The United Nations recently released the 2020 report on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), sharing sobering data on the world’s progress towards goals like ending extreme poverty and increasing global food security. 

The outlook already wasn’t positive before the outbreak of Covid-19. Now, the crisis is reversing global progress towards the SDGs. 

“Before the Covid-19 pandemic, progress remained uneven and we were not on track to meet the Goals by 2030,” shares António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations. 

“Now, due to Covid-19, an unprecedented health, economic and social crisis is threatening lives and livelihoods, making achieving the Goals even more challenging.” 

Here are some insights from Compassion’s Sidney Muisyo, Head of Global Programme, captured recently in his conversation with Jason Ballard on the Canadian Church Leaders' Podcast. 

Sidney reflects on the impact of Covid-19 on Tearfund’s child development work, through its partner Compassion, and why working in partnership with the local church is more important than ever. 

 Access to food 

“In the global developing world where we work, the impact of Covid-19 has been much more than the disease itself,” explains Sidney. 

Food is one example. Many countries responded in the early days of the pandemic with shutdowns and some imposed curfews. “People thought, ‘do I go out and try and make a living and eat, or do I stay indoors, be safe and die?’”. 

The families and the children that Compassion serves are already vulnerable. The majority of the families make their living day to day in urban areas. People have small businesses or trades. “Whether you’re a cobbler or you sell groceries on the roadside. You work, you eat. You don’t work, you don’t eat.” 

Many families found themselves in that situation where the primary issue was food. For instance, there are no food banks in Togo or Ecuador.  

“So, one of the ways we’ve responded as Compassion is to support families with food.” This included church workers and pastors. “Traditionally when we have responded to a crisis, we have known that one party can support the other. So, the local church can respond to a crisis of famine. But with Covid-19, the pastors themselves were hungry, they didn’t have food. The church workers themselves were hungry and didn’t have food.” 

Sidney says you have to keep in mind that a fridge you can stock with food doesn’t exist in the developing world. You buy food daily, from the market—you have nowhere to store it. 

Sponsorship-during-Covid-19-body-2-1-(1).jpgCompassion's local partners distributed 3,720,346 essential food packs.

“So, the basic need for food has been one of the significant needs we have seen. We have been responding and we will continue responding.” Thanks to sponsorship support and donations to our Covid-19 appeal, Compassion’s local church partners distributed 3,720,347 essential food packs.

Access to education 

“The United Nations estimates that we have about 1.5 billion children out of school because of Covid-19. In the developed world, children and young people have online network access, and there are laptops in most homes. This is a luxury, even for the middle class in countries where we serve. 

Compassion works in the most vulnerable communities without the option of online education. And even if they did have the option, there is often no space for a child to study, he says. 

“Education has a long-term impact on a child and their family and helps them to break free from poverty. So, the interruption we are seeing around education is going to be significant for the children and youth in our programmes. 

“Many of the churches we work with are trying to find local, albeit limited solutions. I know one church partner who is bringing in five to ten children at a time to provide tutoring to children to ensure they don’t fall too far behind. Others are providing tablets that children can borrow. Sadly, education will continue to be impacted until countries can return to their full, normal way of life.” 

The church has never been more relevant and more significant at this time.

Access to healthcare 

The other impact of this pandemic has been healthcare. “We are seeing the uptake of childhood vaccinations not happening as normal because people are afraid to go to the hospitals.” Sometimes lockdowns and curfews have hindered people getting to hospitals, he says. “So we are watching this very carefully. We are concerned about the question of malaria and other vaccinations. We’re going to have to pay very close attention and play catch up. 

“I’ve been very impressed with the local offices that we have in our 25 countries and the way the many churches are trying to respond.” Compassion has provided some PPE to some of the hospitals that didn’t have the resources to provide some of the basics such as masks, gloves or sanitisers. “We’ve had to partner with those hospitals so they not only can protect their staff but also be of service to the communities.” 

Compassion has distributed more than 2,414,759 hygiene kits and provided 161,525 medical support interventions to help the most vulnerable. 

The Global Church in action 

“One of the outstanding things as we navigate this global pandemic is that the Church has never been more significant or relevant than at this time. It’s just absolutely amazing,” says Sidney. 

“In the nations where we work, there are no stimulus packages supporting the hungry, or supporting hospitals. That is why the local church is so significant.” Those who supported Compassion’s Covid-19 response through Tearfund have enabled their church partners to take action. 

“So, thank you for standing alongside Compassion’s local church partners during this season. Thank you for caring for your global neighbour. Thank you for remembering the poor. Together we will rise as one as the global church.” 


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