Washington D.C., Apr 15, 2020 / 12:00 pm
As aid agencies struggle to contain the coronavirus pandemic in parts of the developing world, Catholic Relief Services said it is relying on past experience in handling mass outbreaks of disease as it manages its own response to COVID-19.
The aid agency, which is present in more than 90 countries and serves more than 130 million people each year, said Wednesday that it is ramping up aid efforts in countries across the world and taking a flexible approach to fighting the coronavirus. CRS is part of Caritas International, the global network of Catholic humanitarian organizations.
Nikki Gamer, a spokesperson for Catholic Relief Services (CRS), told CNA on Wednesday that the organization is “working tirelessly to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to respond to its impact on some of the most vulnerable communities.”
“We are adapting existing programs to ensure things like social distancing and proper handwashing, for example, and are initiating new activities focused on creating awareness, prevention and quality care for those affected,” she told CNA.
Previously, CRS has worked to contain the spread of other infectious diseases and viruses, including tuberculosis, cholera, HIV, and polio. The organization worked extensively from 2014-2016 in various western African nations during the ebola outbreak, something that CRS President and CEO Sean Callahan said has influenced how they are handling COVID-19.
“Our COVID-19 response will draw upon our experience in acute health emergencies,” such as ebola and HIV, said Callahan in a release issued Wednesday by CRS. “Our work will be informed by the local context and focus on some of the most vulnerable communities.”
Callahan called CRS particularly “well-positioned” to assist throughout the world.
“Our staff and partners have been a constant presence in some of the most vulnerable communities for more than 75 years and we are leveraging those relationships in times of an outbreak,” said Callahan. This extensive existing network has meant that CRS was able to “scale up” its efforts in key locations.