The COVID-19 crisis has caused an intense shift in humanitarian response. As many programs were suspended and workers were sent home/unable to be on site, the way the world faced humanitarian problems fundamentally changed. Rebuilding communities and rebuilding NGO operations has changed due to the pandemic, and it will not be the same post-pandemic as it was before. There are several key factors that have been singled out as significantly changing post-pandemic:
Funding for humanitarian organizations has been unstable for a while, relying on institutional funds and grants is not sustainable or reliable. Especially now, with governments turning inward and using their budgets to help their own populations, international aid is not at the forefront of large donor’s minds. Global development funding decreased by almost 15% this past year, and a large part of the remaining funds are being used for COVID relief programs. As grants and institutional funding is becoming less common, many decry the current system of funding for pushing western policies through top-down funding. Though IGOs and individual governments have decreased funding, there are more private citizens and philanthropic endeavors that are willing to give money than before the pandemic. They are also opening up funding opportunities, such as certain grants for specific projects being open to a wider range of applicants than before. We have also seen lots more “individual humanitarianism”, so while governments have turned inward, citizens have become more humanitarian-focused and are looking to help their neighbors and community in many possible ways. Overall, there seems to be less funding from the government/IGOs available, but there is a greater chance of getting private or money from individuals for post-COVID rebuilding projects.
The scope of possible projects are expected to change significantly after the pandemic as well. After world travel was shut down, there was a need for local groups/workers to take up the mantle of the humanitarian workers who had to leave. This has led to more community-based workers implementing community-based projects instead of someone coming in from the outside to help the community. Though grassroots organizations were already an established part of the humanitarian community, during the pandemic they have become some of the most successful institutions to bring aid to small communities. Though travel will resume and outside organizations will be able to continue their pre-pandemic work, it is theorized that there will be a greater demand for community-based organizations than before the pandemic.
The use of more local, grassroots efforts will also require an increase in partnership within the country. Local businesses and organizations will be vital post-pandemic to support more community-based groups with their work. As stated above, there is going to be less institutional funding for humanitarian agencies in the future, but local networks of organizations and businesses will serve as the foundations these groups need to support themselves financially. This way, if there is another crisis and institutional funding is not available, there is still strong support throughout the community that could keep the efforts afloat.
A topic that will be of high concern after (and during) the pandemic is healthcare. The healthcare system, specifically who has access to it and how effective it is, will be at the forefront of people’s concerns, seeing the inequalities in global healthcare from the pandemic. Calls for universal basic income and healthcare have already grown in the past year, and as we can see from the pandemic (especially in India right now), those with little means have been pushed out of the social safety net and neglected by the welfare system.
There will also be discussions about the future of humanitarian crisis response, because even though COVID was a global crisis, there was very little precedence in place before it started. Humanitarian crisis response is generally for natural disasters or other large-scale events, where large groups of people convene at the site and do their jobs. With COVID though, that was not possible, and the large swathes of people who usually show up to areas of crisis were unable to go because of the termination of global travel and the extent of the pandemic throughout the globe. Finding ways to face crises during unprecedented situations should be a top priority. Crisis response and how to respond to different situations will be a hot-topic in the upcoming years.
Profugo’s Place Post-COVID
Profugo is already following a lot of the practices that experts predict will prevail after the pandemic. We are community-based and have some self-sustainable practices that don’t require outside workers and aid to run. In terms of fundraising, there are still grants available, but it is probably worth a try to get more individual and private funding on the coattails of the pandemic, seeing the trends. This would include fundraising campaigns and working with philanthropic organizations. Post-COVID humanitarian funding is probably going to go through one of the largest changes in the humanitarian industry, so learning to adapt will also be imperative. This also brings in the need for community ties, especially those that could economically benefit the organization. This could include local farmers to buy/sell any products of the sustainable farming initiative or buyers for the tailored goods. I think a goal of the organization should be to create enough community ties where if there is another crisis and funding isn’t available for months at a time, there will be no serious risk of programs being cut.
Another topic that could be timely coming out of the pandemic is healthcare. Access to healthcare will be a global discussion after the pandemic, and I think Profugo has a good foundation on the issue to be part of that conversation. Seeing how COVID has impacted India, there is definitely a place for discussions about local healthcare.
The last big takeaway from the COVID-19 pandemic on humanitarian work is the nature of crisis response. Profugo isn’t a crisis aid organization, but it is important to keep operations going (or at least not permanently ended) during a time of crisis. I’m not sure about the extent of Profugo’s prior plans for ceasing operations due to a crisis, but it is important to create these plans so operations are not interrupted in a significant way as they were at the beginning of the pandemic. The humanitarian industry is analyzing the response to COVID and how to address global crises in the future, whether those be pandemics, natural disasters, terror attacks, etc. Whether it be any of the previously mentioned situations, I think it’s imperative all organizations create plans for any significant change of operations due to unforeseen circumstances.