ADRA and the SDA Church Continues COVID-19 Response Project in Mindanao

 The continuing increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases with severe threats to health, safety, and severe economic disruption has led to several challenges now confronted by Filipinos across the nation.

According to the Department of Health (DOH), a total of 2,490,858  cases have been confirmed, and 37,405 deaths have been recorded as of September 27. In its latest report, the World Health Organization (WHO), shared that the Philippines ranks second among the countries with the highest cases and deaths within the region.

“ADRA is implementing a response program to COVID-19” says Tom Pignon, ADRA’s Country director in the Philippines. “From September 1, 2021 – May 1, 2022, we will focus on Matanao, Davao del Sur and the whole island of Mindanao. ADRA will continue its collaboration with the SDA Church and build partnerships with new communities in four areas.

 “In spite of the economy reopening, millions remain unemployed,” Pignon says. “The internally displaced people (IDP) in Mindanao have challenging housing situations and difficulty accessing decent income opportunities.”

“The majority of these laborers are essentially on a “no work, no pay” scheme,” Pignon adds. “Many farmers have found it difficult to market their products since most food establishments closed and the number of consumers significantly decreased.”

To support the livelihood activities of this highly vulnerable group, ADRA will focus on building the capacity of 300 community members on vegetable farming and goat raising. To ensure sustainability, ADRA will integrate a savings mechanism that has been working well in other ADRA projects to improve the financial literacy of the beneficiaries and help meet their household needs.

The pandemic also caused significant challenges and threats to the medical workers on the frontlines, and the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) has posed a critical challenge. Health care workers have the highest risk of exposure to the virus as they work in hospitals to diagnose and treat COVID-19, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

As of March 31, a total of 15,907 health workers have been recorded to be infected, and of that total, 15,248 have recovered, 82 died, and 577 are currently infected. Recently, ADRA provided surgical masks, face shields, alcohol, and disinfectants to 17 health facilities across the Philippines.

The number of Filipinos seeking psychological first aid has additionally increased during the pandemic. Benard Argamosa, the program director of the National Center for Mental Health, shared that the number of people seeking consultation through their crisis hotline has tripled due to COVID-19. Most callers expressed experiencing sadness, nervousness, and anxiety. In ADRA’s recent assessment in Davao del Sur, the government frontline workers have identified their need for psychosocial support.

Recently, ADRA has provided psychological first aid (PFA) services to the medical front liners and vulnerable communities through the Stronger Together and EMBRACE COVID-19 Projects across the Philippines. To help promote the psychological wellbeing of the people of Mindanao, ADRA intends to build the capacity of local volunteers in conducting PFA and making necessary referrals to appropriate health authorities.

Although the Philippine government has required all Filipinos to wear face masks or other forms of facial protective gear when leaving their homes, there are still many community members and remote villages that violate these policies. There is false information that keeps the public unclear on the basic aspects of COVID-19, such as modes of transmission, the range of symptoms (predominantly asymptomatic cases), the nature of testing, hospitalizations, and treatments.

Vaccine hesitancy remains high according to the March 2021 survey from Pulse Asia. Results show that only 16 percent of the respondents would like to get the COVID-19 vaccine once available. Those who were unwilling to be vaccinated against COVID-19 expressed that they have concerns regarding safety, vaccine brand, and fear of the effects of the vaccine.

“Clear and transparent communications on all aspects of COVID-19 would help build public trust in vaccine safety and efficacy. ADRA continues to promote awareness through the use of radio programming, social media and printed IEC materials,” says Pignon. “In the future ADRA plans to include the use of television to reach a wider community.