Stand By Me

Covid-19: The impact on the children of Stand by Me

How has Covid-19 impacted Stand by Me's projects and the children in our care? 

When we were made aware of the spread of Covid-19 we acted quickly to put the necessary precautions and measures in place in our projects around the world. We have taken the threat of Covid-19 very seriously and have put in place stringent precautions to ensure the safety and health of our children, their families and our staff. We are extremely thankful that all of our children remain healthy and we have had no reported cases of the coronavirus at our projects. 

We monitor our projects closely and receive regular updates from our country directors and staff around the globe. You can find the latest WHO global reports of coronavirus cases here. Our staff on the ground are working incredibly hard, making our children’s health and protection their highest priority. Further information on how the coronavirus has impacted each of our projects and the measures we have put in place can be found below.

Colombia

The Dominican Republic 

Ethiopia 

Romania 

India 

Nepal 

Myanmar

How you can communicate with your sponsored child

Are the children in Stand by Me’s care at risk to Covid-19?

Our children and their families are particularly at risk due to the lack of access to resources they need to protect themselves such as water, soap and sanitiser. Our children and their families are living in poverty and therefore have no purchasing power to buy enough food. Neither can they afford to self-isolate as there are no safety nets to protect their fragile employment and income. The places where we work do not have a high level of healthcare and their governments are ill equipped to deal with an outbreak. In the majority of countries we work in, testing for Covid-19 has such limited capacity or is unaffordable which means that there is a lack of information regarding the true reality of cases in each country.

How can I help and support the children and their families?

Our schools are closed worldwide due to lockdown restrictions and while we believe it is worth pausing our children’s education to protect their health, our children cannot afford to miss out on their lifeline of regular meals received at school. With their families too poor to provide adequate food at home, malnourishment and even starvation are a very real danger.

To ensure that no child goes hungry, our staff have been providing food parcels to the families in our care wherever possible. Since the start of the pandemic we have delivered food parcels to over 4,000 families worldwide. Each monthly food parcel costs £40 and provides a family with essential food and soap to keep a family nourished and healthy while enabling them to remain isolated. We want to provide food parcels for as long as required for every child and family in our care who needs essential food. 

Alongside food parcels we will also be providing soap, sanitiser and masks to keep families safe as well as funding safety measures in our schools and care centres in preparation for their reopening. You can donate towards food parcels at www.standby.me/foodparcels.

Please pray for protection for all of our children and staff around the world as well as the families of our children. Please pray for wisdom for all of us at Stand by Me here in the UK offices as well as our incredible team of staff on the ground who are making hard decisions every day. Please pray for God’s peace to be with every child. 

Help us provide urgent food parcels

We want to ensure that no child in our care goes hungry while isolating and we would really appreciate your help to provide essential food parcels to keep our children and their families nourished and healthy.

Can I still communicate with my sponsored child?

Yes, we would love you to continue to support and encourage your sponsored child. The best way to communicate with your sponsored child at this time is by email. We are encouraging you to email rather than send postal letters because post will not be processed as frequently due to staff working remotely. If you must send post, it should fit in an A5 envelope so that it can be posted through our letterbox. Please bear in mind it may take longer than usual to receive a reply to your email while our projects safeguard our children and staff. Email your sponsored child to [email protected]

If you would like to send a gift to your child, the quickest way to do this is to give a monetary gift to your sponsored child online at www.standby.me/donate-treat. If you do not remember your child's ID number, please email us at [email protected] or call us on 01708442271.

If you have concerns for your sponsored child please email [email protected] and we will do our best to reply to your query.

Communicate with your sponsored child
We would love you to continue to support and encourage your sponsored child. The best way to communicate with your sponsored child at this time is by email. If you would like to send a gift to your child, the quickest way to do this is to give a monetary gift to your sponsored child online. A monetary gift of between £10-£25 will be used to buy a gift which your child wants or needs and which will help them feel loved and special.

Country information

Colombia

Mandatory preventive isolation (lockdown) began in Colombia on March 25th and will continue until August 30th. People can only go out one day a week to buy food, medicine and other essentials. This is controlled through the last digit of each person's identification document. People continue to work from home, and only those whose work requires them to be in person have permits. Schools remain closed and students at colleges and universities continue to work from home, virtually.

In Guacamayal, where we run the Emmanuel Care Centre, there are not many cases of Covid-19 reported and the children and their families remain safe and healthy.

In Colombia it is difficult for many people to get masks, sanitiser and antibacterial cleaning products. However, the government requires that if someone is going out, they must wear masks and gloves. In Guacamayal, the situation is the same and police officers patrol to verify that everyone is at home, unless they are buying groceries or out for an urgent medical appointment.

Over the past months our concern has been for the people in Guacamayal who earn their income from day-to-day work such as motorcycle taxi drivers, street vendors and small shops. This also includes many of our children’s mothers who are heads of households who work washing clothes for others or doing other household tasks. The main job occupation in Guacamayal is working on farms or plantations, particularly bananas plantations, and this also has decreased with many people out of work. In Guacamayal food and other basic products have increased in price due to the difficulty of transporting it from cities such as Barranquilla or Santamarta.

To help the children in our care, keep them protected and healthy and to support their families, many of whom have lost their income, we have been providing food parcels. The children and their families have received a food parcel every fortnight. The parcels have contained a variety of food and basic necessities which have been a great blessing for them in these difficult times when there is a great burden on families.  

The children in our care in Colombia come from difficult backgrounds and many of them have suffered neglect and abuse. Therefore it is essential for us to ensure our children are protected from neglect and abuse in their homes. To be able to continue our work with the most at risk children we have begun to assess and plan the process of reopening the Care Centre. We are in the stage of requesting permission before the local government entity. To receive permission to reopen the care centre there will be an inspection to review the available spaces and how many children per classroom it is possible to receive. We are stocking up on the items to fully follow the security protocols that the government have establishes to restart activities.

Our staff in Colombia are in regular contact with each family who we support and the children are looking forward to returning to their schools and to the Emmanuel Care Centre. They tell us that they would like to play again with their friends and see their teachers.

The Dominican Republic 

The Dominican Republic had a nationwide lockdown that consisted of restrictions on social gathering and public places being open. Schools were closed and families were advised to take precautions and socially distance. 

The Stand by Me children at the Casa Monte Plata Children's Village have been staying at home during lockdown, looked after by their home parents and following strict hygiene measures. The children at the Eva Russell School have been unable to attend school because of school closures and to ensure they stay safe to minimise the spread of Covid-19. Due to many of the families' low income this has been a difficult time. Many of the families of our children have low earning jobs that have not been possible to continue during the pandemic and many already struggled with unemployment. Our staff have been supporting families to ensure they have everything they need to stay safe, healthy and protected at home. 

Unfortunately cases of Covid-19 are rising in the Dominican Republic and as a result a national State of Emergency was declared on July 20th for a period. Curfews are now in place nationwide and wearing a mask in public is mandatory. The State of Emergency period will last 45 days and until that ends there is not yet news of when the schools will be able to reopen. 

Ethiopia

The first case of Covid-19 in Ethiopia was announced on 13th of March 2020 in Ethiopia. On the 16th March all schools, colleges and universities were closed. Following this, a state of emergency was declared by the Ethiopian Government for five months up to the end of August 2020 and the public ordered to stay home except for exceptional circumstances so as to contain the spread of the virus.

The current Covid-19 cases in Ethiopia has exceeded 15,000. From this over 6,000 have recovered so far and over 200 have sadly died. The current maximum 24 hour testing capacity of the country is about 8,500 people. The Covid-19 testing centres are concentrated in Addis Ababa (the capital city) where more than 70% cases have been found due to limited number of testing machines and testing kits elsewhere. Although the Government is planning to expand testing centres it has not yet reached Bekoji and Dembi Dollo. The nearest Covid-19 testing centre to Bekoji is in Assela, about 50 km away. The nearest Covid-19 testing centre  to Dembi Dollo is in Nekemte which is more than 300 km away. Tests are only given to those who have been in contact with someone who has had the virus and to those who are vulnerable to the virus due to their working situations. There are no confirmed cases registered with Covid-19 in Dembi Dollo to date.

Due to lockdown starting early in Ethiopia, it has become difficult to enforce all people to stay at home because of the fact that the majority of Ethiopian population lives a hand-to -mouth existence (daily subsistence) and the Government cannot subsidise them. Consequently, the Government changed its strategy for containing the spread of the virus in which lockdowns eased by introducing revised guidelines. The current lockdown rules include frequent and proper washing of hands with soap or hand sanitiser while entering banks, supermarkets, shops etc, wearing face-masks in public, keeping physical distancing of two metres, not to conduct meetings of more than 4 people, public transportation (taxi and bus) and government and private vehicles to reduce their capacity of accommodating people by 50% as well as other restrictions.

As a result of months of lockdown and because of the hardship of daily living, people have started to leave their homes in search of jobs. Physical distancing and wearing facemasks is almost forgotten especially outside of Addis Ababa despite the Government’s awareness campaigns and enforcement of the rules. Not wearing facemasks in public for some people emanated from negligence and for some because they cannot afford to buy them.

The main issues facing the children and families in the care of Stand by Me in both Bekoji and Dembi Dollo is limited access to employment on which most of the families survive. In addition, most of them are not in a position to purchase self-protection items like face-masks, sanitiser or soap. Stand by Me has supported the children and their families both in Bekoji and Dembi Dollo by distributing food parcels which have been a lifeline for families with no other source of income or supplies. Since the negative impact of the virus on the children and families has not yet improved, they still need further support. Moreover, protective items like facemasks, sanitiser, soap and cleaning products are also in demand by those who cannot afford to buy. We will continue to provide food parcels and other necessities to our children and their families for as long as they need to ensure their protection.

The Ethiopian Ministry of Education has recently announced that our schools could be reopened for the next academic year, probably from September 2020. However, the exact date of reopening and how to carry out the teaching and learning process has not yet been announced. We are assessing how we could reopen our schools safely and what measures would need to be put in place to ensure the correct hygiene and social distancing rules are followed.  Our priority will be to continue to ensure every family in our care has enough food and protective materials to keep themselves safe.  

Romania

Our staff and children at the House of Hope are safe and thankfully we have not had any cases of Covid-19 among our children or staff. The hospital of Caracal (25 minutes away from Dobrun where we work) was turned into a Covid-19 hospital and no other health issues are being treated there.

All over the country the confirmed cases tripled now compared with the time when Romania was in an emergency state in May. The new cases increase every day and the number of critical cases also increase. Masks are mandatory in closed public places, but not yet in public outdoor places except for one district. A few villages in Romania are in complete lockdown. Most people in Romania are careful but there is also a percentage of people who don't believe in the existence of the virus and therefore they don't protect themselves nor others.

When Romania was in a strict lockdown our team delivered food parcels and supplies to the neediest families in the community who we support through the Denisa Day Care Centre. This food was a great help to the families who could no longer go out to work and helped them stay safe during lockdown.

Now that lockdown restrictions have eased, many people need to venture out. At the House of Hope some of the girls need to go to their university cities for different pending activities or papers for the end of the school year which can't be delayed. We follow different preventive methods to stay healthy and keep the house as clean as possible.

Thankfully there have not been any Covid-19 cases reported in the village where Stand by Me works. The staff keep in touch online with the community children who we support and if there is a critical case in need of food or other support we are able to intervene. We still have a little food stored at home for those in serious need as well as facemask to provide for those who need them. The children are of course very affected, especially the ones who have difficult family circumstances, they are isolated from their friends, from school and from the care centre. We pray that it won’t be long until they can return.

Myanmar

On March 23rd a Covid-19 case was confirmed in Tedim, Chin State, and the country began to introduce restrictions, starting with the cancellation of university exams. As Kalaymyo is the main Road from Chin hill to Yangon and from Yangon to Chin hill, the government took direct action to protect the people. Lockdowns were introduced and all markets, restaurant, religious buildings, schools and other public places were closed. All festivals and ceremonies were forbidden and only one person was permitted to go out to do shopping from each household. The lockdown in Myanmar was extended until August 15th however some restrictions are being eased. 

Currently there are 356 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Myanmar, including 6 deaths. The government enforces a quarantine period for anyone arriving in Myanmar from a different country. The punishment for not quarantining is jail.  

There are some easing of restrictions. Now gatherings of more than 15 people are not allowed. The High schools (Grade 9 & 10) are opened but do not allow boarding students. The students can attend the school during the day and have to follow social distancing within the classrooms and wear face-masks. Middle schools (Grade 8 and below) are still closed. The Government has not announced yet when these schools will be opened but our schools are putting in the preparations and arrangements for the possible reopening in September. The shops, market, banks and many other public areas have also been opened. 

Our children are safe in our projects. We have provided prevention materials for our homes including masks and sanitiser. We have also provided additional nutritious food to keep our children healthy during this time, in particular as it is the monsoon season which brings about an increase of disease. 

One of the main issues in Myanmar is that due to border restrictions, many families' income has stopped. Many families income comes from the goods business but this is not allowed and there is no government support for those who have lost their income. In addition to this school teachers, Bible school teachers and others who work in training or institutions have had no income during the time when schools and other public buildings were closed. Stand by Me continued to pay the salaries of our school teachers during lockdown but we were the only organisation to do this. Therefore it has been a very hard time for many people during lockdown and many face financial hardship. 

India

India has experienced a high number of Covid-19 cases as a country. With a large population, and in particular a large population in the cities, there have been many clusters of cases. Our project is located in a more remote area of India. Our children's home in India is in a small town on the India-Myanmar border called Moreh. 

In March the border was closed and lockdown restrictions began. The children have been in lockdown since March and they have been staying safe at the children's home. Although they have been unable to go to school they are safe, healthy and are being cared for by the home parents. The India-Myanmar border is still closed and because of this many people are facing financial problems as they were completely reliant on trading and selling over the border for their income. 

Nepal

The Nepal government closed all schools in mid March with almost no time between the declaration and implementation. All exams were cancelled. All children had to return to their home villages and be isolated with family. No-one is allowed to mix and travel to food and medicine shops are the only outings allowed. Almost all our Hetauda children were therefore sent home but Prasant, our country director, is in contact with each family wherever possible and they know to contact him if they run into difficulties over food, money or health. Almost nobody has been allowed to work except those in key roles as in the UK but Prasant was worried that those families whose earners were labourers might run short. There is no social security but the government has supplied food aid to people. However, the system only provides such aid to people registered in a particular district. If you live in Makwanpur but were originally registered elsewhere and have migrated to Hetauda area for work, then there is no relief available, even if someone has been in work in the area for years and paid tax.

Prasant kept 8 children on site who have no family to go to. He and his wife are caring for these, together with a few staff who chose to remain. As the new school year has now begun, they are now doing online lessons, but the majority of those sent home will not be able to access this because they have no internet or devices in their home villages and no money to pay for such things. Prasant will ensure they get catch up tuition once school does resume. He has not been given any date for this to happen as yet. So there is very limited contact with the majority of the children and the sponsorship staff are also on lockdown at home, so no messages can be passed on to the children.

The Khairang Bethany School has been closed. Prasant is in communication with staff in Khairang and says the food shortage is beginning to be an issue but this is a relatively normal situation for the people at this time of year. Most families have kitchen gardens and are used to foraging in the jungle for foodstuffs, which is allowed. As soon as school reopens we will be able to send up the usual school meal rations. This is proving difficult due to the monsoon but our staff are doing everything they can to get food to the Khairang. Food prices in Nepal have risen steeply but there generally seems to be enough to buy if you can afford it.

The Government has recently said that it is the decision of the local authority to open schools and so we are waiting to hear advice and information from the local authority on when they will reopen the school for children and if this will be for all children or only particular year groups. Our staff will evaluate the safety of the reopening of our school and children’s home to ensure we minimise the risk of the virus.

Stand by... almost there...