Dealing with development setbacks

Biruk, a disabled student in Ethiopia, receives emergency food supplies.


If you’d asked me as I sipped hot chocolate with my family at Christmas, how I would be spending the majority of 2020, living in lockdown during a global pandemic would’ve been the last thing on my mind.

As some parts of the world begin trying to recover from the feeling of having the rug pulled out from under us, we are left wondering ‘what happens now?’  As lockdown restrictions ease in certain parts of the globe, it’s not only becoming clear that Covid-19 will not simply go away, but that the implications of this pandemic are further reaching than any of us initially thought.  Not only will we not be going back to ‘normal’ – the yardstick for what is normal has shifted.

In some cases this might be for the better – maybe with the pace of life being forced to slow down, you’ve spent more time with family, done some DIY, or taken up a new hobby. Shifting the yardstick in ways that makes life better, is not a new concept for international development: At All We Can for example, our partner in India has supported 72% of women they work with, to improve their incomes and savings; in Ethiopia, our partner has enabled 70 disabled students, to access housing with improved accessibility, situated nearer to local schools; while another local partner in Zimbabwe has supported 2330 small-scale livestock farmers to better manage their herds, for improved food and income security.

We are always striving to support communities living in poverty, or affected by humanitarian crises, to shift what is ‘normal’ in ways that enable them to make their own lives better, to recover quickly, or improve their livelihoods. But what happens if the yardstick for ‘normal’ shifts in the other direction? Never before have we had a global crisis where every partner – and every community – in every country we work in has been affected in some way.  As we continue the conversation with partners about how to navigate these times together, it is becoming clear that in many cases the biggest emerging threat is not the one posed by Covid-19, but from the (albeit crucial) steps taken to slow the spread of the virus. With 85.5% of employment in Africa in the informal sector[1], and many families across countries in Africa and Asia being reliant on migrant labourers in their family for income, many communities living in the countries where All We Can works faced an immediate loss of income when lockdowns started. This is coupled with the fact that national governments in many countries are simply not financially able to provide social protections and fiscal stimulus packages to the degree wealthier countries are.  What this means is that communities where All We Can works are not only facing food and income shortages now, but the gains that have been made from a development perspective are at risk of being reversed in the longer term.

These challenges are monumental and risk trapping families in a cycle of poverty that All We Can, our partners, and the international development sector as a whole, have been working tirelessly to break.  In India for example, our partners are worried that if the situation continues to worsen, families will be forced to choose between not being able to feed their girls, or arranging marriages to families where their girls will at least be able to eat.  In Uganda, many partners are worried that young girls and women in their communities are facing such severe income and food shortages, that they are at risk of being exploited just to be able to meet their basic survival needs.

It’s a scary time, but if Covid-19 has shown us one thing – it’s that we are all connected, and it’s more important now than ever to hold together, so that we can not only shift the yardstick ‘back to normal’, but forward.

Your generosity, through the Emergency Coronavirus Appeal, is helping to support vulnerable communities across the globe. Please help us continue to reach those most in need during this difficult time – give now.


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