Special Initiatives & Emergency Response

Rapid funds for COVID-19 response in vulnerable communities

Our partner Start Network has launched a new COVID-19 fund to anticipate and respond to the critical needs of people living in low-income countries. Last week, the IKEA Foundation kickstarted this fund with a donation of €1.5 million—and we are calling for other donors to join us.

Start Fund COVID-19 will provide rapid funds for small and medium responses by local organisations working on the frontline in low-income countries. It will also support underfunded parts of the broader COVID-19 response and highlights the need for early humanitarian action before the virus spreads to vulnerable communities.

Start Network is a group of over 50 organisations working together to transform the way the humanitarian sector helps people prepare for, respond to and recover from crises in their own communities. It has many members with expertise in the prevention and control of infectious diseases across the globe.

Support for weak public health systems

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.”

Start Network has already begun responding to COVID-19 in Cameroon and Bangladesh using existing funds. In Cameroon, local organisations will help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among 140,000 refugees and nearby communities. In Bangladesh, a number of projects led by local organisations will help vulnerable communities across the country, including Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar.

Working around the clock

The new fund will enable local organisations to start putting in place measures to prepare and protect communities in densely populated areas. This could include food assistance, as lockdowns in many countries mean people are unable to work, so cannot afford to buy food.

The Start Network’s alerts system has also identified communities that are likely to be overlooked by national responses, including migrants, daily labourers, those who are chronically ill and older people.

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. By empowering local organisations to take the lead, the Start Network is making sure no-one is left behind. We urge other donors to support this fund.”

Keep an eye on our website for more information on the Start Network’s response in the coming weeks.

Start Network launches COVID-19 fund
Record number of alerts shows urgent need for rapid and early support to stop the spread of COVID-19