir washes her hands during hygiene kit distribution in Haiti. Danica Casimir washes her hands during hygiene kit distribution in Haiti.

September 11th marks six months since the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a pandemic. It’s hard to believe both how long this has continued and that we have only been operating in pandemic mode for six months. Some days it’s hard to remember what the world looked like before coronavirus.

COVID-19 has forced us all to change in ways we never imagined. For CARE, it has transformed the way we work in every country and every project. Not all change is bad. We're getting smarter about working with local partners, finding ways to travel less, adapt faster, getting better at quickly analysing and sharing data, and listening more to what people - especially women - tell us they need. Those changes can show us how to build a better world, and how to build a better CARE.

Working with women, communities, local NGOs, the private sector, governments, and the incomparable CARE staff around the world, we’ve launched new programmes, found new ways to operate, and changed the kind of support we offer. With and for 18.6 million people in 67 countries, CARE is finding new ways to change the world.

Above: Delivery of food parcels in the the municipality of Villanueva, Honduras 

How has our coronavirus programming transformed CARE and our responses?

We’re reaching 49 times more people

From 380,000 people in 55 countries on March 20 to 18.6 million people in 67 countries by August 14. This means we were reaching nearly 50 times our initial response. In the whole of last year, we reached 13.3 million people directly in 63 countries with humanitarian responses, so our COVID-19 response alone reaches nearly 40% more people than CARE’s emergency responses last year.

We’re using more cash

We’re using cash responses in 35 countries, reaching more than 500,000 people—compared to only 10 countries using cash when we first started. That offers more flexible options and safer distribution for people around the world.

We’re focused more on food and water

In March, only 9 countries were responding with food programming—and now 41 countries are supporting food and agriculture, reaching more than 1.5 million people. In March, 35 countries were doing work around water, and by August it was 60 countries, reaching 2.6 million people with clean water and 1.8 million with hygiene kits.

We’re doing more to prevent and respond to violence

By August, 55 countries were considering GBV response as part of their programs, compared to 8 countries in mid-March. We’re providing GBV services or referral to 3.4 million people. 19 countries have specific advocacy agendas to fight GBV as part of their COVID-19 response.

Above: Handwashing station at a camp for the internally displaced in eastern Somaliland

How are we getting there?

Thinking more about advocacy

In March, only 15 countries had COVID-19 advocacy agendas. Now, 37 countries—more than double—are doing advocacy to get better COVID-19 responses for the people who need it most.

Working with media

In March, we were reaching about 100 million people with mass media to raise awareness about COVID-19. Now, we’re reaching more than 198 million people with mass media. We’ve gotten creative about using radio, TV, social media, and other tools to reach millions of people with life-saving information.

Listening to women

We’ve done Rapid Gender Analyses (RGAs) in 37 countries, and collected information from more than 6,200 women (and 4,000 men) to better understand women’s and girls’ experiences in COVID-19 and how to respond. In a regular year, CARE might do 7 RGAs, so this level is unprecedented, not just for CARE, but for the entire world. We’re also collecting sex-disaggregated data in 61 countries—compared to only 20 in March. This information is crucial to shaping our responses, so they are more effective.

Using technology

41 countries are using new digital solutions, from building apps to taking advantage of text messages to communicate with participants, to holding digital forums and marketplaces.

How do we measure up against our gender commitments?

On April 1, 2020, CARE’s first COVID-19 Rapid Gender Analysis proposed a series of policy recommendations about how to address gender equality in COVID-19. How do we measure up against our own recommendations? (Based on data as at August 15, 2020.)

Recommendation 1: Fill the gender data gap in COVID-19

So far, CARE has published 37 Rapid Gender Analyses to examine the needs of women and girls and people of all genders in COVID-19. 61 of 63 CARE’s reporting countries are reporting sex-disaggregated data on their response so far. We’ve collected primary data from more than 10,000 people, including more than 6,200 women to show the differences between men’s and women’s experiences in COVID-19. We’re also working across sectors and partners to make sure that data is available and used as widely as possible.

Recommendation 2: Make decision-making more inclusive and support women’s leadership

All CARE global, regional, and country COVID-19 task forces include at least one gender expert. 58% of CARE’s offices are partnering with local women-led or women-focused organisations to set priorities and deliver COVID-19 responses. 37 out of 63 countries are working with women to shape advocacy campaigns about how COVID-19 responses can best meet local needs—especially for people who are usually left out of the conversation. In the Balkans, Mali, Kenya, South Sudan, and Laos, CARE is giving grants to women-led partner organisations. In Guatemala, Ecuador, Egypt, Colombia, Ecuador, Benin, Togo, the Balkans, Bangladesh, Brazil, Malawi, Mexico, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe, CARE is providing financial support for locally women-led advocacy campaigns around women’s rights in COVID-19.

Recommendation 3: Focus on health, including sexual and reproductive health

CARE is currently supporting 1.5 million people in 22 countries with continued sexual and reproductive health services, and 10 million people with access to health information through health services and local health volunteers. We’re helping more than 2,200 health centres continue to offer services, and have given hygiene kits to nearly 1.8 million people.

Recommendation 4: Include prevention and response to gender-based violence as a life-saving service

CARE and our partners are providing 3.4 million people with GBV services and referral information. 94% of CARE’s country teams are mainstreaming GBV in their programming. Ecuador, the Balkans, Egypt, and others are exploring how to use technology to safely deliver GBV services and information in COVID-19. CARE has a zero-tolerance approach to sexual exploitation and abuse in our programmes to ensure the highest standards of safety for participants.

Emily Janoch

Emily Janoch is Senior Technical Advisor on Knowledge Management for the CARE USA Food and Nutrition Security team focusing on ways to better learn from and share practical experience on eradicating poverty through empowering women and girls. She focuses on learning from programming and using that learning to improve impact.

With four years of on-the-ground experience in West Africa, 10 years of development experience, and academic publications on community engagement and the human element in food security in Africa, Emily is especially interested in community-led development. She has experience in food security, nutrition, health, governance, and gender programming, and has a BA in International Studies from the University of Chicago, and a Masters' in Public Policy in International and Global Affairs from the Harvard Kennedy School.