No reader needs to be reminded of what a tough year SWEDO faced in 2020, because the difficulties and new working conditions forced upon us by the COVID-19 pandemic have touched not only our organisation but the whole of humanity, quite literally every organisation and individual. One might be tempted to settle for drafting a list of the many challenges of this year and discount the possibility of achieving results in such an environment. Nonetheless, we would like to highlight our successes and an underlying strength of SWEDO historically, which has also served us well during the pandemic, and that is the adaptability of our organization. Our readiness to flexibly respond to new situations and create new possibilities to reach vulnerable beneficiaries and deliver services.
SWEDO performed well during the pandemic because it has been built up over a long series of crises stretching back three decades in Iraq and Syria. Certainly, COVID-19 has heavily impacted SWEDO staff and all of our areas of operation, compounding the difficulties encountered by our staff, partners and vulnerable target groups. In spite of those difficulties, SWEDO has been able to manage and adapt to delivering services in the midst of the pandemic, in the same way that SWEDO adjusted its modalities to working during the conflict with ISIS, implementing activities in fragile Iraqi communities, or working in today’s enduring insecurity of North-East Syria. Other crises taught us how to be ready for COVID-19 long before it spread.
As early as February 2020, SWEDO Iraq activated its Emergency Support Group, in order to ensure proper contingency planning, accurate communication and sustaining critical activities during the COVID-19 emergency. A scenario analysis was drawn up, considering likely peak months for virus transmission as well as disease hotspots. The analysis also forecast public health measures and their likely effect on containing the spread of COVID-19, including movement restrictions, lockdowns, social distancing, curfews, etc. As a result of this early contingency planning, the impact of the pandemic on SWEDO operations was minimal; activities slowed but were not suspended and the team was able to quickly restore normalcy by mid-2020 after the initial peak months of transmission.
For SWEDO it was of primary concern to maintain continuity of service, as we reach beneficiary communities which already experience significant vulnerabilities and are exposed to many risks, such as displacement, loss of income, children poorly schooled, and a high prevalence of gender-based violence. In this fragile environment, it is vital that SWEDO was able to continue providing services, despite the pandemic. SWEDO also used the occasion of movement restrictions to bolster staff training, coordinating with UN partners to introduce trainings which specifically addressed the ways and means of mitigating COVID-19 in field context.
As such, despite the pandemic, SWEDO has remained a steadfast and relevant organisation delivering valuable humanitarian and development services in Iraq, Syria, Jordan and soon Palestine.
The SWEDO Board would like to warmly thank all SWEDO staff for their immense and selfless dedication to maintaining our activities and providing needed services throughout the pandemic. We would also like to express our gratitude for continued support from our committed donors and programmatic partners including UNHCR, UNFPA, SRTF and WFP.