During the ongoing pandemic, civil society’s role is highly significant in reaching out to the most vulnerable communities as well as groups that face the highest degree of socio-economic marginalization, namely migrants, minorities, and women.
According to an opinion piece by Andrew Firmin, who is editor-in-chief of global civil society alliance, the COVID-19 pandemic has only exposed problems that were already existent – it did not create new ones. For the past few decades, civil society has been putting alternative plans to fix these problems to expand rights, make economies fairer and reduce inequalities.
For instance, clean water and good hygiene is considered to be the most simple and basic requirement needed to combat the spread of the new virus, and yet, many communities even before the pandemic lacked access to running water or facilities for hand washing.
What the COVID-19 pandemic has done is exacerbate these problems; it revealed the urgency for a community-led approach that places greater reliance on bottom-up civil society groups to ensure more efficient responses.
Egyptian Red Crescent’s Story
Most recently, Egypt has seen a great example of supporting civil society represented by the Egyptian Red Crescent’s (ERC) through bringing all different stakeholders together, including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Ministry of International Cooperation, the Ministry of Social Solidarity, and ride hailing company Uber.
Launched through a virtual event, the initiative aims to support the Egyptian Red Crescent’s (ERC) network of 30,000 Egyptian youth volunteers and health care professionals to conduct community outreach and contain the spread of COVID-19, on top of building ERC’s capacity to respond to future crises.
In cooperation with the Egyptian government, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has contributed EGP 51m to the Egyptian Red Crescent (ERC). It will support the distribution of hygiene kits to vulnerable and rural communities, provide initial fever screenings and referral services to hospitals, as well as providing psycho-social support services to healthcare workers.
“Right now, the world is facing an unprecedented crisis that requires collaboration of all actors,” Dr. Adel Al-Adawi, former Minister of Health and member of the Egyptian Red Crescent Board member noted during the virtual launch. “This kind of support reflects the trust the USAID organization and the Egyptian government has in the work of civil society.”
“This pandemic has shown that society needs to be more connected, and we hope that after this pandemic, we will feel the hardships of others and offer more support,” he added.
In the first week of May, over 6000 volunteers were trained to deal with COVID-19, 270 campaigns were carried out to spread awareness that reached 54000 beneficiaries, and over 200 establishments benefiting from disinfection and sterilization services, targeting the most vulnerable ones such as orphanages.
Over 300 referral services to hospitals through phone were also carried out, allowing the public to report COVID-19 cases and refer them to their designated places.
For the ‘Volunteers in Every Street Campaign’, over 2000 youth volunteers consisting of both females and males were mobilized to carry out widespread disinfection and sterilization services, as well as distributing food parcels and necessary hygiene kits.
“We bring together all key stakeholders, including civil society and the private sector to work on addressing market needs that, in turn, helps contribute to Egypt’s social development and economic growth,” Minister of International Cooperation Dr. Rania Al Mashat noted.
Through its New Global Partnerships Framework,the Ministry of International Cooperation aims to ensure that COVID-19 does not prevent Egypt from achieving the Sustainable Development Goal agenda, focusing on reducing inequalities and ensuring good health and wellbeing as well as decent work and economic growth. This is reflected through the ‘PPP’ strategy, which focuses on three pillars: ‘People at the Core’, ‘Projects in Action’ and ‘Purpose as the Driver’ to highlight the development cooperation to achieve SDGs.