In continuing response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) that emerged in late 2019, CWS is adjusting and coping – creatively and positively – in line with all government requirements and requests across Asia. In Cambodia, our partners are postponing many awareness-raising and education sessions until further notice. But, some activities that have five or fewer people gathering are continuing. Of course, community leaders and village volunteers are changing their ways of working. But, they are sharing information for behavior change for COVID-19. Virtual “home visits” are being done using mobile phone video aps. Amazingly, there is ‘drive by’ information-sharing! With motorcycle drivers and messengers duly protected, CWS partners are sharing basic information about COVID-19 prevention measures. Separately, at the Global Network for Disaster Reduction’s request, Cambodia’s Views from the Frontline 2019 workshops are postponed for now.
Our CWS Japan team is identifying activities in Afghanistan, Myanmar, Pakistan and Vietnam projects that can continue or be modified to allow progress to continue for disaster risk reduction (DRR) work. For example, we are exploring web-based DRR technology for transfer, and we are encouraging partners to work with maximum flexibility. Of course, all meetings, including those within Japan, are now virtual. And, CWS is also among Japanese non-government organizations (NGOs) advocating for more use Japan’s development assistance to support international cooperation with other countries at COVID-19 risk.
In Indonesia and Timor-Leste, CWS continues all water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), DRR and livelihoods support activities, with minor adjustments, to plans. All communities and families who participate in Timor Zero Hunger and DREAM (DRR) initiative are active. Recovery work in Central Sulawesi from the September 2018 earthquake and tsunami continues, too. Mission critical work such as life-saving access to health services and COVID-19 education and information, continues for refugees in Jakarta. Creatively, the health helpdesk for refugees is going virtual.
Activities in Myanmar, where CWS and partners work just a few hours west from Yangon in the Ayeyarwady River delta, also continue. The team there is able to proceed with minor adjustments to our Community-Based Resilience and Development plans. The initiative includes one-on-one work with families for sanitary latrine construction, which continues apace. Separately, livelihoods support – house by house – is on schedule. Changes made are to respect a government mandate to cap gatherings at nine people each. So, the Maubin YMCA, who we support, has shifted to smaller sewing classes. At the request of the Global Network for Disaster Reduction, Myanmar’s Views from the Frontline 2019 community planning workshops are postponed until community leaders are ready to reengage.
In Thailand, our child protection project with The Church of Christ in Thailand is going virtual, and the team is preparing to beta test a virtual Writer Workshop for schools and churches. The plan is for the team to backstop the virtual workshops in real time from the office. People will meet in small groups – with all due social distancing and mask-wearing – to write their Child Safeguarding Codes of Conduct. Separately, construction work at the Kwai River Christian Hospital, near the Thai-Myanmar border in west central Thailand, continues. Finally, the Vietnam team is reviewing work plans with an eye on creative and flexible ways to prioritize WASH improvement and DRR planning activities. The team will work virtually with partners to continue as planned, or in new ways. Like colleagues across the region and around the world, despite challenges due to wise Government caution and restrictions on movement and gatherings, the Vietnam team is hard at work!