As the world grapples with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we need solidarity and creative resistance more than ever. Reports about the pandemic’s impact on affluent countries abound, but stories from countries already dealing with extreme poverty and instability are far less common. In this emergency situation, we at the Cultures of Resistance Network have sought out allies who are responding with urgency and leadership, and we are proud to support some amazing organizations that are taking actions to protect the most vulnerable populations from this deadly virus. Below are some ways that you can get involved in helping out with these essential efforts!
Behind the Blockade in Gaza
Gaza was already in crisis when coronavirus entered in March 2020. The area’s hospitals and clinics faced medicine shortages and Gaza’s water, sanitation, and electricity systems were already crumbling. As Foreign Policy reported,
“While Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza both have limited autonomy, Israel wields decisive decision-making power over these territories, and Israel alone has the resources to cope with a crisis of this magnitude.
“‘This could be a tipping point. Gaza is in very dire straits. The health system has been in shocking state for a long time,’ said Jamie McGoldrick, who chairs the United Nations’ COVID-19 task force for the West Bank and Gaza Strip. ‘We’ve been lucky enough up until now with all the resilience … but you know it doesn’t take much to turn the system, which is coping, into something that really struggles.’
“Israel already faces international censure over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza despite withdrawing its army from the territory 15 years ago. Rights organizations are calling on Israel to relax its blockade—imposed by land, sea, and air for years, in part as a response to rocket attacks by Palestinians—to allow more medical supplies into Gaza. Others are urging Israel to be ready to step up with emergency field hospitals.”
Anticipating the likely impact of the pandemic, Middle East Children’s Alliance, which works to protect the rights and improve the lives of children in the Middle East, began raising money to purchase and deliver basic hygiene supplies, antibiotics, vitamins, and medicine to treat routine and emergency conditions for tens of thousands of patients in Gaza—an effort that the CoR Network was proud to support. As the pandemic has spread, MECA has continued to be on the frontlines, dealing with the unique challenges of maintaining public health and caring for the sick amid an ongoing occupation.
Founded in 1988, MECA supports dozens of community projects for Palestinian children and refugees from Syria. Since its founding, the organization has delivered $25 million in food and medical aid to Palestine, Iraq, and Lebanon. To contribute to MECA’s emergency appeal, click here. Donations help MECA’s team of health workers and volunteers provide hygiene kits, virus prevention information, food parcels, and medicine and care for people with urgent or chronic conditions.
While MECA was taking early action to protect Palestinian children, another CoR Network grantee, UNRWA USA, was busy raising funds to provide healthcare to Palestinian refugees. UNRWA USA provides primary healthcare services for over 5.6 million Palestinian refugees across 141 health centers in Jordan, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Lebanon, and Syria. When the pandemic began, UNRWA USA implemented measures to protect Palestinian refugees and frontline workers—and it hasn’t stopped since. Most refugees served by UNRWA USA live under the poverty line and lack the safety net needed to absorb the financial and medical shocks created by the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, they now face devastating consequences to their physical, social, and economic well being. With help from supporters, UNRWA USA is providing food, water, and lifesaving health care. To contribute to UNRWA USA’s relief fund and hear directly from refugees impacted by the pandemic, click here.
Grassroots International, a CoR Network grantee that organizes in partnership with social movements to create a just and sustainable world, is also amplifying and responding to calls for action from its allies in Palestine. The organization has created a Covid-19 Emergency Fund to contribute to pandemic relief efforts in Palestine. Donations will support Grassroots International’s partners—groups like the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, which is a community-based health organization working to prevent further transmission of the virus and to ensure access to healthcare for those who are sick. PMRS was founded in 1979 by a group of concerned Palestinian doctors and health professionals seeking to supplement the decayed and inadequate health infrastructure caused by years of Israeli military occupation. To contribute to Grassroots International’s Emergency Fund, click here. You can also sign up for the group’s newsletter to get updates about how you can help amplify calls to action!
Crisis in the Congo
In the conflict-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, where the public health system was already strained, coronavirus arrived just as Ebola was finally on its way out. On March 4, 2020, the DRC officially discharged the last person in the country to have been afflicted with Ebola. Six days later, the country’s first case of Covid-19 was identified. According to UN News, “The looming threat of the new coronavirus disease Covid-19 is just the latest challenge to the beleaguered health care system in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which is struggling with deadly measles and cholera epidemics that have killed thousands of children over the past year.”
Since that first case of Covid-19 was diagnosed, our friends at Panzi Hospital in Kivu have been working swiftly to respond to the new public health crisis. At Panzi, Nobel Peace laureate Dr. Denis Mukwege treats serious gynecological injuries and advocates tirelessly for Congolese women affected by war and medical neglect. Now, he has been appointed to head the health commission of the provincial committee to fight the coronavirus disease. “Our best way to stop the spread of the virus will be prevention, citizen vigilance and collective mobilization. What matters most is the behavior of each individual and of us all,” says Dr. Mukwege. “We call on the entire national community to become fully involved in ensuring an effective response to the pandemic.” You can join the CoR Network in contributing to Panzi Hospital’s Covid-19 rapid response efforts to get medical supplies to communities in the DRC. Ways to get involved include organizing an online fundraiser or sharing its curriculum on peace and justice!
Another CoR Network grantee, Congo Love, aims to change the current narrative around the DRC by showcasing the Congo’s artwork, culture, and contagious spirit of hope through its youth programs. Click here to learn more about how Congo Love is working with local groups in the DRC to go into communities and share crucial information about the virus.
On the Frontlines
As Covid-19 spreads across the globe, hitting new countries just as other regions begin to get their outbreaks under control, healthcare systems are straining to keep up and frontline medical workers are facing unprecedented risks. But our ally Médecins Sans Frontières, a humanitarian organization providing medical assistance to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, or exclusion from healthcare, is meeting that challenge head-on. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, MSF has expanded to work in more than seventy countries and is evolving its projects and priorities as new hot spots emerge. As the group writes on its website:
“We’re concerned how people living in precarious environments will be affected by the pandemic. People living in overcrowded conditions, on the streets, in makeshift camps or substandard housing are at particular risk of COVID-19. Many are already in poor health and excluded from the formal healthcare system. We know social or physical distancing will be infinitely more difficult or impossible for these groups of people. We have to find other ways to help people keep themselves protected such as mass distributions of soap, water, and, in carefully considered circumstances, reusable cloth masks.”
MSF’s pandemic response efforts reach across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. You can find the latest news on the organization’s Covid-19 work here. To join us in supporting MSF’s critical work, you can donate and help the group meet urgent healthcare needs around the world.
Indigenous Resistance in Ecuador
Indigenous communities experience inequities and discrimination even at the best of times. In moments of global crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic, those issues—including limited or no access to information, holistic medical care, medical supplies, food, and housing—are greatly exacerbated. As our ally Cultural Survival writes, “Indigenous Peoples are nearly three times as likely to live in extreme poverty and likely to suffer negative outcomes from infectious diseases. Many Indigenous Peoples also experience disproportionate rates of malnutrition, pre-existing health conditions and lack of access to culturally relevant information, quality healthcare, housing, and clean drinking water.”
Understanding the particular challenges facing indigenous peoples, our grantee La Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (CONAIE) immediately began working to combat the spread of Covid-19 among Ecuador’s indigenous communities. With support from the CoR Network, the organization created a guide explaining how to use masks that can be shared and downloaded.
Founded in the 1980s, CONAIE is Ecuador’s largest indigenous organization and brings together the different nationalities, towns, communities, and indigenous associations of Ecuador. Its goals include consolidating the indigenous peoples and nationalities of the country; fighting for the defense of land, indigenous territories, and natural resources; and strengthening bilingual intercultural education. If you speak Spanish, you can click here to find out more about the organization’s work uniting Ecuador’s indigenous peoples and see how you can get involved!
Crucial Reporting on the Politics of the Pandemic
In the early days of the pandemic, homeless families in need of safe places to self-isolate in Los Angeles, California, moved into vacant homes. “Being homeless myself and seeing people literally dying on the streets, seeing sick people dying every day in L.A., made me start realizing that, ‘Well, we need to do something, and we should probably just start taking over these vacant homes,’” Benito Flores, one of the people who reclaimed an empty house, told reporter Sarah Jaffe.
As the virus continued to spread, it became clear that the pandemic would impact the 2020 presidential election in the United States, and two policy experts, Miles Rapoport and Cecily Hines, tackled the question of how to vote in quarantine:
“As governors, election officials, and legislatures scramble to make plans for this November, the steps they need to take to run elections safely in a pandemic should also be a roadmap, and major accelerant, to reforms that are moving us, slowly and unevenly, in the direction of increased participation. The best way to keep people safe during this election season is also the best way to maximize participation: give people the widest possible range of opportunities to register and to vote.”
These two stories are examples of the great journalism that Dissent Magazine, a CoR Network grantee, is doing to cover the coronavirus pandemic and its political fallout. The CoR Network is pleased to support the magazine’s efforts to increase its coverage of the pandemic. Click here to read more from Dissent, and subscribe to the magazine to help them produce more essential stories about how we can shape a just response to the ongoing crisis.
[Featured image courtesy of the Panzi Foundation.]