By Hanna Fernando-Pacua (Country Advisor, The Philippines)
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a large strain on The Philippines as it deals with this healthcare and humanitarian crisis. The country’s caseload has risen to one of top 20 in the world, creating a serious strain on the Philippines social sector and communities.
As the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, the government enacted Phase 1, a lockdown. This spanned from March to August. During this lockdown, public transport was suspended and only essential businesses operated. The government scrambled to contain the virus, providing limited economic support for affected families while medical front liners struggled to fight a still-unknown illness.
The nonprofit response during this time was largely focused on frontline support. Many groups, including our partners Caritas Manila and PBSP, mobilized to organize food donations and provide PPE and relief packs. In the Philippines, we have what is called the “Bayanihan” Spirit – or, roughly translated, the spirit of working together. There was this volunteer action that is still very much alive now, with people eager to band together and help each other and their community.
From August to October, the government transitioned into Phase 2, where lockdowns eased and some businesses were able to re-open. However, as we move into Phase 3, from now until first quarter of 2021, COVID-19 is still a prominent issue that is still damaging vulnerable populations. The Philippines government identified vulnerable groups needing relief and aid. These groups include frontline healthcare workers, elderly citizens, the homeless, the urban poor, rural communities, and minority groups. Furthermore, due to the Philippines unique geography as an archipelago, there are many “Locally stranded individuals” who are stranded on the wrong island because of a lack of transportation.
The government has now shifted into Phase 3 of its coronavirus plan, allowing more businesses to operate and more mobility for people while observing health protocols. This transition phase to the “new normal,” is still faced with uncertainties and our struggle with the virus is far from over. Cases are still rising, and vulnerable populations still need support and aid. There are four key areas that need further support:
- Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) to keep our communities safe and prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
- Mental health support for vulnerable groups. For example, one of our partners, PMHA, is addressing mental health needs of front-line health workers.
- Economic relief and stimulus for those who lost their jobs and struggling small businesses. Economic stimulus can help support citizens’ livelihood and further economic recovery.
- Public-school system infrastructure to provide remote education and equip families to handle home schooling. Our local partner ANAK TNK operates a home for street kids and now faced with the additional struggle of deciding how to teach the kids from home. Another local partner, Teach for the Philippines, raises funds to support public schools to address distance learning challenges.
The Philippines struggled with other development problems before the pandemic, and COVID-19 has only exacerbated these needs. Donors can support digitalization efforts—including hardware, software, and capacity building—to equip communities in the Philippines for the pandemic and future growth.
Furthermore, nonprofits addressing other critical issues such as poverty, hunger, or environmental damage are still in need of support. Kythe Foundation, a nonprofit supporting kids with cancer and other chronic illnesses, is in need of funds for hospital safety kits (masks, face shields, soaps) and activity kits for the kids.
As the Philippines and the world move forward, there is still great amounts of work to be done. We hope to see more sustainable response strategies, and these are greatly supported by donations directly helping impacted populations in the Philippines. Donors can join us in supporting the “Bayanihan” spirit by aiding the Philippines during these difficult times and empowering long-term recovery and growth.
To learn more about individual and corporate giving opportunities in The Philippines, contact our international grantmaking team.
You can also donate directly to our Philippines COVID-19 Response Fund on our website or on your employer’s Benevity giving platform.
Photo credit: Asian Development Bank / Flickr