Covid-19 and community action - a challenge and some tough questions to us all.

Ashley South <lerdoh3@...>

Many thanks Nils. Looks very good, and reads well.

All the best, Ashley



From: Nils Carstensen <nic@...>
Sent: 24 April 2020 19:09
To: community-crisis-response@...
Subject: Covid-19 and community action – a challenge and some tough questions to us all…


Covid-19 and community action – a challenge and some tough questions to us all…


As the Covid-19 crisis spreads, examples of autonomous community action continuous to surface – but equally do reports of how individuals and communities are struggling to survive and protect themselves during the double or triple whammy of a) the Covid crisis itself, 2) the economic crisis riding on its tail – and 3) a crisis of abuse of power by some authorities under the pretext of Covid-19.


Inspired by ongoing exchanges and conversations about the examples of community and citizen-led crisis responses to Covid-19, L2GP is launching a “light” action research into such responses. The research focus on answering questions like: How do individuals and families, self-help and community groups respond to the threats and challenges directly or indirectly posed by the coronavirus? What can be learned from different responses/adaptations?

If you (or colleagues you know) is interested to contribute to this research, please contact nils at nic@.... And – importantly – please keep feeding example and good practice into this e-mail list and we’ll pick it up from here, while you same time make it available to a growing number of colleagues around the world.


Community and citizen action

From Zimbabwe a colleague reports how, “because of water shortages/water crisis in communities across Harare’s high-density suburbs fetch water from communal boreholes, and unprotected wells. In that instance some community volunteers man boreholes to raise awareness.” The Thai Inquirer reports how indigenous self-help groups find creative ways of supporting each other’s livelihoods in the absence of support from the state – among other through some rather creative fish-for-rise swaps between farming and fishing communities. Media reports from poor areas of Rio de Janeiro(Brasil) and Bogota (Colombia) illustrate how initial voluntary sharing of food and general helpfulness among families and neighbors is eroding as prolonged lock downs and related loss of income is exhausting everybody’s resources – and with that also the ability to help one another. As desperation grows, so does social and political unrest including violence and the occasional looting of shops as for instance reported in some urban areas in for instance KenyaLima and South Africa.


At the same time, the UN and others are warning that the Covid-19 crisis is likely to contribute significantly to widespread food shortages and hunger, a worsening of known diseases and health crisis (malaria, TB, HIV, measles etc.), growing domestic and gender-based violence - as well as massively deepening poverty for millions of people in a large number of countries. Many of these knock-on effects are associated with the economic effects of the various social distancing and lock down measures now in place across much of the globe in a response to Covid-19. Additionally, even if hardly surprising, the Carnegie Foundation and Index on Censorship between them paint a concerning picture of how governments are hampering, restricting or simply shutting up civil society activists and media professionals under the pretext of the Covid Crisis.


In short: Balancing measures to slow down the spread of Covid-19 with allowing citizens to keep up livelihoods, feeding their families or meeting other crucial medical needs (malaria, TB, HIV, diabetes etc.) and keeping checks and balances on the authorities may be working out to some extent in many well-off societies. But it is becoming increasingly evident, that this is not working out for millions of people across many parts the world with less developed social services, health care and economic compensation programs. Covid-19 is likely to be with us for months if not years to come – yet the strategies chosen so far seems unsustainable in multitude of countries and contexts - even in the short term.


A question and a challenge to you - and us

Politicians, military and economic power holders along with health authorities and to a lesser extent civil society leader are making tough decisions on how to strike the above balance in countries across the world every single day right now.


But what are your thoughts on this? What are your experience, based on interactions with fellow citizens and communities, with ways to balance the need to protect yourself, your family and your community from Covid-19 - while having to meet the need to earn and income and secure the next meal… and the one after that?


There are no easy answers here, but we believe that bringing forward the voices of those rarely heard is as crucial right now as it has ever been. Please keep sharing your thoughts and examples – either by simply answering into this e-mail thread or sending it directly to nic@...


All the best

nils for the L2GP team



nils carstensen
senior advisor, Local2GlobalProtection