RET’s COVID-19 Regional Response in Latin America and the Caribbean

RET has been present in the Latin America and the Caribbean region, since 2004, and has directly supported more than 717,000 direct project participants, and indirectly benefitted 3.6 Mio beneficiaries throughout 179 projects implemented predominantly in Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, and Peru. The COVID-19 pandemic is overstretching healthcare systems and restricting access to basic needs, education, and livelihoods. Countries with pre-existing humanitarian needs, in fragile contexts, and protracted crises are the most affected, including the refugees, migrants and the vulnerable host communities. Due to restricted mobility, the poor living & working conditions where many vulnerable people depend on insufficient daily wages to cover basic needs such as shelter, food, and health care, refugee and migrants especially are becoming more susceptible to the deteriorating impact of COVID-19 and are also at risk of being stigmatized. This pandemic is aggravating the socio-economic unrest, leading to additional violence, conflicts, and the weakening of already fragile environments.

How is RET Staying & Delivering
RET has been conducting multiple needs assessment to understand the impact of this crisis on the most vulnerable in every country of operation, including the deteriorating effects on refugees and migrants. RET has been gathering information and timely data to adapt and respond through innovative urgent actions to mitigate the existing and additional protection risks of vulnerable people assisted through ongoing operations. RET’s response in LAC prioritized refugees’ and migrants’ particular needs in the areas of Protection, Shelter, WASH, Food Security, Livelihoods and, Social Integration through targeted and tailor-made interventions to complement the national authorities’ response.

RET has been coordinating its responses with grassroots organizations, Civil Society Organizations (CSO’s), and international partners to prioritize essential protection and pre-existing life-saving needs to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the most affected communities, and has been taking part in promoting the inclusion of refugees and migrants in national programs. 

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Awareness & Prevention
While maintaining physical distancing measures, RET is implementing many prevention and response activities in countries of operation where refugees and migrants from Venezuela are hosted. These activities include providing access to reliable information on preventive measures, combatting misinformation and stigmatization, provision of hygiene kits, and soap, strengthening of community preventive health mechanisms through virtual workshops for key people at the community levels on preventive measures, response, and isolation mechanisms; access to safety equipment for health personnel; strengthening referral and follow-up mechanisms for COVID-19 cases in health centers at the local level and the delivery of sexual and reproductive health kits (condoms, flashlight, prevention information) and of PEP kits to health centers.

Protection (Women and Child)
RET is ensuring the protection services provided to the affected people are not interrupted, and assuming its current role in providing access to social safety nets and basic assistance to women and children through the use of technology to protect and assist refugees, internally displaced people, migrants and host communities particularly vulnerable to the pandemic. Key protection activities, such as individual protection assistance, case management, legal counseling, and individual psychosocial support, continue to be delivered via phone and WhatsApp chats, ensuring the well-being and mental health of the most vulnerable. 

RET is actively taking part in the protection of women and girls and in promoting their rights and safety through awareness campaigns and protective networks to provide sexual and reproductive health care and gender-based violence assistance. RET has established virtual support groups and a follow-up mechanism to assist vulnerable women at risk of Gender-based violence and survivors of #GBV. 

Food Security -Shelter Cash Assistance
RET has reviewed all evaluation tools to characterize new families affected by COVID 19 and applied means of verification to assist the most vulnerable. To bridge the food security gap, RET has been providing “Food Baskets” and “multi-purpose vouchers” to the most vulnerable people registered within our programs in coordination with local supermarkets. Also, RET has been providing multi-purpose cash transfers for the most vulnerable families whose livelihoods have been affected by COVID-19 and enabling all-cash voucher programs available in each country (conditional and multi-purpose cash) for the purchase of food, shelter and hygiene products (including gloves and soap). RET has been supporting food entrepreneurs and small marked oriented businesses with the purchase of food and its distribution in line with the regulations per country in coordination with relief entities and volunteers. RET has also been identifying shelters and coordinating with international and local partners to support people in shelters. 

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WASH
RET has been providing the most vulnerable refugees and migrants with hygiene kits (soap, anti-bacterial gel, gloves, mask, alcohol) as well as providing cleaning kits and safety equipment for workers at health centers and hospitals. In addition to providing traditional water filters in communities with weak infrastructure, and conducting virtual training on handwashing, use of security equipment and on hygiene recommendations in work, home, and school environments. RET has been conducting assessments of water systems, and subsequent definition of a plan of action for the corrective maintenance of hygiene facilities (in communities and schools).

EDUCATION
RET has been redesigning ad re-orienting its efforts in line with local needs and in coordination with host government’s policies at the local level to provide innovative solutions to remote learning through redesigning all its formal and informal education programs to provide access to alternative distance learning programs. With 20 years of experience in education, particularly in “Education in Emergencies (EiE),” RET is providing tailor-made solutions at the local level to bridge the educational gaps, in the broadest sense of vulnerable people. RET has been revising its entire education toolbox and is currently implementing actions to allow the continuity of the teaching-learning processes, also, strengthening of capacities on distance education models to facilitate the return to classes and maintain quality education.

RET’s latest actions in education focused on supporting the host governments with their COVID19 prevention campaigns, addressing children, parents, and caregivers and promoting non-formal digital education programs and virtual educational platforms established by the host governments; strengthening of alternative virtual education spaces; developing guides for caregivers with activities and educational processes; launching plans for the inclusion of migrant and refugee children in the educational system; supporting the access of students to connectivity, computers, laptops, tablets or smart-phones; in addition to supporting vulnerable students with internet data fees and or access. 

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The social impact of the COVID 19 outbreak can already be visible in many countries in LAC with a high number of refugees, migrants, and displaced people through the decrease of cohesion, a greater potential for conflict, and deepening inequalities. 

RET’s responses are being oriented to address the indirect effect of COVID-19 on social cohesion and integration in Latin America and the Caribbean; including addressing the risks of violence, discrimination, marginalization, and xenophobia towards the most vulnerable, especially the Venezuelan refugees through virtual tools such as webinars, Social networks, virtual social cohesion activities and interactive sessions at the community level. As part of its livelihood programs, RET is providing online support to increase the employability profiles of vulnerable people. (CV & job applications), along with tackling youth protection and mental health through social media awareness campaigns about health, education, housing, and work, in times of COVID-19.

During these challenging COVID19 times and in only three months, RET provided assistance and support to almost 18,000 refugees, migrants, and vulnerable people from the host community in Latin America and the Caribbean region alone. This is how the RET team is #Staying&Delivering.

RET is adopting an inclusive, multi-sectoral approach to alleviate the suffering and develop the resilience of the most affected, with particular attention to children, youth, and young women. RET will continue to provide its existing humanitarian, peace, development assistance while expanding its existent multi-sectoral response to address the new vulnerabilities in terms of COVID-19.  While RET hires 100% local staff, in most countries, and can, therefore, stay on the ground, and continue its programs uninterrupted during any crises. RET’s international management team are usually based in regional and headquarters office, and travel for technical capacity-building purposes, which during COVID-19, is happening online and through videoconferencing.

The battle is not yet over; we appeal to all governments, donors, and partners to maintain their support to RET programs around the world and to foster our multi-sectoral response to assist the most vulnerable. With international solidarity, we will mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the most affected, during, and following this emergency.

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Three months into the pandemic – COVID19 Update

[English] & [Español]

During these challenging COVID19 times and since March 2020, RET provided assistance and support to almost 18,000 refugees, migrants, and vulnerable people from the host community in Latin America and the Caribbean region alone.
This is how the RET team is #Staying&Delivering.

As part of RET’s COVID-19 regional emergency response, an evaluation of the particular COVID-19-related needs and priorities of host governments in eight countries in which RET is present, have been made (Belize, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.)

RET’s response in LAC prioritized refugees’ and migrants’ particular needs in the areas of Protection, Shelter, WASH, Food Security, Livelihoods and,  Social Integration, through targeted and tailor-made interventions to complement the national authorities’ response, in coordination with IOM, UNHCR, UNICEF, and other organizations. 

RET has been providing Psychosocial Support #PSS through hotline numbers available in all countries, in addition to providing virtual support for groups of women, with particular emphasis on the prevention of Gender-based Violence (GBV.) 

As part of its livelihood programs, RET is providing online support to increase the employability profiles of vulnerable people. (CV & job applications), along with tackling Youth protection and mental health through social media awareness campaigns and raising awareness about health, education, housing and work, in times of COVID-19.

RET has been supporting vulnerable people through multi-purpose cash assistance and distribution of health cards and hygiene kits to educational & health centers, along with vulnerable people in transit, to limit the spread of the disease. 

Finally, RET’s latest actions in Education focused on supporting the host governments with their COVID19 prevention campaigns, addressing children, parents, and caregivers and promoting non-formal digital education programs and virtual educational platforms established by the host governments; in addition to supporting vulnerable students with internet data fees and or access. 

 

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[Español]

Durante estos desafiantes # COVID19 veces y desde marzo de 2020, RET brindó asistencia y apoyo a casi 18,000 refugiados, migrantes y personas vulnerables de la comunidad de acogida solo en la región de América Latina y el Caribe. ¡Así es como el equipo RET está # Permaneciendo y entregando en #LAC!

  • Como parte de la respuesta de emergencia ante la pandemia del COVID-19, RET Américas, hizo una evaluación de las necesidades y prioridades particulares relacionadas con el COVID-19 de los gobiernos de acogida en ocho países en los que nuestra organización tiene presencia: Belice, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, México, Panamá, Perú y Venezuela.
  • De este modo, nuestra respuesta dio prioridad a las necesidades particulares de los refugiados y migrantes en las áreas de protección, alojamiento, WASH, alimentación, medios de vida e integración, mediante intervenciones segmentadas y adaptadas al contexto (por ejemplo, mediante una mayor asistencia en efectivo) para complementar la capacidad de respuesta de las autoridades nacionales y en cooperación con OIM, ACNUR, UNICEF y otras organizaciones.
  • Apoyo psicosocial a través de líneas de atención telefónica de urgencia puestas en marcha en todos los países, grupos de apoyo virtuales para mujeres con especial énfasis en la prevención de la violencia de género.
  • Medios de vida: asesoramiento virtual para la preparación de currículos y solicitudes de empleo, identificación y remisión de perfiles médicos solicitados por ACNUR para el programa de empleo de emergencia COVID-19 en países como México.
  • Protección de jóvenes mediante campañas en redes sociales.
  • Difusión de paquetes de información y folletos sobre salud, educación, vivienda y trabajo, incluyendo información sobre el COVID-19.
  • Asistencia a través de tarjetas sanitarias multipropósito para los participantes.
  • Entrega de kits de higiene al personal de los centros educativos y de salud, como migrantes y refugiados en tránsito, niños, niñas, adolescentes y familias que participan en nuestros proyectos para prevenir la propagación prolongada del COVID-19.
  • Implementación de nuevos proyectos para responder al brote de COVID-19, por ejemplo, en Perú, un nuevo proyecto específico financiado por el fondo Education Cannot Wait que tiene por objetivo mantener la educación accesible para migrantes y refugiados venezolanos en tiempos de COVID-19.
  • Todas las oficinas nacionales de América Latina y el Caribe han elaborado planes de contingencia para cada proyecto a fin de garantizar su ejecución, pese a los problemas que plantea la pandemia del COVID-19 y las medidas adoptadas por los países para reducir la propagación del virus. En coordinación con los diversos donantes, se han actualizado incluso los componentes de algunos proyectos para asegurar que se satisfagan las necesidades más urgentes de sus beneficiarios.
  • Nuestras acciones se centraron, principalmente, en brindar apoyo a los gobiernos de acogida a través de la implementación de campañas de prevención del COVID-19, dirigidas a actores locales del sector educativo, niños, niñas, adolescentes, madres, padres y cuidadores de la población migrante y refugiada, así como de las comunidades de acogida.
  • Implementación y promoción de programas de educación no formal, a través de plataformas digitales para apoyar su integración al sistema educativo local.
  • Orientación y promoción de plataformas educativas virtuales implementadas por los gobiernos de acogida; apoyo con datos de internet a los y las participantes.

 

 

What is RET doing to ensure safety and health at work while staying and delivering?

On the World Day for Safety and Health at Work. RET is focused on addressing the outbreak of infectious diseases at work in particular the COVID-19 pandemic. RET’s management assessed the risks by following the developments of the COVID-19 outbreak globally and as of the first week of March, proactively started to take measures to protect its employees by cancelling international travels of RET staff with face-to-face meetings being replaced with teleconference or online meetings. As a next step a risk map and action plan has been elaborated with the regional and local RET staff to take country specific measures by considering the governmental arrangements to protect its employees and also finding optimal solutions to deliver the services to the most vulnerable.

As a result of a series of collaborative planning, RET has launched multiple awareness campaigns amongst staff and project participants, providing factual information about the COVID-19 pandemic translated into more than 7 languages, including English, Spanish, French, Turkish, Arabic, Kirundi and Swahili and is rigorously combating misinformation and fake news concerning the pandemic at the country levels. RET is strictly following the related regulations and arrangements of the governments and raises the awareness of their employees and participants that if the disease starts spreading in their communities anyone even with mild symptoms such as cough or fever needs to stay at home, to inform RET’s responsible staff and request sick leave and administrative arrangements, to take everyday precautions to keep space between others, to keep away from others in public and to limit close contact and wash hands often, to avoid crowds as much as possible, to avoid public transportation, cruise travel and air travel, to contact their healthcare provider to ask about next steps, to have enough household items and groceries on hand so that they will be prepared to stay at home for a period of time.

In countries, where no or limited local governmental restrictions apply and employees and project participants are regularly attending the field sites/offices/centers, RET is raising awareness and taking required measures on the adoption of safe practices at work, by briefing the employees on promoting respiratory hygiene at the workplace and making sure the workplaces are clean and hygienic, surfaces are disinfected regularly, and that employees and project participants have access to places where they can wash their hands with soap and water (offices and field) and/or have access to basic hygienic materials and personal protective equipment such as hand sanitizers/dispensers, face masks, paper tissues, closed bins. In addition, risk assessments and required arrangements are carried out for meetings and events, offices and/or seats have been arranged so that the required distances are kept between the participants and employees.

RET is taking utmost measures to keep employees at higher risk of getting sick from COVID-19 safe to reduce their risk of getting infected, such as the elderly staff, staff with chronic diseases and immunocompromising conditions and pregnant women.

RET is addressing in its contingency plan the precautionary measures and the guidelines to follow in case of any outbreak in the workplace in addition to addressing the mental health and social consequences of a case of COVID-19 in the workplace and is offering counselling and support on a daily basis for more than 1000 employees on the frontline around the world.

To the RET humanitarian heroes on the frontline inAfghanistan, Belize, Burundi, Chad, Colombia, Costa Rica, DRC, Ecuador, Kenya, Lebanon, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Turkey, Venezuela, we salute you.

ZERO Project Award for Innovative Practice 2020 – PANAMA

RET Americas was granted the Zero Project Award 2020 for Innovative Practice for “Including Children, Adolescents and Youth with Disabilities in Disaster Risk Reduction and Management practices.”

RET Americas has been implementing an inclusive school safety project in Panama, to teach students with disabilities how to manage the risks associated with natural hazards. This unique project integrates Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Management Practices into public schools to address the needs of children and youth with disabilities.
This is the first project in Panama to integrate Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Management practices into public schools to address the needs of children and youth with disabilities. This unique project empowers young people with disabilities to be positive agents of change in both Disaster Risk Reduction and first response. Since 2015, nearly 8,000 young people with disabilities have taken part in the project.

Zero Project Award

About RET DRR Projects
RET has been designing and implementing projects on DRR since 2009, working in multiple countries in the LAC region, including Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Panama at the national and regional level, using innovative approaches and ground-breaking interventions focused on: (1) Participation of children, adolescents and young people in DRR (including children with disabilities); (2) Advocacy and institutional strengthening in DRR focused on children and youth; (3) Development of tools and frameworks for DRR focusing on children and young people.

The DRR projects focus specifically on the needs of children, adolescents and young people, aimed at building their resilience through capacity strengthening under a rights-based approach. In addition, the DRR projects respond to early childhood and adolescents and young people’s needs and to the essentials of people with disabilities or indigenous groups. Some of RET’s DRR projects comprises of institutional capacity building and strengthening processes contributing to the design and/or implementation of their DRR public policies. Moreover, other projects have focused on a community level through the implementation of risk management models.

During the last 10 years RET has implemented more than 20 DRR-focused regional and national projects, including integral actions in other sectors such as education, protection, health and/or WASH and livelihoods, benefiting more than 30,000 participants directly, and 90,000 indirectly.

Learn more about RET’s Inclusive Education & DRR work in Panama.

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Partners & Achievements
RET is actively engaged at the global level in the “Global Alliance for Risks Reduction and Resilience of the Education Sector” (GADRRRES).  In the LAC, RET is a member of the “Regional Education Sector Group for DRR and Education in Emergencies” and has been the coordinator of the “Coalition for Children and Youth Resilience in Latin America and the Caribbean – CORELAC”. As a leader of CORELAC, the movement “Voices of Children and Youth for Resilience” has been promoted, reaching more than 6,000 young people in collaboration with UNICEF and UNDRR, Save the Children, Plan and World Vision. This initiative succeeded in incorporating the participation of young people from LAC in different regional platforms for DRR (Chile, Ecuador and Canada). The initiative led to the recognition of children’ and youth’ participation at the “World Conference on DRR” held in SENDAI in 2015; fundamentally influenced the inclusion of children and young people as “relevant actors” in the document of the SENDAI Framework for Disaster Risks Reduction 2015-2030

Learn more about RET Disaster Risk Reduction approaches.

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