Real Life Heroes: Humanitarians of COVID-19

30 JULY 2020

World Humanitarian Day 2020


Country Director Virginia Saiz demonstrates the elbow bump which can be used instead of a hand shake.
Country Director Virginia Saiz demonstrates the elbow bump which can be used instead of a hand shake.

On World Humanitarian Day, 19th August, the world commemorates humanitarian workers killed and injured in the course of their work. On this day we honour all aid and health workers who continue, despite the odds, to provide life-saving support and protection to those most in need.

This year, COVID-19 has been the biggest challenge to humanitarian operations around the world.  The lack of access and restrictions placed by governments around the world has resulted in communities, civil society and local NGOs being the frontline of the response. Plan International’s frontline humanitarians have been working tirelessly to ensure children’s rights are upheld and girls and young women are protected and their unique needs prioritised.

So join us in paying special tribute to the real-life heroes who have committed their lives to helping others despite conflict, insecurity and the risks linked to COVID-19.

Delivering food aid in Sierra Leone

Michael, 29, is a driver and frontline worker who visited 6 districts and 61 communities in the northern and southern provinces of Sierra Leone over 2 weeks to deliver vital food and aid during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

“The smiles we see on the faces of the children and their parents when they receive their food package is more than a reward to me. It makes me forget about the long days of work, under the sun and rain. It motivates me.

“Each time I go to bed after a distribution day, I always tell myself, ‘Michael, you don’t have the financial means to support all of these children, but you have your services to offer, so do your best’.”

Prioritising education in Indonesia

Emergency Response Manager, Erlina Dengu, hands a learning kit to one of our sponsored children.

With schools in Indonesia closed to protect against the spread of the coronavirus, children’s education has been badly affected. In response to the many challenges of COVID-19, Emergency Response Manager, Erlina Dangu (pictured), has been distributing learning kits for sponsored children aged 5-17, alongside hygiene kits and information on stopping the spread of the virus.

“I always emphasise the purpose of our response to the team. We are not only distributing hygiene kits, but more importantly, are providing information about COVID-19 to people who may never have heard about it. 

I believe that my life has a deeper purpose and meaning. I have to give back to my community.

“I believe that my life has a deeper purpose and meaning. I have to give back to my community… Me and my colleagues are the lucky ones as we can access information from the right sources. I feel it is my responsibility to explain to the community the real situation, meet the needs of the community and minimise the impact on children.”

Delivering cash-relief to vulnerable women and families

Our humanitarians are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Dominican Republic by ensuring that children and their families have the correct information and materials needed to reduce the risk of COVID-19.

In Azua province, they are also supporting vulnerable families struggling to manage during the quarantine by providing them with vouchers and cash transfers, with a focus on female-headed households. The vouchers can be exchanged in local shops for food and hygiene items.

Plan International Country Director for Dominican Republic, Viriginia Saiz (pictured above left) says of her team’s response efforts during COVID-19: 

“It feels amazing. We feel lucky because while everybody is at home just watching the news, worrying about the situation, we have the privilege of being out there supporting the most vulnerable girls and their families.

“The girls I meet everyday doing my job, they are my personal heroes.”

Delivering cash and rent assistance for vulnerable families in Lebanon

During the lockdown, Plan International Lebanon stopped all field activities under government instruction – yet quickly found creative ways to reach vulnerable children and families using digital means.

The child protection team reached out to adolescents and their parents using social media. They shared official videos from the WHO and the Lebanese Health Ministry to help reach as many people as possible with accurate information on how to stop the spread of COVID-19.

They also delivered remote training in psychosocial first aid, child protection and case referral to partner organisations and distributed information on mental health wellbeing for children from 0 to 18 to children enrolled in their programmes. 

Abeer, (pictured right) helped support high-risk children by keeping in constant contact with case workers – all while supporting the distribution of food parcels and cash for rent assistance for the most vulnerable families.

“The girls I meet every day in my job give me hope because they are still holding on for hope and peace.

“I have hope that we will get through COVID-19 together because we are fighting this pandemic together, and we are strong together.”

Emergencies, COVID-19, Education in emergencies