March 16, 2020 / 3:58 PM / 16 days ago

EXPERT VIEWS-How coronavirus is affecting the world's most vulnerable

LONDON, March 16 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Aid groups have warned the coronavirus pandemic is causing a squeeze on lifesaving supplies and hampering their ability to help some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

Relief organisations said the outbreak was likely to pose an increasing challenge to their work as nations close borders and impose lockdowns.

ROSA SALA, INTERNATIONAL PROGRAM OPERATIONS DIRECTOR, OXFAM:

“We’ve had some delay and cost increases of essential life-saving equipment as exports tighten from Asia especially.

“Given that our programs are predominately led, managed and staffed by national staff, and because we hold reserves and procure our goods and services locally where possible, we are hoping to minimise disruptions.

“However, we are certainly expecting that our operations will be increasingly affected.”

SIMONA FRENCH, SPOKESWOMAN, ISLAMIC RELIEF WORLDWIDE

“We are concerned about our staff being able to deliver programmes safely and having to limit our life-saving work if things get really bad.

“But Islamic Relief works in some of the world’s most difficult climates, such as Yemen and Syria, and we are well versed in adapting our operations to protect those most in need.

“Above all, we are concerned about the ability of fragile health systems that will not be able to cope with a large influx of people and do not have adequate containment procedures. This will see aid workers and ordinary people get sick alike.”

CHRISTOPHER TIDEY, SPOKESMAN, UNICEF

“Travel restrictions could pose a challenge and we are seeing that already with recent announcements - things like that could present certain logistical issues in terms of movement of staff, or if we are trying to surge people with different specialisations in and out of different emergency contexts.”

“If this goes on, and depending on how supply chains and manufacturing are affected, there could be implications for essential medicines and commodities for children. It’s a concern and something we will be monitoring very closely.”

ERICA VAN DEREN, SENIOR PROGRAM MANAGER, WORLD VISION

“Some of the places where we work have some form of government restrictions on movement. We anticipate other governments will take similar steps in the days to come.”

“As the spread continues, the normal daily operations that World Vision does working closely with communities, gathering children and families to support them, will not be able to continue and will significantly impact our work.”

JANE HOWARD, SPOKESWOMAN, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME

“So far, WFP hasn’t experienced any direct impact on its supply chain. The situation is however evolving very fast and WFP recognizes the need to be prepared for further deterioration of the situation.

“The greatest challenge would be a major disruption of supply chains through border closures. WHO continues to advocate for no restrictions to travel and trade, however, countries will act based on their own risk assessments and some supply chains may be affected.”

JULIET PARKER, OPERATIONS DIRECTOR, ACTION AGAINST HUNGER UK

“Undoubtedly the outbreak will have an impact on the work we undertake, but it is too early to say what the scale of that impact might be.”

“One immediate impact we are experiencing is on our ability to move staff. Not only could this be an issue in relation to responding to COVID-19, but it calls into question how effectively the sector could respond to other emergencies.

“If there were a major natural disaster in the coming months, it is possible that travel restrictions may impede any international effort.” (Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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