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PWRDF directs $200,000 to COVID-19

Dr. Jean Baptiste Mbonyingingo, Village Health Works’ Medical Director, shows off a face mask made by members of the sewing co-op, in anticipation of a potential shortage should COVID-19 incidence increase as it has in Italy, Spain and the United States. At present, VHW health care workers have a sufficient supply of gloves and N95 face masks.

April 1, 2020

By Janice Biehn

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The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund today announces a plan to allocate $200,000 to respond to COVID-19 around the world and in Canada. The money will be spread across four partners: Village Health Works (Burundi), Partners in Health (global response), ACT Alliance’s Global Appeal and HelpAge Canada, supporting vulnerable seniors here.

To address the needs of underserved communities in developing countries, PWRDF has granted $60,000 each to Partners in Health and Village Health Works. Both are long-time partners of PWRDF and are well placed to support people dealing with COVID-19. PIH Rwanda and VHW have been key partners in PWRDF’s All Mothers and Children Count program, supported by tens of thousands of Canadians and with funding from the Government of Canada. 

To give to PWRDF’s COVID-19 appeal:

  • Please visit our online donation page and make your gift in Emergency Response, indicating COVID-19 in the message box.
  • Call 1-866-308-7973 toll-free (please leave a message and we will return your call), or 416-822-9083 and we can process your donation over the phone.
  • Write COVID-19 in the memo field of your cheque and mail to PWRDF, 80 Hayden Street, 3rd floor, Toronto, Ontario, M4Y 3G2.

“As always, we are heartened by your solidarity, support, compassion, and tenacity,” writes Cathryn Christensen, Clinical Partnerships Director at VHW. When VHW first reported back to PWRDF on March 19, there were no identified cases of COVID-19 in Burundi, and 11 cases in Rwanda. Since then, Christensen notes two cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in Bujumbura, Burundi. There are now 75 cases in Rwanda. These numbers can be partly attributed to low rates of testing and access to tests. Health care professionals at VHW are concerned they don’t have sufficient equipment or staff if COVID-19 infections follow a trajectory similar to that of Italy, Spain or the United States. “There are fewer than 10 ventilators in all of Burundi (with a population of more than 11 million people) and, as we know, the health system’s capacity is challenged even without the additional threat of a pandemic,” says Christensen. “Our sewing co-op face masks, made from local kitenge fabric, have since been improved.”

Given the lack of ICU beds, personnel and treatment options, VHW’s strategy is in line with Burundi’s Ministry of Health and will focus heavily on containment efforts. Initial measures will be education, prevention and protection, with the goals “to protect patients, health workers, the population (including workers who are building our urgently needed hospital), and to treat what we can treat,” says Christensen. 

A further allocation of $40,000 will contribute to the ACT Alliance Global Appeal to support organizations building awareness about COVID-19 and working closely with health officials to prevent fatalities and intense pressure on already fragile public health systems. The global budget for this appeal is $12 million US.

Major vulnerable groups of people are in countries where PWRDF works, such as the Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, and migrants in Venezuela, Syria and other places. ACT notes that infections are “expected to rise exponentially” when COVID-19 hits small shelters and holding and detention centres.

“The work of our global partners to respond to this pandemic is critical right now,” says Will Postma, Executive Director of PWRDF. “They are helping the most vulnerable in areas where even the basics of soap, running water and two metres of physical distancing can be a luxury.”

To support needs in Canada, PWRDF is also allocating $40,000 to HelpAge Canada to support vulnerable seniors in Canada coping with COVID-19.

HelpAge Canada provides grants to organizations across Canada who are responding to seniors who are at the highest risk of COVID-19 infection. Initiatives include providing food, medications, personal care as well as supporting those who are putting themselves in harm’s way to care for them.

HelpAge Canada has raised almost $110,000 towards its COVID-19 appeal, including the gift from PWRDF. It continues to expand its partnerships with agencies across Canada and currently supports: 

  • West End Seniors Network, Vancouver
  • Kerby Centre, Calgary
  • West Neighbourhood House, Toronto
  • Seniors First Response Team, St Matthew’s House, Hamilton 
  • East Ottawa Resource Centre
  • Western Ottawa Community Resource Centre
  • Yellowknife Seniors’ Society, NWT
  • Pas de La Rue, Montreal
  • Glace Bay Food Bank, Nova Scotia

“We are grateful and humbled to receive this grant and to work together to serve the most vulnerable among us,” says Gregor Sneddon, Executive Director of HelpAge Canada and coincidentally, a former Anglican priest in the Diocese of Ottawa. “We are excited to work together on this project and maybe more in the future.”

The economic fallout of COVID-19 has been devastating, for some more than others. We encourage you to do what you can to support PWRDF and our partners, both in Canada and around the world during this unprecedented global crisis. Please hold in your prayers those who are unwell, vulnerable to illness, facing financial uncertainty and for whom physical distancing is not possible. We continue to lift up our hope for a more just, peaceful and healthy world.