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June update: our response to COVID-19


Simon Doherty, Senior Vice President of the British Veterinary Association and Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast, is a Trustee of Send a Cow.

Simon chairs the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe Food Safety & Sustainability Working Group and here he gives an update on how we’re supporting families to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

Increase in infections

The number of COVID-19 cases varies across each of the six countries where Send a Cow works and the numbers continue to increase every day. As of the 8th June, there have been over 190,000 cases and 5,000 deaths confirmed in Africa. However, due to limited testing and local political situations, there are concerns that numbers are actually much higher than what has been - and continues to be - reported.

Working under varying degrees of lockdown in each country, our teams have done well to adapt quickly to the changing situations. Much of our planned project activity and training has been postponed for the coming months, so we can refocus our efforts, but Send a Cow’s work is still desperately needed to keep families safe.

Whilst the immediate health implications of COVID-19 are extremely worrying for families, there are also human health impacts associated with collateral damage to eradication programmes for other infectious diseases such as HIV / AIDS, polio, tuberculosis and malaria. However, the longer-term risks of severe food insecurity, famine, and the loss of livelihood are an even bigger concern, compounded by the huge swarms of locusts that are destroying thousands of acres of crops.

A phased response

To support families Send a Cow are implementing a two-phased response to the pandemic. The first is an immediate response to slow and stop transmission of COVID-19, prevent outbreaks and delay the spread. The second will support the longer-term social and economic recovery of communities that are affected. This will start in July.

The first phase has seen Send a Cow staff support communities through talking to families to ensure they understand how to best protect themselves and prevent the spread of the virus. We are promoting good hygiene, by providing families with the materials to make tip-taps, as well as soap so they can properly wash their hands. We are also conducting radio broadcasts so families across a wide area can learn about the critical importance of handwashing.

We are providing emergency food supplies and seeds to those most in need families, and Send a Cow field staff are encouraging families to pass on seeds to fellow community members so that they don’t miss the critical planting window.

Lending your support

I would like to ask you, as long-term supporters of Send a Cow, what can you do to support farming families in Africa during this pandemic? Perhaps it’s to commit to personal challenge like a run, cycle or climb, or maybe it’s a donation on behalf of your business or family.

We’ve seen some incredible fundraising already, from 2.6 challengers Toby and Seb Symington running and cycling a collective 260 miles and raising £2,000 to a more recent heroic effort from Jerry Mills, cycling 7 laps of Jersey in 7 consecutive days.

Whatever we can each do is greatly appreciated, as one of our volunteer Ambassadors pointed out in response to our current appeal:

“I’m sure from speaking with [Elina] that she’s a very effective leader and teacher. If you’re able to pass on a message, please say how much her life-saving work is appreciated. I was so impressed with her commitment and understanding when we met last October and wish her all the very best in her efforts. As I try to raise money in support I will tell people about her and what she does for her community.”

Volunteer ambassador Send a Cow

We don’t know what the real impacts of COVID-19 are going to be on rural Africa yet, but I do know that Send a Cow will be able to ensure the families they support are as prepared as they can be.

If you would like any information on how to support Send a Cow’s COVID-19 response contact to the urgent handwashing appeal, and support our response.