COVID-19

ASF’s COVID-19 Adjustment Strategy

Dated: 19 March 2020

 Introduction

In the context of the newly emerged global COVID-19 risk, and in connection with the remediation proposed as per an internal risk assessment, Acid Survivors Foundation would like to raise attention to the following measures taken to ensure that ASF’sactivities/work plan for the rest of the year can be executed or adjusted (as needed), and the recommendations for adjustment of the execution processes.

 Considerations

In view of the COVID-19 risk, the following points must be taken into consideration:
  • Some activities such as training, seminars, consultations and workshops, community or public events have to be postponed;
  • Public transports cannot be used by the project staff so transport cost must be adjusted in the budget;
  • Protective measures against COVID-19 must be mainstreamed across all project/organizational activities: all field activities must be conducted with no more than 5 people gathering and with protective gear for ASF staff at least so that they do not contaminate anyone/do not get contaminated;
  • Cross provincial transport must be reduced as much as possible;
  • It is imperative to focus on raising awareness on DOs and DON’Ts on COVID-19 among vulnerable populations targeted by the project, in their communities and when they access support services: in that case, it mostly means women and girls victims of/vulnerable to GBV;
  • It is also imperative to realize that the current sanitary crisis will negatively affect the economy of the country (it has already started) and lack of income and potential confinement will increase risks of violence and exploitation for women and children and transwomen: whilst the need for support services will increase, it is likely that those support services will be even more difficult to access hence our mission is to facilitate an information and referral mechanism so that this chain of support for reported cases of GBV is not interrupted;
  • The rhythm of work is putting added pressure on the team executing the project, it is therefore critical to develop and guarantee that psycho-social support and HR management respond to the anxiety or new difficulties faced by the project staff;
  • The situation is highly versatile, day-to-day briefing and planning must be ensured, and overall regular periodic reviews conducted to strategize;
  • Internal staff coordination must be flexible and thorough: on a daily basis and via multiple vectors, as per need, since some staff may work in another province or from home;
  • On-going linkage with state authorities to devise a referral and coordinated response mechanism in such a context is critical as so far, GBV has been ignored from the covid-19 response agenda. ASF is in touch with the Ministry of law and Justice to address this lacuna at the state level.

Immediate Action/Strategy

To address those points, ASF has developed a strategy that relies on 8 main characteristics:
  • Adaptability
  • Reactivity
  • Creativity
  • Best Interest of the beneficiary
  • Gender sensitivity and disability inclusion
  • Relevance
  • Replicability
  • Solidarity
  • Sustainability
Those characteristics have guided ASF to answer this COVID-19 risk and come up with the following steps to respond to the emergency situation and adjust the project to the beneficiaries’ needs, keeping in view the outputs and outcomes expected by the project:
  • Establishment of a Crisis Management Team (CMT) that comprises 3 members of the senior management. A CMT coordinator has been appointed among ASF existing staff;
  • Under the CMT, a Staff Support Officer(SSO)has also been appointed as the morale and well-being of ASF staff is of prior concern, along with their motivation and accountability. The SSO has usually been trained on psycho-social support. This is also critical to ensure that the outcomes envisaged by the project are achieved;
  • Establishment of feedback, monitoring & referral mechanism in ICT, MULTAN,& PWR and 1 focal point each so that cases of violence or emergency can be reported to ASF CMT in order to facilitate adequate and timely support (national coverage).
  • ASF will be coordinating accordingly with all their partner/s, as a part of this mechanism;
  • Additionally, ASF will assist its downstream partner under this project by developing its own adjustment strategy in response to the COVID-19 risk.

GBV Case Management and the COVID-19 Pandemic:

ASF has developed a model for practical support to gender-based violence (GBV) practitioners to adapt GBV case management service delivery quickly and ethically during the current COVID-19 pandemic. There are reports of increases in GBV incidents in the countries most affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. For example, domestic violence organizations have observed that extended quarantine and other social distancing measures have increased the reports of domestic violence, as a result of household stress over economic and health shocks combined with forced coexistence in narrow living spaces (VAWG Helpdesk report, March 2020). Given the increase in reports of GBV, ensuring that women and girls can access GBV support services remains a critical and lifesaving activity. At the same time, maintaining the health and wellbeing of GBV caseworkers and contributing to rigorous efforts to stop the pandemic is of critical concern, presenting a challenge to traditional modes of GBV service delivery. A flexible and adaptive approach is needed to ensure that life-saving services continue to be made available without compromising the safety of GBV caseworkers.
The table below shows ASF strategies on how the Crisis will impact GBV case management and possible modalities for delivering case management services. These are not directive for every context. In each context, the team must weigh their specific circumstances and current public health guidance:

Impact on GBV case management

Possible case management modalities for GBV survivors
Introduction of IPC protocol, contingency planning, and community dialogue about COVID-19 Static face to face can likely continue
Widespread communication on virus and hygiene protocol must be shared with survivors, caseworker, and the wider community including dialogue about their thoughts and concerns
Preparedness and contingency planning for remote case management (use of mobile, choice of the hotline, referral pathway review, budget forecasting, reallocation, revision of staff health and wellbeing policies)
Ensuring that survivors have all information needed to access remote support and brainstorming to do this (e.g. saving required numbers in the phone, printing tiny information cards)
A comprehensive review of safety plans with survivors in case of rapid change
Coordinate with government and other women s organization on their plans
Updates contact lists, referral pathways, and communication strategy to include new relevant information e.g neighborhood focal point, and build a connection with a caseworker

Stringent restriction on movement of staff and survivors especially

High-level permission and clearance may be needed to operate case management services.

Survivors are more likely to be confined in houses.

Resources needed to create a protective environment for staff if face to face visits continue

Primarily rely on case management services through phone or other technology with limited or no face training of front-line workers.

Training of frontline workers.

Highly stringent and IPC protocol in monitoring in place.

Use of GBVIMS for a remote supervisor.

Referral linkages and partnership with women s organization and all actors, sharing existing GBV hotline services.

Regular monitoring of all staff safety in the use of mobile technology.

Possible inclusion of GBV caseworker in a rapid response team.
Ensure comprehensive medical, nutritional, and psycho-social care for GBV victims in COVID-19.
Regular well-being check-ins with a staff of medication or where survivors cannot access medical facilities
CMT approaches and responds ambulances to transport (if needed) suspected and confirmed cases, and referral mechanisms for severe cases with comorbidity
CMT should lead the community to be prepared in case there is a shortage of medication or they cannot access medical facilities
Communicate openly with women and girls about COVID-19 and any changes or potential changes in your methods of service delivery
Ensure comprehensive medical, nutritional, and psycho-social care for GBV victims in COVID-19

 

Prioritizing Duty of Care to Staff:

Caring for staff and prioritizing their well-being is the foundation of any other action. Put systems in place to ensure that staff is getting the support they need and to priorities, this as the outbreak continues. This includes:
  • Creating space to ask the staff about their concerns, their needs, and their ideas for moving forward. Give time to talk freely, whether about work, or the situation more generally. Do this at every stage of the outbreak, whether in-person or continuing remotely.
  • Observing IPC protocols; work to reduce risk as well as the perception of risk.
  • Sharing resources for managing stress and maintaining emotional wellbeing. This can be documented with links to resources, sharing one simple self-care exercise per day via text/WhatsApp group, phone numbers for accessing psychological support, etc.
  • Ensuring that staff has phone numbers and information about support services that are available to them.
  • Checking in regularly by phone or WhatsApp as a form of emotional support (different from supervision). Creating chat groups or other relevant fora for staff to connect and support each other.
  • Sharing resources online that staff can use to continue to build their skills. e.g. the Rosa App by International Rescue Committee (IRC), GBVIMS podcasts and videos, etc.

 Key Principles and Considerations

  1. Prioritize the safety and wellbeing of all staff and survivors. This is true in any GBV Program and remains true during the COVID-19 response.
  2. Solidarity with the most vulnerable. Some survivors will be more vulnerable than others, and some community members more vulnerable. Remember that social distancing and other measures are not just about protecting clients, but about everyone doing their part to protect others. Keep this in mind when making decisions. For those who are particularly vulnerable, prioritize early safety planning for changing conditions and regular follow-up.
  3. Focus on humanity over productivity. Remember that these are stressful times and that the changes and uncertainty add to that stress for staff, their families, and communities. As you make changes to programming, do not over-emphasize the need for a seamless transition and continued productivity. Staff will likely need time to slow down, to figure out what the next days and weeks look like, and to manage stress alongside continuing work. Help everyone to take a breath and assure them that this is ok.
  4. Be prepared, not panicked. This highlights the importance of preparing for all scenarios urgently, expecting the possibility of rapid changes. However, changes should be planned for as calmly as possible and presented as proactive steps rather than panicked reactions.
Note: All current running and future potential projects will be adjusted (work plan flexibility, budget re-allocation) in accordance with this strategy.