Dealing with the Pandemic: Contribution of NGOs – NGO Services

The global pandemic that began last year, thanks to the onset of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has changed the way we look at things. In the past 18 months, the way we work, learn, use technology, and even interact with family members has changed. However, we are lucky to have these facilities. There are millions of people around the world who still struggle to find a proper meal or drink a glass of clean drinking water. These people have no health insurance, and may not even be counted as a statistic in the COVID-19 death count.

Fortunately, NGOs have played a role in ensuring that this does not happen.I t is argued that NGOs “have the opportunity and the responsibility to play a major role in preparedness, response, impact mitigation and advocacy to lessen the consequences” of a pandemic, particularly amongst the poor and vulnerable groups. 

Non-government organisations have the necessary skill and expertise to be able to add value to ensuring people are well-taken care of during the pandemic planning and response. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) issued ten ‘Guiding Principles for International Outbreak Alert and Response’ in 2009, that state how nations must respond to outbreaks of international importance, including pandemics, and how to coordinate efforts between parties on field. Of importance is guiding principle number seven that outlines the role of NGOs. It states, “There is recognition of the unique role of national and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the area of health, including in the control of outbreaks. NGOs providing support that would not otherwise be available, particularly in reaching poor populations”.

Since the onset of the pandemic, several NGOs – both in India and around the world – have used social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to share and amplify information regarding vaccination centres, vaccine availability, vaccine safety, and to help individuals in need of oxygen, blood or a hospital bed. NGOs also used their network to bring doctors together on online platforms, to provide free medical advice to those affected by Covid-19.

The importance of NGOs cannot be underestimated for five main reasons:

  • First, they intimately understand community needs and are better placed to help during a pandemic. NGOs work with a range of vulnerable populations, possess a deep understanding of their needs, have rapports with the communities for years and are more suited to be the first point of contact and help during a pandemic. 
  • Second, NGOs have the ability to adapt to pandemic constraints, enabling them to continue supporting vulnerable populations. They can also tweak their existing programmes to suit the needs of the pandemic and to suit the community context. 
  • Third, NGO services play a pivotal role in raising awareness and educating the public about Covid-19 as they can use the networks of trust they have built, within the communities they work with. 
  • NGOs can customise their outreach programmes to suit the needs of the local communities they serve. This puts NGOs in a unique position unlike government programmes that have a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Finally, 
  • NGOs can step in when governments cannot, and can provide services that governments do not. In the case of Covid-19 and the present pandemic, masks, soap, water and sanitisers are essentials. 

In cases like this NGOs can step in to distribute masks for free to those who cannot afford them. The above examples throw light on how NGOs have done this. Finally, the biggest constraint that any NGO faces is in raising money to carry out their activities. Here, the public and donations from large organisations come handy. During this pandemic, we witnessed large and genuine outreach programmes to raise money for Covid-19 relief that NGOs of all scales and sizes, were able to channel towards relief programmes.

During the pandemic, nearly one lakh NGOs were contacted by NITI Aayog to help the government. Here are some of the NGOs who have made the news 

CRY

Child Rights and You (CRY) is an NGO that did extensive work during the pandemic. To raise awareness about Covid-19 they conducted home visits for those without a phone, maintaining all social distancing protocols, and released campaigns through phone calls and WhatsApp including videos on how to wash hands. These campaigns revolved around public health and hygiene and behaviour change, sanitisation, and the proper use of face masks. Since the closure of government schools, and consequently the mid-day meal programme, many children were unable to get proper nutrition and timely immunisation. In 2020-21, CRY was able to impact over six lakh children through their various programmes

Green Dream Foundation

The Green Dream Foundation, along with a few IIT graduates, started COVID SOS, a platform to help senior citizens and physically challenged people. Using WhatsApp and GPS technology they could find volunteers within walking distance of the person in need. Volunteers performed errands for those who could not leave their homes and also supplied emergency services and equipment and essentials. The platform has over a thousand volunteers across 10 cities.

Others

Some NGOs work in focus areas or limited locations and are not spread across the country. These NGOs are better suited to serve the needs of the communities they work with. Some NGOs were founded during the first wave of Covid-19 in March 2020, with the express aim of aiding those in need affected by the pandemic. They put special focus on women, nutrition and public health. These NGOs have also raised funds mainly through online platforms like Ketto and Give India.

You should also read: How to start an NGO

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