Cool Earth is supporting rainforest communities in the fight against coronavirus. Find out more.

April 3, 2020

Q&A with Cool Earth’s Programmes Team | Covid-19 Update


Information written: April 2020

Cool Earth is doing everything we can to protect our partners, colleagues and supporters. To keep you up to speed with our developments, our programmes team have provided answers to some of the questions that you have been asking in recent days.

We will be sure to keep this page updated as and when things change.

How does the threat of Covid-19 vary between your partnerships?

How does the threat of Covid-19 vary between your partnerships?

Teams on the ground are assessing the impact of the pandemic on their programmes and doing everything they can to keep the local people, and themselves, safe. While the outbreak may cause delays to some activities, we will continue to offer support to our partner organisations throughout this journey.

Everything must be done to avoid disease transmission in Cool Earth’s rainforest partnerships, and quickly. In each partnership, from Peru to Papua New Guinea, Cambodia to Cameroon, the situation is different and will require different approaches and support in the coming weeks.

The Peruvian government has been swift to react, emphasising the importance of not travelling to indigenous territories. Travel is currently restricted, only allowing for essentials such as the supply of food and medication to reach those who need it. Some organisations have released statements indicating that any non-indigenous person trespassing into indigenous territory will be handed over to the police. 

In Papua New Guinea, the restriction of movement has led to markets closing down, impacting the ability to sell food, leading to a drop in income and putting pressure on local communities to expand food gardens to provide for their families. Food prices are increasing and due to lack of availability, some basic items are costing more than four times the standard price. 

We are in close contact with our local charity partners in Cameroon, Cambodia, DRC and Mozambique, where Covid-19 numbers are currently low, but still pose a huge threat to the remote communities we support. 

How are local and indigenous peoples coping with the threat of disease? Are they more vulnerable?

How are local and indigenous peoples coping with the threat of disease? Are they more vulnerable?

For remote communities, access to health services and income as well as transport can be dangerously limited. An outbreak would be catastrophic and external help will be necessary if this becomes the case. 

Given the Peruvian government’s urgent action, indigenous peoples have been able to act before the virus spread across the Andes by closing their territories for an undefined period of time. With Cool Earth’s Asháninka partnerships situated in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon, this has been vital. Their remote location can mean that exposure to even our common cold can have life-threatening consequences. Diseases like Covid-19 are therefore a clear threat and would be difficult for local people to manage should they reach communities.

In Papua New Guinea, we can expect that as the virus spreads, people in remote areas will suffer the most. Threats to their health and food security will only increase vulnerability. For many, there is a lot of uncertainty about how to provide for themselves if there are restrictions on accessing their crops and selling their goods. Access to social media and fake news reports may also have a negative impact on the wellbeing of staff and community members, as confusion on the best practices and lack of clear information makes decision-making a real challenge.

Are you working with governing and health bodies to address the threat?

Are you working with governing and health bodies to address the threat?

Cool Earth’s community-led model means our rainforest partners can invest in what they need, when they need it. This means that if the community needs to allocate funding to health and urgent basic needs, they have the capacity to do so. Supplementary funds will be given should the need arise.

We will support communities however we can, within our knowledge and expertise, while maintaining our distance. Although Cool Earth is not a health organisation and does not hold the expertise to advise community members on health matters, we can help link communities with local or government health organisations, who will be able to provide the expertise needed. 

In our Papua New Guinea partnerships, Cool Earth staff are in regular contact with the government to keep up to date with the latest guidance and information. If needed, Cool Earth will work alongside the local government to deliver aid to our partner communities, particularly food to those in difficulty.

What can we learn from how rainforest nations/peoples are protecting themselves?

What can we learn from how rainforest nations/peoples are protecting themselves?

Historically, rainforest nations like the Awajún and Asháninka have experienced exploitation and persecution. Their impressive resilience to problems both small and large means they will protect their culture and forest against all odds, and will do the same in the face of any threat that may endanger their survival. 

This sense of unity and resilience is something we should learn from, aspire to and embrace.    

Despite this, some communities such as those in Papua New Guinea rely on access to markets and towns to raise income to feed their families and have limited resources to cope with pandemics. Understanding that each community context is different and responding on a local level is a valuable rule to follow in times of crisis and calm, and something Cool Earth will continue to do with all our partnerships.

What will my donations be spent on?

What will my donations be spent on?

In these challenging times, we must continue to support communities in need. We are increasing our efforts and look forward to introducing you to new rainforest partnerships in the coming months. All donations made will help us to continue supporting, developing and growing our network of community-led conservation programmes around the world. 

It is more important than ever before to support the world’s most vulnerable. Protecting rainforest and earning a sustainable living is a real life-line for millions of the world’s poorest, who are already living with the effects of a changing climate on a daily basis. Add to that the potential impacts from a health crisis, and we must work harder than ever.

Whilst it will be challenging for in-country teams to visit the communities we work with, all our partnerships will remain fully operational. We will also work hard to raise funds to tackle the knock-on effects that the virus will have on communities, such as food security issues and lack of access to key infrastructure.

Is everyone still working at Cool Earth?

Is everyone still working at Cool Earth?

In the UK, the team is continuing to work hard on all things fundraising and programming, albeit from home (with our pets joining in on many online calls). We are taking on staff to help support our in-country teams with programme development where required while being prudent about how we allocate funds, ensuring every penny we are donated is spent efficiently as it always has been. 

We are taking this time to look at ways to reduce costs in all areas where possible, and are of course cutting costs on domestic and international travel. 

In Peru and Papua New Guinea, our in-country teams are continuing to work from home. This is exceptionally important as we are determined to play our part in protecting vulnerable and remote rainforest communities. We are evaluating our programming priorities and taking an agile and flexible approach to what comes our way in the coming months. In order to guarantee the safety and health of both community members and staff, we are prepared to adapt our field operations for as long as necessary to support local people and reduce any pressure on the forest where possible.

 How can I help further?

Think outside the box – Host an online pub quiz or climb to Everest base camp on your stairs. There are lots of ways to stave off boredom and fundraise for the planet too.

Get social (from a distance) – Following, commenting on and sharing updates from our partnerships on our social channels will not only increase awareness of our work, but hopefully make you smile too. 

Share our job posts – We’re looking to expand our team to face the challenges ahead. If you know someone who would make an excellent and committed addition to the team, do share this link with them.

Join us – A small regular donation will help Cool Earth keep supporting rainforest communities around the world to earn a sustainable living and protect their rainforest.

For the latest information on Covid-19, myth-busters and how you can help to protect yourself and others, visit the World Health Organisation website by clicking this link here: who.int/coronavirus-19

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