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Director’s Notes

Our Response to COVID-19

April 15, 2020

I sincerely hope that you and your loved ones are healthy and safe.

In this 25th anniversary year for WFF, we expected to celebrate. Certainly, we did NOT expect to postpone our spring events, social distance from supporters like you and confront a global COVID-19 pandemic. None of the current guidance is easy: social distancing, wearing masks and staying at home. Together, we will get through this difficult time.

Individual country responses have been rapidly evolving — sometimes changing day-to-day. Given current low testing rates, African countries appear to be in the early stages of the pandemic. Underdeveloped healthcare capacity places all WFF partner countries at significant risk for rapid spread with devastating consequences.

For the past 3 weeks, my attention has been focused on assessing each grantee’s local situation, discussing next steps with both grantees and the WFF Board and then outlining WFF’s response — which I’d like to share now.

Our mission is to protect and restore the health and dignity of women after childbirth injuries. During this pandemic, WFF must do our part to protect the entire WFF family of staff, volunteers, supporters, partners and local grantees while preventing the spread of COVID-19. Here’s how:

  1. Jointly with our grantees, we’ve suspended program activities that could endanger the health of local staff as well as the vulnerable women we serve.
    • Surgeries: Partner facilities suspended surgeries. All patients were safely discharged and most were able to return home prior to severe local travel restrictions/disruptions.
    • Prevention Education & Patient Recruitment Outreach: Travel for community outreach is suspended. Advocates cannot educate groups in safe childbirth & injury treatment availability.
    • Vocational Training and Reintegration: Solidarity group meetings, vocational skills training classes and post-training advocate follow-up visits to women in their villages are suspended.
    • Even with reduced activities, WFF needs YOUR support to help grantees. The costs to sustain NGOs in the poorest countries on earth were NOT suspended.
  2. Practicing our organizational values, WFF will continue to be a dependable, supportive and trustworthy partner to our grantees and support them through this crisis.
    • Staff support: Our grantee team members rely on WFF funding to help support their families. We plan to continue providing support during program activity suspension. Hopefully, valued local staff can be retained and not have to risk their health in search of new income sources.
    • Local NGO/Organizational support: We will remain supportive of grantee organizational needs (office rent, utilities, etc.) as they ride out this crisis. Our grantees are all long-term partners. They need our support now, so that later we may together resume the important work of restoring the lives of women with childbirth injuries.

I will continue my frequent contact with grantees to provide mentoring/support and to receive updates. Dr. Itengre (Burkina Faso), Sarah Omega (Kenya), SIM (Niger), Mekelle University/Ayder Hospital (Ethiopia) and Alice Emasu (Uganda) have all shared the guidance and responses in their countries: restrictions on groups/gathering, limited or suspended public transportation, business closures, curfews, stay at home orders, promises for food distribution, border closures and scarcity of personal protective equipment (PPE — typically no high quantities at facilities providing childbirth injury repair). The city of Ouagadougou, where Dr. Itengre and ARENA are based, is currently under quarantine.

For WFF to support our grantees, we still need YOU to support us.

Postponing our May events will negatively affect our cash flow. We are also affected by some supporters delaying their usual spring gifts. I get it. These are uncertain times. Yet, our grantees still need WFF’s ongoing support. It is crucial that we help our partner organizations survive the crisis so their services may resume as soon as it’s safe. Pregnant women in Africa already have limited access to services. With resources redirected to fight COVID-19, their safety during labor will be greatly impacted and our services will be needed.

Please consider taking one of the following actions:

  1. Make your annual gift today.
    THANK YOU – some of you have already done this! If you normally wait to give at yearend, please know that WFF and our grantees need your support now.
  2. Consider making recurring donations.
    Spreading out your annual donation across the year will help us immensely too — with consistent, dependable revenue. WFF has invested a lot in these impactful organizations and needs your help to support them through this unprecedented year.
  3. If at all possible, consider increasing your gift this year
    THANK YOU – some of you have already done this too! I know this is a big ask. You may be waiting for US businesses to reopen. WFF never closed. On March 17, all WFF staff began working remotely to “shelter in place.”

We do still need your donation to keep our grantees secure during this global crisis.

Thank you for your consideration of a gift. With your help, I am confident that WFF and our partners will survive the current crisis and resume restoring the lives of women suffering from childbirth injuries.

Wishing you and your family continued good health,

Soja Orlowski
Executive Director

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