NGOs grapple with how to help most vulnerable during coronavirus outbreak

The coronavirus is affecting communities worldwide and is hampering the ability of Israeli and Jewish non-profits to support the most vulnerable and at-risk populations, they say.

David and Shlomo: A volunteer from Latet, and one of the Aid for Life beneficiaries (photo credit: Courtesy)
David and Shlomo: A volunteer from Latet, and one of the Aid for Life beneficiaries
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The coronavirus is affecting communities worldwide and is hampering the ability of Israeli and Jewish aid organizations to support the most vulnerable and at-risk populations. 

According to multiple NGOs, the outbreak challenges their work by increasing the demand for their services; forcing them to cancel programs and fundraising campaigns; and causing a decrease in donations and volunteers.
The heads of Leket Israel, Pitchon Lev, Latet, Rabanim L’Zchuyot Adam, Shatil and Mazon Israel explained in a statement that the coronavirus outbreak is causing a severe economic crisis and is most severely impacting Israelis living below the poverty line who rely on food assistance from non-profits. They predict that many more could rely on such assistance in the near future. Considering the increased demand for their services, along with a financial instability that will most likely impact donations, they argued that some organizations may have to discontinue activities. 
To deal with those challenges, they are calling on the government to recognize the necessity of their activities and to provide them with financial assistance.
“We call on the government to recognize the essential operations of food distributing aid organizations as a critical necessity for the economy, and to provide them with budgetary aid," they said in a statement. "If the food aid organizations collapse on their own, the needy may end up in real danger for their survival. The government must rally to ensure the continued operations of these organizations."
But other non-profits are trying to find new ways to raise funds and to adapt to this new normal so that they can continue helping the most vulnerable. 
LATET, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting poverty, has launched an emergency fund for elderly people who lack access to food and who are isolated into their homes. 
"The purpose of this critical operation is to minimize the spread of the virus by ensuring that elderly people will be able to stay home. Elderly people are the most at risk population and should be protected during the whole time of the crisis in order to avoid further escalation," Latet said in a statement. 
The organization provides packages including food, personal hygiene products and entertainment items delivered directly to homes, with the help of volunteers. 
Another example is Beit Issie Shapiro, which develops innovative services for people with disabilities. It launched a "hotline" to assist and provide emotional support to people with disabilities and their families. Psychologists, social workers and family therapists from the organization are responsible for the hotline.
The hotline, which can be reached at 073-2417730, works 7 days a week between 9 a.m. and midnight. In the non-operational hours, callers can leave a voicemail.
Some are also joining forces to ensure that all those committed to helping the most vulnerable will be able to face the threats posed by the virus. 
The Jewish Funders Network is a community of Jewish philanthropic foundations, organizations and individuals working to improve the lives of those in need. JFN provides financial assistance and support to those organizations to maximize their impact. In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the network announced that they are committed to maintain funding levels. 
"We will work with you and each other to help make funds available to address and respond to the coronavirus and global economic scenarios in strategic ways. This might include programmatic grants for new approaches to mission-driven work, interest-free loans and other forms of technical non-financial assistance," JFN said in a statement. "As we talk with you more over the coming days and months, we will take what we learn and do our very best to turn it into meaningful actions that support your organizations, professional teams, and your programs and initiatives. Jewish life, learning and meaningful engagement will continue."