COVID-19 Op-ed

Communities at the Frontlines of Beating COVID-19

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Duoi Ampilan

Duoi
Ampilan is a humanitarian aid worker. He was a member of the Global
Humanitarian Team of Oxfam and was deployed to various emergency responses in
Asia and Africa, including the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa as a frontline
responder and public health promoter. Send your feedback and queries to
AAmpilan@gmail.com. Read more from Duoi Ampilan: “Stay healthy and, above
all, keep calm” (05 March 2020) at
https://bit.ly/3aZgCRCThe COVID-19 pandemic evoked a synergy of
resources, competencies, and capacities among different response actors, from
civil society organizations, United Nations agencies, the private sector, to
governments. As we have seen in the Philippines and elsewhere, there can be
no monopoly of expertise in dealing with this highly infectious disease
because collaborative actions are needed at all fronts. This is precisely why
communities are integral in the humanitarian response cycle (Niederberger,
et al,, 2019).As stated in the Core Humanitarian
Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS), which sets out nine commitments
to measure and improve the quality and effectiveness of assistance provided
by humanitarian and development actors: community involvement at
all stages of decision-making is an essential right for
people affected by emergencies (CHS Alliance, et al,
2018). While the CHS may presently be a voluntary code for
humanitarian actors, these commitments nevertheless affirm that people
affected by crisis should be at the front and center of all actions that
involve them; and that, their human rights must be respected.Without
meaningful, active, and genuine community engagement and participation,
COVID-19 will continue to travel beyond barricades, boundaries, and borders.
In this regard, preparedness is critical and local government units will have
a huge role to play in preventing health facilities, which should be the last
line of defense, from being overwhelmed. In the Philippines, several private
hospitals in the National Capital Region have stopped accepting COVID-19
patients as numbers continue to rise. Other locations are now being
considered as surge capacity health facilities and quarantine areas, such as
stadiums, sports complexes, and convention centers. We cannot afford to send
home those showing signs and symptoms of the disease or there is a risk of
spreading in areas where there is a breakdown of preventive protocols. A
contingency plan must be set in place, and even these need further back-up
plans, in the event COVID-19 cases continue to increase within the next four
to 12 months. Most importantly, communities need to be actively part of these
plans; otherwise, interventions will not be sustained.Mobilized communities
will be better equipped to actively participate in containing, controlling,
preventing, and managing COVID-19. A gender lens throughout all phases of
response operations ensures underserved, marginalized, and at-risk individuals
are reached (Dinglasan & Miranda, 2019). In this regard, the
Barangay Health Emergency Response Team (BHERT) and
other community-level mechanisms and structures can be leveraged to better
reach families and individuals. The barangay is the
smallest political and administrative unit for government action; and each
municipality or city is composed of several barangays.  With proper
resources, support, and guidance from national and local governments, BHERTs
can do much more than relief distribution and supervising checkpoints or
quarantine areas. Community members can be recruited to augment BHERTs, and
be trained in active case finding, case referrals, and health promotion
activities. After all, community members are best equipped to understand
shared norms and values around risks and coping mechanisms of other community
members during a crisis.References

  1. Niederberger E, Knight L, O’Reilly M. An Introduction to Community
    Engagement in WASH. January 2019. https://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/an-introduction-to-community-engagement-in-wash-620611.
    Accessed April 7, 2020.
  2. Core Humanitarian
    Standard on Quality and Accountability
    . CHS Alliance, Group URD
    and the Sphere Project; 2018. doi:10.18356/4a4b59ce-en
  3. CNN Philippines Staff. Hospitals close doors to COVID-19 patients
    after reaching capacity. CNN Philippines. https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/3/24/st-lukes-coronavirus-patients.html?fbclid=IwAR0gXkJvLT6woPwp_-3C32uy9c2-vEP8_iSo8RxnJCZbxjI-7spAVxRa6CI.
    Published March 24. Accessed April 7, 2020.
  4. News A-C.
    Rizal Memorial to be operational as quarantine facility by Monday. ABS-CBN
    News. https://news.abs-cbn.com/sports/04/05/20/rizal-memorial-to-be-operational-as-quarantine-facility-by-monday.
    Accessed April 7, 2020.
  5. Dinglasan A, Miranda P.
    Safeguarding women’s rights during disasters. https://opinion.inquirer.net/120369/safeguarding-womens-rights-during-disasters.
    Accessed April 7, 2020.

 

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