The Second Wave of COVID-19 hits Sri Lanka

Compassion in Action

The Second Wave of COVID-19 hits Sri Lanka

How the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of Sri Lanka is Responding

On October 5th 2020, after a significant period of dormancy, and therefore unfortunately complacency, COVID-19 raised its ugly head in the form of a cluster of infected factory workers in Sri Lanka. While response was speedy once detected, the virus had already spread beyond the factory workers through normal channels they and those unknown, mingled in, to a substantial number of districts throughout the island. Commencing with quarantine of known contacts, closing schools islandwide, prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people in private and public places, and imposing curfew where the risk was high, the government of Sri Lanka acted swiftly.

In this critical time, Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement has taken the initiative to respond to the second wave. With the escalating situation, the Sarvodaya Management led by Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, who himself is a specialist in Community Medicine, has taken a number of precautionary measures according to the Covid-19 preventive guidelines, such as introducing a staff roster to limit attendance to its head office, limiting travel, avoiding non-essential gatherings at the offices, and in the field.

Immediate actions taken by Sarvodaya to assist communities

Sarvodaya dissipated Covid-19 awareness and prevention methods banners, posters and stickers in both Sinhala and Tamil languages, displaying them islandwide; in public areas and buses.

Sarvodaya conducted social media campaigns on Covid-19 awareness and prevention. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; each platform has a reach of about 20,000 to 60,000 persons. The posts created through this campaign were in all three languages- Sinhala, Tamil, and English.

The two main groups identified as vulnerable in the face of the suddenness of the current situation are the daily-wage workers and low-income generating families living in slums and low income apartment units. As a result, Sarvodaya identified and verified the situation with the support of the Sarvodaya district officers and provided dry rations to these families.

Sarvodaya distributed cleaning and hygiene packs to shelters and homes run for children, elders, and the disabled. Hand washing hygiene stations were installed in public places and certain institutions in several districts.

Social distancing squares were demarcated in spaces that are likely to be crowded such as bus stands, in all twenty-five districts including Colombo which were identified as the most populated districts in Sri Lanka.

How Sarvodaya disseminated and took action so fast

Sarvodaya cannot work alone to achieve successful spreading of education and awareness on COVID-19 prevention and control methods. They also need to and do, work with various formal and non-formal entities to dissipate knowledge and address the stigma and discrimination against those infected, to ensure communities work together and towards combating this pandemic rather than work against each other. Some of the main entities Sarvodaya is working with are:

  • Community leaders and volunteers
  • Community based organizations (CBOs).
  • Female leaders and head of households.
  • Religious and Faith leaders.
  • Government and private non-profit stake holders.

Objectives of working with these leaders

  • To facilitate effective two-way communication between health authorities and communities in response to COVID-19 and other health-related issues.
  • To engage the communities actively and proactively in decision making; planning, designing, implementing, monitoring, and evaluation of their COVID-19 responses.
  • To promote unity and reduce the stigma associated with getting infected with the virus or testing positive.
  • Conduct early and on-going participatory assessments of at-risk communities: their perception, knowledge, preferred and accessible communication channels, existing barriers that prevent people to adopt promoted behaviors, etc.
  • Ensure that all people at risk of acquiring COVID-19 are identified, reached, educated and involved.

Repercussions on ongoing Sarvodaya operations

As Covid-19 continues to spread, the future has never felt so unpredictable. These are challenging times for all, and Sarvodaya is doing everything possible to sustain daily operations under the ‘new normal’, and to provide services to their communities. While there is a lot of uncertainty, Sarvodaya is adapting fast to the changing reality. Although the situation continues to devolve rapidly, all project teams remain fully committed to pursue with their project activities to complete the work in a safe, diligent and reasonable manner under the current circumstances.

Since most of the project activities are community-based, reaching them at these critical times could pose a threat to the project teams as well as to the beneficiaries. Each situation is being evaluated on a case by case basis; with the team’s commitment to fight this epidemic, Sarvodaya has rightfully put safety in the forefront of all decisions.

Therefore, Sarvodaya Sri Lanka and Sarvodaya USA wish to kindly inform all our partners that this global crisis will definitely cause some uncertainties and delays in our work, and whist continuing as much as our activities in accordance to the health guidelines and ‘new normal’, there could be situations we may need to reevaluate and come back to you with updates that deviates from our original work plans and contractual obligations. We hope that the situation will improve soon and a positive environment will be created for all the projects to resume their normal activities.

We thank you for you patience and the continuous support rendered to us throughout these critical times. Your donations will go towards the communities who need them most as the second wave ravages the island. Every dollar is welcome. Please click on the link below to make a one time or monthly donation.


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