A new resource for humanitarians fighting Covid-19

A child has their temperature checked at an evacuation centre set up following Super Typhoon Goni in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, 1 November. EPA / Rolex Dela Pena

Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies is behind a new platform for workers in the field to share their experiences in crisis-affected countries.

From tackling rumours in Nigeria to setting up mental health services in the Philippines, humanitarian agencies responding to Covid-19 have taken on a range of sometimes unfamiliar roles.

With the sector operating under the dual pressures of increased need and tight travel and social restrictions, there is no blueprint for the situations many find themselves in, making it more important than ever for them to share their experiences with one another.

That was the thinking behind the Covid-19 humanitarian platform, launched by the Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The website provides guidance to organisations on how they can respond to Covid-19 in crisis-affected areas, across public health and other fields, as well as how to adapt their existing responses.

Alongside a selection of key research and the latest technical reports, the platform allows humanitarians to share their field experience using the Covid-19 tracker . International organisations and local actors have used the tracker to share anecdotes and testimonies from countries around the world including Pakistan, Iraq, and Sierra Leone.

“There has been a lot of global guidance issued… but it was not adapted to humanitarian crises, and it has not been updated,” explains Karl Blanchet of the Geneva Centre of Humanitarian Studies.

“By collecting field experience, we have concrete solutions found by humanitarian organisations,” he adds. “What is very important is to share all this field experience with the global community, in order for it to be duplicated in other settings.”

Blanchet says humanitarians have been sharing tips on how to do their vital work while prioritising the safety of their staff - ideas ranging from swapping hospital visits for WhatsApp consultations, to suggestions on how to protect education from disruption. The platform is used by United Nations agencies, as well as international organisations such as the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and local NGOs and service providers.

The tracker also provides the latest official Covid-19 figures in countries experiencing humanitarian crises. The aim is to provide organisations with an overview of the circumstances in the crisis-affected countries where they operate, while also seeking to raise awareness of the situation within the international community.

“There is a common misunderstanding that nothing is happening in countries affected by humanitarian crisis, and that everything is happening in high-income countries,” suggests Blanchet. “[We need to be] careful about the situation because we know that, with Covid, if we do not respond to every country's situation, the pandemic is not going to be over. We need to have a global response.

“This tracker gives more visibility to each country's situation and tries to make sense of it,” he adds. “It helps ensure we don't neglect these countries. That's very important. ”