As we all have experienced, COVID-19 has changed the way we work dramatically. As a charity, it has presented some of the biggest challenges we have ever had to face.


Throughout this pandemic, what has not changed is our commitment to the children we support; ensuring their safety and well-being remains our number one priority.

Like us here in the UK, many of the countries where we work went into lockdown and faced unprecedented restrictions. This placed the most marginalised children and vulnerable adults - street connected children, children who engage in child labour, girls, children with disabilities - at higher risk of exploitation, abuse and harm.

As a small agile organisation, when COVID-19 started impacting countries we work in we were able to quickly adapt our programmes, to ensure new emerging needs of children and vulnerable adults could be met. Because of how we work, when these additional needs arose, we were able to swiftly develop new approaches to address these needs while ensuring the safety of children and the people we work with wasn’t compromised.






Key actions we took

Material support emergency relief packs including food, face masks, soap, clean water, and sanitary pads.

Raising awarenesssharing and promoting the adoption of good health practices, informing communities about COVID-19, sensitizing about the virus and how it spreads, and sharing resources and information. Also, raising awareness of the increase in forced labour, trafficking, and early marriage.

Education and training – learning packs and worksheets, socially distanced house visits, and training and support for partners, teachers, and community based volunteers.

Social welfare - forming child welfare committees, psycho-social support to children, and training for partners and staff members.

 ​How you can help us build back stronger 

COVID-19 has affected charity fundraising around the world. Charities in the UK, including ChildHope, face an average 25% decrease in income. It was one of our toughest years on record and although we kept all our programmes running, adapting projects to meet additional needs the pandemic has raised, we now need to recover from the shocks of 2020. You could help us to build back stronger by making a donation or setting up a regular gift.

Our response to COVID-19

Ethiopia

We produced and distributed learning packs with worksheets so the girls could continue their studies, we raised awareness for the risk of increase in early marriages, and provided teacher training on psycho-social support.

Bangladesh

We distributed 72 emergency food packs to children of garment factory workers and their mothers, supporting 172 families from the day care and drop-in centres we work with.

Sierra Leone

We provided 57 children and 19 families with hygiene and sanitation kits (hand-washing facilities, soap, hand sanitizers and face masks), food packages with essential items, and produced and distributed 408 face masks to community members. We also shared key information and raised awareness about the risks of COVID-19 with children, families, and community members.

India

We distributed 100 cooked food parcels, 600 face masks and hand sanitisers, and 496 packages of food supplies including rice, lentils, cooking oil and spices. The team also did awareness work on COVID-19 in the communities, which were also supported by some children.

Further activities we implemented 

In Ethiopia

Health, hygiene and sanitation

Learning packs containing worksheets

Learning packs have been produced and distributed containing worksheets in mathematics, English, and Amharic/Oromiffa. The packs included letters to parents prompting them to encourage and support their child in distance learning activities. Learning packs have also been made accessible for visually impaired students. 254 girls with learning disabilities have received learning packs appropriately adjusted to meet their needs.

Retention in education

Of the 15,048 GEC-T girls who were in education at the time of school closures (March 2020), 14,731 had returned to education as of December (14,043 in Schools; 688 in Universities); a retention rate of 97.89%. These rates are a testament to the work of the Community Workers, Community Volunteers, Principals, and teachers who remained in contact with GEC-T girls throughout the school closures and who were involved in the creation and distribution of the distance learning worksheets, and the back-to-school awareness campaign. The 97.89% retention rate is above retention rates recorded following similar emergencies, such as the Ebola virus epidemic of 2013–2016.

Back to school activities

Despite the delays in schools re-opening in October, once re-opened, teachers and CHADET staff have worked together to quickly restart project activities so that girls were fully engaged in their education and non-curricula activities.

Teacher training in psycho-social support (PSS) and learning disabilities

This new activity has been introduced as it is a vital component of maintaining the safety, and the health and well-being of the girls, teachers, and community. When girls feel safe and supported, they are more likely to remain in school and continue their learning. The training focuses on PSS in the context of COVID-19 and builds on PSS learning from previous safeguarding training. Topics included: recognising the signs of trauma and withdrawal; responding to the need for support; reporting and referring to the appropriate medical and social service.

As a result of the pandemic, students have suffered by missing school, missing friends and being isolated at home. The Project identified girls in need of support:

Raising awareness on early marriage during the COVID-19

In May 2020, project staff and volunteers in the South Gonder and Arsi zones, became aware of a spike in traditional early marriages, following reports from GEC-T girls and their Principals. 25 early marriages were reported (12 in South Gonder; 13 in Arsi) which prompted Dr. Wossen Argaw (Deputy Director of CHADET – our local partner in Ethiopia) to take immediate and decisive action. Actions included:

Combating isolation and lack of information

In Sierra Leone

WASH: Provide 57 children and 19 families with hygiene and sanitation kits (hand-washing facilities, soap/hand sanitizers and face masks) to prevent and protect them from contracting the virus. 408 face masks will be produced and distributed to community members.

A total of 520 beneficiaries (direct and indirect) were reached with hygiene and sanitation materials. 19 vulnerable families received veronica buckets, detergents (liquid soap, antiseptic, hand sanitizers) and 450 face masks were distributed among partners, stakeholders and FFF community response structures to help prevent and protect them from contracting the virus. Selection of the vulnerable families was done using FFF’s Vulnerability Criteria and Selection Tool (VCaST), in consultation with the District Emergency Covid Response Center (DICOVERC), the government Covid Response Coordination structure in the district.

12 trainees of the Girls Education and Empowerment Project (GEEP) supported by Highway One Trust, including 3 recent graduates, were contracted to produce the 450 face masks in order to increase their skills competence and generate income for their livelihood during this crisis.

Out of the 450 face masks produced, 150 of the face masks were distributed among FFF’s partners and stakeholders; the remaining 300 face mask were distributed among the 19 vulnerable families that benefitted from the handwashing facilities, and some FFF’s community response structures (the Girls Alert Clubs (GACs), Child Protection Committees, and 6 schools within FFF’s operational communities).


Food Security: Provide food assistance to 19 families to guarantee they meet their basic needs and can provide for their children. Provide food to families and community members staying in quarantine homes.

In a bid to support quarantine homes with baby food, which had been identified as a dire need at the onset of the outbreak, provision was made under this component for the supply of 20 tins of assorted baby milk to quarantine homes. However, with the reduction in the number of children in quarantine facilities and in consultation with ChildHope, funds meant for baby food were directed to purchase food items for quarantine homes. The food package containing 4 bags of 25kg rice, 10 gallons of vegetable oil, 1 big bag of iodized salt, 1 big bag of onions and 400 packets of mineral was donated through the Kenema District COVID-19 Emergency Response Centre (DICOVERC) to quarantine homes. The items were received by the DICOVERC Coordinator and the Head of the Logistics, who expressed appreciation and commendation of FFF in the COVID-19 response. The DICOVERC Coordinator assured FFF and the funder that the donated food item will be used for its intended purpose, adding that the donation was timely as DICOVERC was already challenged with food supply for quarantine homes.

Under this component also, 19 bags of 25kg rice, 19 gallons of cooking oil and other cooking condiments were supplied to 19 vulnerable households, mainly single mothers, persons with disabilities, widows within the municipality of Kenema. This food assistance was to guarantee that the families could meet their basic needs and to provide for their children as well. 40 children benefitted directly as dependents from the food assistance.


Risk Communication and Community Outreach: Share key information and raise awareness about the risks of COVID-19 with children, families and community members across 6 communities.

375 community members were reached with risk communication through house to house sensitization and distribution of over 500 IEC materials (flyers and posters) with key information. These flyers were supplied by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation as support to Infection Prevention Control (IPC) sensitisation in the project communities. During the outreach, FFF team shared simple messages with caregivers and families on coping with stress during COVID-19 and how they can help children cope with stress.

6 Community Child Protection structures were supported with megaphones containing automated COVID-19 infection, prevention and control messages to enhance information dissemination and awareness raising within the community. These megaphones will continue to serve the communities in other community functions that require information dissemination after the COVID-19 pandemic.

6 radio discussion programmes reaching over 10,000 listeners were carried out to raise awareness about the risks of COVID-19 on children, families and community members and how it can be prevented. This media public education was conducted in partnership with DICOVERC. The radio discussion programmes were simulcast and conducted in krio and two community languages to capture wider audience.


Child Protection: Engagement and coordination with Child Welfare Committees and duty bearers across 6 communities to discuss increase in child protection issues and risks during COVID-19.

3 Child Protection Coordination meetings were supported under this component. The meetings were held monthly to share information and raise awareness about the safeguarding and protection risks for children during the pandemic. 40 partner participants (18 female & 22 male) attended the 3 meetings.

30 people including Community Child Protection Volunteers (CCPVs), Sierra Leone Police, Local government representative (Ward Councillor), District security Coordinator, representative from Gender and Children Affairs, Community chief and other duty bearers were trained on Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC) guidelines set in place by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in collaboration with the National COVID Emergency Response Center (NACOVERC). CCPVs are members of the Child Welfare Committees in our intervention communities.

The key topics covered centred around the role of Families and community members in the prevention and control measures below:

The Family Support Unit (FSU) of the Sierra Leone Police in Kenema, was supported with logistics (fuel and communication) to facilitate the investigation of an alleged case of child marriage and sexual abuse in Nekabo community in the Nongowa chiefdom. 3 perpetrators, including a community chief, were arrested, investigated and charged to court. However, one of the perpetrators was on the run and his matter was kept in view.

In all of the Child Protection activities FFF worked closely with the District COVID Emergency Response Centre (DICOVERC), the government structure set up to provide oversight and coordination to all COVID-19 response activities in the district.

In Bangladesh

We distributed food packs to 172 families out of the 200 families that attend the day care centre and drop in centres we support. We were not able to reach other families as they had left Dhaka for their villages. The food packs included Horlicks health drink, rice, lentils, biscuits, and other dried goods.

“Ten years ago my husband lost his two toes due to an accident and since then he cannot do any heavy work. So I am the only earning person of the family. Since lockdown I could not collect waste from the dumpsite and earn money. Now a days we cannot afford our regular meal. Last night we could eat some rice with spinach but today we do not have any food. I could not pay my house rent for three months. Now, the combined amount has become Tk. 12000 (£115). The landlord is pressurizing and harassing me every day for the house rent. My two daughters are not going to school. I cannot find any job. I don’t know what is going to happen in our life.” - *Sharmin, waste picker

“My mother is a waste picker. Besides going to school, sometimes, I also collect wastes with my mother from the dump site. Since lockdown, my school has been closed; I do not know when it will be opened. My mother cannot go to work and now, we don’t have money. Most of the times we suffer from starvation. I cannot play with my friends freely. Sometimes, while playing outside, some people scold us for playing outside the home. I do not like this situation.” *Raju, child waste picker

In Nepal

COVID-19 relief kits were distributed to a total of 240 minors (mostly girls) working in the adult entertainment sector (dance bar, restaurant, pubs, casino, etc.) in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. Each kit contains hygiene and nutrition items that include sanitary pads, sanitizer, hand wash, mask and nutritional supplements like local staple food grains and honey. Around 30 distressed children identified by team members in Nepal received psychosocial counselling support as well. We have joined up with local psychosocial service providers both in Nepal and Bangladesh, and will continue to identify and extend the psychosocial support in the communities we are working.

Community based learning classes adapted to raise community awareness on COVID-19.

“After joining the community based classes, I learnt about the preventive measures of COVID-19. Prior to this, me and my family and neighbours had no clue about coronavirus. But now, I am regularly washing my hands, practice other guidelines and have encouraged others too. I have stopped roaming outside my house unnecessarily. I love the community based classes as some of my friends are also participating, and we can’t wait to get back to the school’’.

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