We’ve been hearing lots of big and harrowing numbers lately. But today, we want to share some big numbers that are worth celebrating.
While Compassion’s regular child development programming has been interrupted because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our local church partners have been anything but shut down. They continue to provide life-changing, and in some cases, life-saving support, at a time when children and families need it most.
“We remain at their side. Our workers continue to volunteer to distribute food and essentials to the children in their community,” says Reynesto, the director of Good News Child Development Centre in the Philippines.
All of this is possible because of your generosity in this time of great need. As of today, Canadians have given nearly 1.1 million dollars to Compassion’s COVID-19 relief efforts. This is on top of the existing child sponsorship support that tens of thousands already give.
We’re blown away by your generosity and are excited to share these four big numbers that reflect the impact we are making together.
Here’s what we accomplished around the world between April and July 2020:
1. Distributed more than 4.9 million food packs
In the Peruvian jungle, 14-year-old Nicol and her cousins jumped for joy when they saw someone walking towards their house carrying a bag. “I think our sponsors are sending us groceries again!” Nicol cried.
Since her parents lost their jobs in Lima because of the pandemic, they have been unable to send money back to Nicol’s grandmother, Esperanza, who cares for the children. “It broke my heart to hear my grandkids cry because they were too hungry,” she says.
For families who rely on a daily wage to make ends meet, food is an urgent need. Starvation is a real risk. The World Food Programme estimates that the COVID-19 crisis could cause global acute hunger rates to double, pushing it to more than a quarter of a billion by the end of 2020.
“COVID-19 is potentially catastrophic for millions who are already hanging by a thread. It is a hammer blow for millions more who can only eat if they earn a wage.”
– Arif Husain, Chief Economist, World Food Programme
That’s why the top priority of Compassion’s local church partners is to deliver food packs to families in desperate need. Between April and July 2020, Compassion’s local church partners distributed 4,986,666 food packs to children and their families.
“God never forgets us and I’m forever grateful to the project, the pastor, the sponsors,” says Esperanza. “May the Lord guide you and bless you all. I have something to feed my grandkids now. Thank you for giving us our daily bread.”
2. Delivered over 3.1 million hygiene kits
With vulnerable families struggling to buy food, hygiene supplies like face masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant become luxuries they cannot afford.
In regions where water scarcity makes frequent handwashing difficult, hand sanitizer is even more important. But in countries like Uganda, a small bottle of hand sanitizer can retail for CAD$4, more than double what some struggling families earn in a single day.
With numerous parents out of work due to the pandemic, Olok Child Development Centre in Uganda came up with an initiative that addressed both challenges. Fathers who had lost their jobs were trained to manufacture hand sanitizer, which was then distributed to vulnerable children and families. They’re being empowered to start their own sanitizer business.
One of the fathers, Joseph, says the training has given him hope during a difficult time. “Before COVID-19, there was poor hygiene [and] there was no sanitation, but when I learned the skill, I was able to make sanitizer and my family was able to wash their hands. This has improved the state and standard of sanitation in my family,” he says. “I thank God for that.”
Between April and July, Compassion staff around the world distributed 3,133,697 hygiene kits to children and their families. The kits enable families to protect themselves and others from COVID-19, something that shouldn’t be a privilege or luxury.
3. Helped more than 240,000 individuals access emergency medical care
There is no health insurance or safety net when you live in poverty. Medical emergencies plunge struggling children into life and death situations. And that’s in ordinary times, without the added desperation of a global pandemic.
As medical crises continue, Compassion’s church partners continue to respond, bringing hope and relief to the sick. In Togo, nine-year-old Wisdom was diagnosed with malaria. It was a life-threatening illness that left him crying out in pain and struggling to eat or speak. His parents had lost their jobs due to the pandemic and had no way to pay for the treatment their son needed.
“Compassion saved us,” says Wisdom. “If Compassion were not there and if I was not enrolled in the program, I would have died of this disease. Compassion gave me my life back because they did not want me to die.”
Access to medical care during these times has become even more precarious, but Compassion’s local church partners refuse to leave children on their own. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, Compassion assisted 240,857 individuals in accessing emergency medical care between April and July 2020.
4. Gave over 183,000 unconditional cash transfers
In some countries where Compassion works, it is challenging to deliver essentials like food packs and hygiene kits in person to struggling families due to strict government policies. Compassion’s church partners in the Dominican Republic, Ghana and Kenya adapted by introducing electronic cash transfers. Leading research shows that cash transfers are one of the most effective ways to fight poverty.
When the Kenyan government banned the direct distribution of food, Compassion began using a popular and reputable mobile money transfer system to send cash to those who needed it most. Over 70 per cent of Kenyan adults use mobile money, the highest mobile money usage in the world.
“It is easy, fast and cost-effective,” says Joel Macharia, Compassion Kenya’s National Director. “The mobile money platform has a business-to-customer setup that guarantees security and has several levels of approvals for our leadership and strong internal controls of tracking and validation.”
Beyond being efficient and cost-effective, cash transfers also provide dignity to families, empowering them to meet their most pressing needs as they arise. “Having families decide how to spend the money dignifies them,” Joel says. “It provides them with a choice aligned with their [needs]. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.”
Peter, the father of six-year-old Livingstone, has been out of work since his employer, a hotel, closed due to the pandemic. “Before COVID-19, I’d say we were jostling to get by. But right now, we are the ones being jostled by this situation.”
To his immense relief, his family was one of the 183,948 who received a mobile cash transfer between April and July.
It’s one of the ways Compassion has contextually adapted programming in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure children and families in desperate need do not experience any lapse in support.
These are huge numbers. They reflect the real needs in real lives that are being met by the global church rising together.
We’re just getting started. The needs are great, but our response can be, too.
Feature photo caption: In Mexico, 10-year-old Carmelo shows off freshly washed hands.
Words by Zoe Noakes and Alyssa Esparaz.
Photography and field reporting by Daniela Velasco (Mexico), Edwin Estioko (Philippines), Fernando Sinacay (Peru), Caroline A Mwinemwesigwa (Uganda), Silas Irungu (Togo, Kenya).