Please enter some search terms
Why Covid-19 is disrupting international development like never before

How Covid-19 is disrupting international development like never before

Every day we hear of friends or family who are sick or have died. People are running around trying to find oxygen for those who are really sick. In rural areas there are only 20 to 30 ventilators per district. There are 10 blocks to a district. Guraru block alone has about 240,000 families. Oxygen cylinders are in such short supply. One cylinder used to cost Rs.7000 - Rs.8000. Now they cost Rs.70,000 - Rs.80,000. The scene here is truly apocalyptic. 

This is the state of affairs in India as described by a volunteer worker of an Australian founded NGO.

The COVID crisis has created challenges for the international development community, making the some of the hardest-hit communities in developing countries difficult to reach, and disrupting any sense of normal operation. 

In countries like India, the most recent surge has had tragic consequences as health systems and supply chains have been overwhelmed. The pandemic has demanded new ways of approaching development, and sudden shifts in development priorities and strategies, to have any chance of sustaining impact.

Recently, ThinkPlace partner Darren Menachemson spoke with Carly James, ThinkPlace's Executive Director of Global Development, and with Wendy Royston and Graeme Batterbury, Directors of a small, high-impact NGO called WEIV (Women Empowerment in Indian Villages) on how they have responded to the pandemic, and what it's like driving impact in areas deeply affected by the virus.

You can watch the full video below.

WEIV is helping rural families in India with immediate medical needs through COVID Relief fund. Your donations would go a long way to help get doctors, medicine and food for those most in need. Click here for details.  

The Covid disruption

For Wendy, Graeme, and their dedicated staff, a lot of work had gone into creating Literacy Centres, a programme aimed at illiterate adolescent girls aged 13 to 18 years who are not in the education system because their families need them for domestic work, to help work on the land, or in other ways earn money for their family. They come from the poorest families and no fees are charged.

After a two-year commitment from the staff and the girls, some of them were ready to go to the Government schools and even attended one or two days of school just as the pandemic hit. This has not only hampered the momentum gained from years of development work that had gone into this programme but also brought the question of unpredictability on when this can re-start or what that could look like.

Design at a distance

Carly brings a different perspective from another part of the world in Kenya, Africa where ThinkPlace is involved in large scale behaviour change projects in sexual reproductive health, maternal and newborn health, HIV and AIDS, malnutrition and financial inclusion.

Thinkplace opened a new office in Senegal last year in the thick of the pandemic and the team has been able to set off ground because of the way the country has responded to the pandemic with strict restrictions, outperforming many wealthier nations across the world. A lot of Central and Western Africa was coming off the back of Ebola and other endemic outbreaks that set them up for a certain level of preparedness and infrastructure. Strict mask-wearing standards enforced from the beginning has also helped accelerate their recovery.  

As the pandemic unfolded, it has become increasingly difficult to continue performing high quality research and development in these remote and rural areas. ThinkPlace have been adapting rapidly by a methodology called ‘Design by distance’ where research, prototype and interventions are conducted in an analogous setting before rolling them out in field.

ThinkPlace have been conducting remote research even before the pandemic by using innovative tools like EnGauge – a social insights sharing platform that uses mobile phone messaging platforms to gather deep, qualitative insights from hard-to-reach communities.  

Development Challenges

COVID-19 has highlighted so many of the pervasive development challenges in countries like India. We often think of crisis response as the provision of supplies. As with challenges like food security, however, the root cause is not the supply of resources itself but the distribution of ample resources to the right places.

Oxygen cylinders are not reaching those who need it most, which is partly an infrastructural challenge, partly an accessibility challenge and partly a coordination challenge. But there are many high impact organisations like WEIV that are coming up with new methodologies to continue the development work and reach those most in need.

While the Covid crisis can feel overwhelming, the work of organisations like WEIV restores hope that the world will bounce back with greater strength.

WEIV is helping rural families in India with immediate medical needs through COVID Relief fund. Your donations would go a long way to help get doctors, medicine and food for those most in need. Click here for details.  



Share article: 
Carlyn James's profile'
Carlyn James
Darren Menachemson's profile'
Darren Menachemson

Want to stay up to date with our work and ideas?

Sign up for our monthly newsletter

Sign up