On 23 March, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue has launched a global initiative in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative, which focuses on conflict-affected areas, laid out the measures HD is taking to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to mitigate its impact.
The initiative outlines four main HD goals, pursued in collaboration with global health experts:
The Southern Cameroon’s Defence Force (SOCADEF) separatist movement announced a unilateral ceasefire, which was facilitated by HD and came into effect on 29 March 2020. The initial commitment by SOCADEF combat units to stand down for a period of 14 days in order to facilitate humanitarian efforts in support of COVID-19 prevention, was later renewed for a further 14 days.
This was despite alleged attacks by government forces. The ceasefire was extended again on 25 April.
HD facilitated declarations of solidarity on 18 April 2020 by two of the main armed groups in CAR, namely the Front démocratique du peuple centrafricain (FDPC) and the Retour, Réclamation, Réhabiliation groupe (3R). These two separate public calls for peaceful coexistence and the facilitation of humanitarian access to combat COVID-19 send important signals of appeasement during this turbulent period. The FDPC and 3R are both signatories to the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation (APPR) that officially ended the civil war in CAR on 6 February 2019.
On 25 March 2020, youth representatives of 10 communities in Benue state signed a joint communiqué committing to uphold peaceful co-existence during and beyond the COVID-19 outbreak. This was followed by endorsement from the Community Chairs and Women’s Groups. Benue state is the epicentre of farmer-herder conflicts in Nigeria’s volatile Middle Belt region.
On 6 and 7 April 2020 the chairs and women representatives of 23 ethnic communities across six Local Government Areas in Southern Plateau, Plateau state, signed a similar agreement to uphold peaceful co-existence during and beyond the COVID-19 outbreak. Both agreements were facilitated by HD.
HD has also been distributing information pamphlets on COVID-19 in local languages that have been printed and disseminated inhard-to-reach communities, including IDPs and refugees, approximately 10’000 pamphlets for Middle Belt region and 20’000 for North-East Nigeria.
HD is also using the Early Warning and Early Response System CEWERS to convey COVID-19 related information to communities through bulk text messaging across Middle Belt region, producing radio messaging and secured television segments for awareness raising aired in Plateau, Kaduna and Borno States.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted individuals and communities all over the Philippines, with a state of calamity having been declared in March of 2020. The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) faces its own particular challenge, with COVID-19 putting strain on an already fragile situation.
HD responded by supporting information dissemination online and through a weekly radio show, by deploying youth volunteers in the BARMM to monitor and report incidences of conflict, and by working with women’s cooperatives for the production and distribution of face masks.
A huge part of combating covid-19 is delivering trustworthy information about the pandemic so people know how to protect themselves and those around them. Over the past decade, hundreds of thousands of people fled the Southern Philippines to nearby Sabah in order to escape one of Asia’s bloodiest wars. COVID-19 poses a new threat, however, as the cramped conditions that many of them live in and a lack of access to healthcare means that they face a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19. Amid the ongoing pandemic, HD has partnered with NGO Advocates for Non-Discrimination and Access to Knowledge (ANAK) to help reach some of the most marginalised migrant communities in Sabah.
HD is currently mobilising its existing networks for 200 religious leaders in Mali, 1800 agro-pastoral community leaders and 1250 youth associations to share prevention messages across the G5 Sahel countries – including through videos and debates on Sahel youth Facebook page & radio shows.
HD has also translated COVID-19 pamphlets into 24 local languages across four countries (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad); spreading messages through HD mediators’ network and peace committees.
HD invited the States’ representatives to train more than 500 leaders on COVID-19 prevention who, afterwards, shared information messages to almost 10,000 people. Connecting communities’ representatives from Mali, Niger and Chad to their authorities also allowed them to feed States with information on prevention measures’ impact on daily life in rural areas.
The Casamance separatist forces have been in conflict with the government of Senegal since 1983 and a final political solution to the conflict has yet to be found.
In April 16, 2020, with HD’s involvement, the North-western, South-western and South-eastern fronts of the Movement of the Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) have committed to fully cooperate with the Senegalese health authorities as well as humanitarian organisations to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Somalia, HD is using community dialogue channels to convey information to hard-to-reach communities, integrating COVID-19 messages into ongoing dialogue process activities and producing and disseminating COVID-19 messages through social media.
Since the launch of the initiative, HD has briefed key government officials in both Puntland and Galmudug on the projects it has planned to launch, obtaining their buy-in and backing. This has been a way of ensuring conformity with and support to on-going government programmes and messaging on COVID-19. The projects have consequently enjoyed a broadly positive reception.
On the awareness-raising front, HD has produced COVID-19 posters for public distribution in North and South Galkayo and printed informational materials which were distributed in public spaces. Two billboards were further printed and erected by HD in central locations on both sides of Galkayo. These were branded with the logos of both governments, along with the EU’s logo, in line with branding agreed upon during on-going community dialogue processes organised by HD in Galkayo.
HD has also shared information on preventatative measures through community consultation platforms and events. Information on COVID-19 has further been compiled by HD into radio messages broadcasted by the Voice of Peace (PL) and Radio Hayaan (GM).
Handwashing facilities were purchased and installed by HD at public gathering places, with handwashing demonstrations being given to encourage their proper use. Soap was additionally distributed to vulnerable populations. Sensitization drives around Galkayo have also contributed to public awareness on preventative measures.
Following the identification of a local producer, HD was able to facilitate the production of 2,000 masks which were then distributed by strategic partners, including the Humanitarian Aid and Human Rights Department of the Benadir Regional Administration’s Office of the Mayor and the Ministry of Interior, Federal Affairs & Reconciliation. These masks were distributed free of charge to all districts of Mogadishu and to IDP camps and busy market places.
In addition to the production of free masks, HD piloted a project to get Somalian produced “Peace Masks” to consumers outside the country. The project is meant to create an additional source of revenue for small-scale mask producers from conflict-affected regions who are now experiencing the added burden of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In its recent official statement facilitated by HD, SSOMA has agreed to renew their commitment to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement it signed in Rome on 12 January 2020 with the Government of South Sudan, reiterating its concern for the general safety of the South Sudanese people in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.
SSOMA has also committed to partnering with relevant bodies to facilitate humanitarian access to South Sudan’s populations, allowing for the dissemination of basic health information and key health practices that can help mitigate the spread of coronavirus in the country.
HD’s engagement in South Sudan has mainly been through facilitating humanitarian dialogue, bringing together the government, humanitarian agencies as well as armed groups. HD has also been facilitating the platforms where experts and donors share their analyses and reflections on the challenges facing humanitarian operations in South Sudan.
In partnership with the EU, HD is working with Reconcile International, a local organisation, in disseminating life-saving information through distributing pamphlets on COVID-19 in several local languages, as well as providing hygiene products in hard-to-reach areas that affected by the fighting between SSOMA and the government.
HD is also partnering with Mama Veronica Tailoring Group, a women’s group in Yei to produce face masks for COVID-19 frontline workers in Central Equatoria. HD is also helping produce a radio programme diffused in Yei and surrounding areas, where doctors talk about how communities can protect themselves and reduce risk of infection. The radio programme also includes peace dialogues, encouraging the community in dialogue around peacebuilding.
The conflict in Libya has caused mass suffering to civilians; it has also weakened the nation’s health sector, limiting the it’s capacity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. HD is supporting efforts to prepare for, prevent and slow the spread of the disease.
On 24 March HD launched a Call for Unifying Efforts Towards Coronavirus. The Call was signed by over a thousand leading figures from across Libya including doctors, health professionals, mayors of towns and cities, parliamentarians and other political and media figures. Its urges the war-torn nation’s divided institutions to work together to tackle the disease and its potentially devastating impact due to the country’s critical humanitarian situation.
To help implement the Call, HD facilitated contacts between the country’s leading doctors, international experts in epidemiology and hospital management, and Libyan doctors abroad in order share expertise and devise solutions to the rapidly deteriorating situation. HD will continue to work with the signatories and parties to the conflict to facilitate humanitarian aid and help mitigate the effects of the pandemic.
HD is involved in a mediation process aimed at preserving Libya’s water system. An agreement was reached on 13 April to re-establish the water supply to the Libya’s capital city, Tripoli, and its population of 2 million who had been suffering from water cuts since Monday 6 April. Joining the efforts of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), the Government of Italy, local tribal elders and other organisations, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) intervened directly with the individuals carrying out the blockade in an attempt to resolve the dispute peacefully.