It has been several months since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. Starting with a lack of knowledge about the virus and an uncertain scenario, going through a total lock down and subsequent de-escalation, the “new normal” was established as the scenario. Being as uncertain as the beginning was, it is undeniable that society has gone through and will continue to go through many difficulties in this scenario. In the same way, the role that NGOs have had in managing and containing vulnerable and extremely vulnerable situations in the face of the pandemic is undeniable.
Being the third sector, a sector where the vast majority of entities have limited budgets, that act in local or provincial fields , the role they have played in working with the population in a vulnerable situation is more than meritorious, the role that they have had working to help the population in a vulnerable situation. In other words, NGOs have managed to reach areas where normally, public services cannot get to.
Along with their characteristic of having contact with the most vulnerable people, NGOs also have the ability to quickly modify the priority of their actions. In fact, they were the first (along with solidarity initiatives from neighbors) to provide a community response, channel donations for those responses, support medical systems to maximize their capacities and screen for infections.
- Main areas of action of NGOs during the pandemic
In general, the areas on which NGOs have focused and continue to focus during this pandemic are social insertion, health, people with disabilities and education. Areas in which groups of vulnerable people are grouped and require, in the vast majority of cases, specific attention to their situations.
In relation to social insertion, a large part of society is attended to which before the pandemic lived from day by day and that any unforeseen event represented a great difficulty for them. As it turns out, the worst possible scenario has turned out to be reality and for all those people who lived and continue to live on the edge, the NGOs have provided indispensable support so that they are not completely neglected and excluded. At the same time keeping aware that their situation does not change at all, even with the support received, of course.
There is also the group of older people who find a great obstacle in social distancing and contact through digital tools, an obstacle that makes it difficult for them to exercise active aging, essential for the development of their well-being.
Health has been the key on which decisions have been focused during the pandemic. As discussed at the beginning, the role of NGOs and their support of health systems has been crucial in the response to the pandemic.
However, there is another key aspect in health, which requires social intervention, the psychological aspect of the process posed by all the difficulties experienced due to the pandemic. For example, it is essential to help those who are grieving for a loved one. To accompany them in the process of mourning, help to get in touch with the families, in situations that today complicate that last proximity with the deceased person. Also, there are people who suffer from psychological problems that have worsened or have been caused by social isolation, problems in the family system, single mothers, and so on.
Another big problem related to health is food. Food was already a problem before the pandemic that was given assistance to a certain point. However, this situation has greatly aggravated it. Zero hunger, as a primary objective, has had great support in this pandemic and highlights the approach of young volunteers to replace a large majority of seniors and risk groups.
People with disabilities are another group that is very hampered and to which an immediate response has been attempted by the NGOs. People with disabilities have seen all kinds of progress that they have had in recent years diminished in terms of their socialization, care and dignity. Routine, which gave them some stability with their situations, completely altered. Obstacles to their respective care, education, employment and all kinds of activities. That is, they have returned from the public space to the private space at home, where it has been proven that their situation worsens.
Finally, the field of education has needed and continues to need volunteer personnel and coverage from NGOs to develop its activities as well as possible. Especially with boys and girls who have difficulty getting digital tools that allow them to keep up with school classes from home or with extracurricular support. On the other hand, the isolation and stigmatization that this type of device entails at these ages is remarkable. For this reason, the work that NGOs do in this aspect and in others is essential, such as support with languages, and reinforcement in other school subjects.
Another notable aspect of the pandemic is the work they do and the support required by the caregivers, present, in practically all the areas discussed. Their work and the support that comes from the NGOs are one of the most important bases in containing the virus and social welfare.
- Extreme situations at an international level
The problems mentioned are common all over the world. The natural thing in these very serious situations is to look at the situation that the nearest medium is experiencing. However, there are extreme situations that require international assistance. These are the case of territories affected by infectious diseases such as HIV or tuberculosis; crowded borders and refugee camps from Syria, Turkey or Greece, as examples; or territories of continuous internal conflicts such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and so on.
- Conclusions and future view
This whole framework of social problems can seem chaotic and complicated, and of course it is. However, as has been said, the response from NGOs in all these areas should be highlighted. Above all, because in the face of difficulties caused by the management of public administrations, the third social sector has known how to restructure its activities, organize and raise funds to have reserves for future months and establish face-to-face activities (essential in many extreme situations) with security.
Public administrations are asked for more understanding, flexibility and budget so that NGOs can exercise their functions with freedom and responsibility. Above all, taking into account their ability to maintain contact with extremely vulnerable people, the increase in volunteers they have received and who are expected to develop a strong third social sector, with great social support.