New COVID-19 fund launched to help vulnerable communities in low-income countries

Originally published by Start Network on 2 April 2020 |

Rapid response COVID-19 Fund available immediately for aid agencies to support vulnerable people in low-income countries.

LONDON — A global network of aid agencies has launched a new COVID-19 aid fund to anticipate and respond to critical virus-related humanitarian needs in low-income countries. The fund is being kickstarted with a donation from IKEA Foundation for €1.5M, other donors are being sought.

The new fund will help respond to aid agencies’ concerns about the humanitarian risk to communities in many parts of the world where resilience is low, due to other poverty and disasters, such as severe weather events or conflict.

The initiative is being led by Start Network, which has 50 members, many with expertise in the prevention and control of infectious diseases across the globe.

The new fund, known as Start Fund COVID-19, will be part of the Start Network’s existing funding mechanism, the Start Fund, enabling the network to get the fund set up quickly. ‘Start Fund COVID-19’ will provide rapid funding for small to medium responses at the local level, neglected or underfunded aspects of the broader COVID-19 response and for early and anticipatory humanitarian action, needed before the virus spreads to vulnerable communities.

Christina Bennett, CEO of Start Network said:

“As the coronavirus pandemic spreads across low-income countries, it is critical to prepare for and respond to the human impact of the virus, particularly in those communities already living with weak public health systems and poor public services. Start Fund is the fastest humanitarian funding tool of its kind, so we’re taking this tool and adapting it for COVID-19. This will provide critical rapid and early financing for NGOs to analyse, anticipate and respond to this crisis at the local level quickly, before the bigger funds come online.”

Annemieke de Jong, Programme Manager at the IKEA Foundation, said:

“We stand in solidarity with the Start Network and our other partners who are on the frontline of COVID-19 response. They are working around the clock to protect vulnerable communities, where people are already living in poverty and have fewer resources to fall back on. We have contributed €1.5 million to the Start Fund to empower local organisations to take the lead in helping vulnerable communities to prepare for and respond to the pandemic. These small and medium responses are absolutely critical in making sure no-one is left behind and we urge other donors to step forward and support this fund.”

Jonathan Brooker, Director of Solidarités International UK, Chair of the Start Fund Committee, said:

“As a network of 50 different organisations with a far-reaching global footprint through programmes in vulnerable communities in all continents of the world, and with member organisations with proven capacities and field-leading expertise in the prevention and control of infectious diseases, the Start Network can adapt within days to enable members to anticipate and respond to COVID-19, and in a context in which timing is so critical, to save lives.”

Start Network has already begun responding to COVID-19 in Cameroon and Bangladesh through existing funding mechanisms. In Cameroon, agencies will help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 to almost 140,000 refugees and nearby communities. In Bangladesh, numerous projects, many of which are being led by local organisations, will help vulnerable communities across the country including Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar.

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