The pandemic plunged many of PWRDF’s partners into crisis mode. Working in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities, they faced the challenges of social distancing, providing enough Personal Protective Equipment and disseminating reliable health information, sometimes without the benefit of mass media or government support.
But COVID-19 didn’t mean an end to the other crises that PWRDF’s partners typically face in a year. Climate-related disasters such as flood, drought, cyclones and hurricanes, and political crises and violence threaten people’s ability to feed their families and make a livelihood.
Managing this complicated and complex portfolio is PWRDF’s humanitarian response coordinator, Naba Gurung. Originally from Nepal, Mr. Gurung came to Canada after completing a Masters degree in international development in Norway, then landed at PWRDF shortly afterwards.
During his 20 years working in humanitarian response, he has seen many changes. “More and more emergencies are becoming more complex,” he says. “There’s not just one driver that partners have to deal with; there are now multiple drivers and forces that shape an emergency. In Haiti, for example, there was the earthquake, but then there’s a tropical storm and a political economic crisis; in South Sudan, there was a flood for two consecutive years, conflict, continued displacement and devaluation of their currency.”
In many cases, PWRDF directs funds to a larger response from an organization such as the ACT Alliance, which comprises 130 different faith-based groups from around the world. PWRDF is also a member of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. Funds spent from PWRDF’s account with the Foodgrains Bank are often matched by the Government of Canada by as much as four to one. PWRDF is also a founding member of the Anglican Alliance, a coalition of relief and development organizations in the Anglican Communion.
Here are some of the PWRDF humanitarian relief responses since August 2020:
Lebanon (ACT Alliance)
On Aug. 4, 2020, a warehouse storing ammonium nitrate exploded, obliterating the port of Beirut. The disaster exacerbated the already challenging economic and health crises in the area. PWRDF responded to an ACT Alliance appeal and participated in a humanitarian coalition matching appeal through its membership in the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. Donations totalled $136,000. Providing food, non-food items, hygiene, blankets and clothing to those in need.
Philippines (ACT Alliance/National Council of Churches in the Philippines)
On Nov. 1, 2020, Super Typhoon Goni (Rolly) slammed into the Philippines with catastrophic winds, torrential rainfall, severe flooding, mud slides and storm surges. It was just one week after Typhoon Molave (Quinta) hit the same region, making it ever harder to cope with the pandemic. PWRDF responded to the ACT Alliance appeal with $20,000. The National Council of Churches in the Philippines supported 8,000 households with food relief.
Ethiopia (ACT Alliance/Lutheran World Federation)
On Nov. 4, 2020, a long-standing political disagreement between the Ethiopian government and the northern state of Tigray’s regional government led to violence and military action, forcing people to flee. By January 2021, the region was facing a severe humanitarian crisis with more than two million people internally displaced. PWRDF responded with $35,000 to the ACT Alliance appeal, supporting the Lutheran World Federation in Ethiopia. LWF trained local staff and 50 community leaders in Tigray to deliver psychosocial first aid in the displaced communities.
Afghanistan (Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Community World Service Asia and Presbyterian World Service & Development)
From November 2020 to April 2021, PWRDF supported Community World Service Asia in providing food assistance to 1,100 households, including 420 female-headed households, in the Bamyan province of Afghanistan. This ensured that communities affected by COVID-19 would not go hungry in the peak food-insecure months, reducing economic migration and increasing the ability of households to host returnees.
Bangladesh (ACT Alliance/Christian Aid)
Support for Rohingyas, displaced from Myanmar and living in Bangladesh, is ongoing. Through the ACT Alliance, PWRDF allocated $35,000 to Christian Aid to provide primary health care services and infectious disease surveillance and referral for Rohingya and surrounding host communities. Two medical doctors, two nurses, midwives, a health assistant, a pharmacist, and support staff were involved to provide services to the patients. Staff were equipped with COVID-19 appropriate personal protective equipment and materials.
Zimbabwe (Canadian Foodgrains Bank, DanChurchAid Zimbabwe)
From January 2021 to April 2021, PWRDF supported a food assistance project with DanChurchAid Zimbabwe and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. Food baskets containing maize meal, beans and oil were distributed to 3,600 households in northern Zimbabwe. The most vulnerable households were prioritized for food assistance, including those headed by children, the elderly and women, and households with special needs. Families with land and available labour also received seeds for sorghum and cowpea seed to help re-establish crop production and provide food when the assistance ended.
South Sudan (Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Finn Church Aid, South Sudan Country Program)
In April 2021, PWRDF embarked on an 18-month project with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank that was part of a $10-million grant from the Government of Canada. PWRDF is supporting Finn Church Aid to implement a project in South Sudan, where long-term conflict has led to internal displacement and a high need for humanitarian assistance. COVID-19 has made it worse, causing businesses to close and food prices to rise. Finn Church Aid is providing a cash-transfer, vegetable seeds, tools and training to 600 returnee households (South Sudanese returning from Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo).
St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Diocese of the Windward Islands)
In April 2021, La Soufrière volcano began spewing smoke and ashes over the islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. An estimated 20,000 people were forced to evacuate and move into shelters. The National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) identified urgent need for water, buckets, folding cots, toiletries, blankets, field tents, kitchen utensils and sleeping mats. PWRDF responded with a $5,000 grant, and donors quickly followed that up with another $70,000 that will be used for economic recovery.
Palestinian Territories (Episcopal
Diocese of Jerusalem/Al Ahli Hospital)
In May 2021, violence broke out in Jerusalem, overwhelming the Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza with patients. The hospital is administered by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, and PWRDF has provided funds to purchase equipment or manage high volume in the past. PWRDF responded to the Bishop of Jerusalem’s appeal with $20,000 to purchase fuel for the generators to keep the hospital running. In the past year, $30,000 was donated to purchase a microdebrider for the Ear, Nose and Throat surgical unit.
Tanzania (Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Church World Service Africa)
In May 2021, PWRDF began a three-year project with Church World Service Africa and the Canadian Foodgrains bank to improve food security of Congolese refugees living in Nyarugusu camp in Tanzania. Currently, refugees there rely mainly on rations from the World Food Programme. However, the rations include only staple items and are not enough. Some refugees have begun to plant seeds on land around the camp; however, many people lack the necessary skills and resources to farm successfully. This project will provide necessary farm inputs to 810 refugee households and train them on how to sustainably grow vegetables.
Lytton fire, British Columbia (Territory of the People)
In July 2021, a fire destroyed the village of Lytton and Lytton First Nation and prompted an outpouring of donations from Anglicans across Canada. An initial grant of $5,000 was used to support families during the immediate crisis. The diocese is developing a plan to use the rest of the funds (approximately $31,000) following PWRDF’s In-Canada Emergency procedures.