COVID-19: A Challenge for All of Us

Berlin, 24. March 2020

Statement by Susanne Wesemann, director of Johanniter International Assistance, on the coronavirus pandemic

Susanne Wesemann, director of Johanniter International Assistance. Photo: Inga Sommer

COVID-19 does not stop at country borders. Almost all nations report cases, followed in many places by border closures, curfews and health emergencies. Not only are our ways of living and working together being tested, but also our solidarity and assistance for those most in need.

For Johanniter International Assistance, one thing is clear: We must protect our employees and those of our partner organisations from health and economic consequences in times of pandemic, but at the same time continue with our aid programmes in 16 project countries. Because of the pandemic, we must not turn our backs on other emergencies and the people affected by those. The Ebola outbreak in the DR Congo, the locust crisis in East Africa or the victims of a series of earthquakes in the Philippines are just a few examples.

Since mid-March, a task force of Johanniter International Assistance in Berlin has been working together with the country offices to balance between operational capability and protection needs and act accordingly. One of the few certainties today: COVID-19 will keep us busy for many months and will affect countries with weak health systems particularly hard. This is why we urgently promote and implement additional preventive measures. 

Protecting Employees, Adapting Aid Measures

Our country office in Afghanistan leads the way: we started early on to take protective measures for the team and adapt activities. Awareness campaigns are currently taking place in informal settlements in Kabul. Hundreds of posters and banners have been put up, and flyers distributed in order to raise awareness and increase protection. Together with our partner organisation Organisation for Human Welfare (OHW), we will distribute soap and disinfectants in 21 settlements starting next week. A mobile health team supports Provincial Public Health Directorate to surveillance of COVID -19 at the entry points of two provinces near the Pakistani border.

In the DR Congo, we strengthen handwashing activities in health centres and associated communities. These were part of the measures initiated mainly in the wake of the Ebola outbreak and are now being increased. In this way, we can make an important contribution to reducing the risk of overcrowded health stations and hospitals in the coming weeks and months.

Handwashing is more important than ever against the coronavirus. It is part of preventive measures in several project countries. Photo: Johanniter/Ramm

These challenges and necessary changes require us to be flexible, also in financial terms. We are working with our institutional donors to examine how we can reallocate already planned project funds for health measures against the virus. However, we will also have to finance additional measures and structures increasingly with our own resources. If you would like to support us, we are grateful for every donation in this challenging time.

'It is vital that locust control activities and their impact on livelihoods continue, with local communities at the forefront,' say Regional Alliance Against Locusts (RDLA) campaigners. Read more about the locust crisis here.

Bündnispartner der Johanniter: Aktion Deutschland hilft, Gemeinsam für Afrika, VENRO und DZI

Your contact person Sandra Lorenz - Head of Communications

Lützowstr. 94
10785 Berlin