Community mobilization to address food insecurity during the COVID‑19 pandemic
In the context of the COVID‑19 pandemic, measures to control virus transmission, such as travel restrictions and quarantine measures, have had serious consequences for individual and household food security. Across low- and middle-income countries, these challenges are disproportionately felt by vulnerable populations, including individuals experiencing poverty, who may not have the financial and social capital to buffer against the shocks created by the pandemic. In the Philippines, widespread layoffs of millions of agricultural workers and other day labourers have limited food access and availability, contributing to emergency food insecurity in some settings.
This crisis calls for immediate, innovative, and locally driven responses to identify and address food insecurity among vulnerable populations in low resource settings. Indeed, community mobilization efforts are increasingly highlighted in many settings, including the Philippines, as a critical approach to addressing local needs created or exacerbated by the pandemic. Early in the pandemic, International Care Ministries (ICM) expanded its Rapid Emergencies and Disasters Intervention (REDI) network to identify and address emergency food insecurity among households experiencing poverty across the Philippines. The network relies on 3,000 volunteer community leaders located throughout the Philippines to document local needs through REDI so that aid can be mobilized through one of ICM’s regional branch offices. In light of the expansion of the REDI network during the pandemic and the reliance of the network on volunteer community leaders, the goal of this project is to collaboratively evaluate the role of volunteer community leaders within the REDI network to inform ICM’s current and future responses to address emergency food insecurity. Guided by ‘ethics of care’ and ‘realist evaluation’ approaches, and anchored by an established partnership between ICM and the University of Waterloo, specific objectives include:
1. To collect data (via semi-structured interviews) to understand how community volunteers conceptualize and practice care in their communities while acting as implementers within the REDI network.
2. To evaluate the effectiveness of the REDI network (via semi-structured and key informant interviews, in addition to document review) during the COVID‑19 pandemic.
3. To mobilize knowledge generated through a series of planning workshops with ICM staff and leadership to inform efforts to enhance the operations of the REDI network during the COVID‑19 pandemic and future humanitarian crises.
This project will train two Canadian students in qualitative study design and data analysis, cross-cultural communication and collaboration, project management, and knowledge mobilization with scholarly and community-based audiences. Findings from this project will be mobilized through two open access peer-reviewed publications, two conference presentations, planning workshops with ICM, and a workshop with a civil society coalition in the Philippines.
This project will directly contribute to the humanitarian efforts of ICM by generating critical information on the experiences of volunteer community leaders who connect ICM’s operations and resources with communities and households experiencing emergency food insecurity. Additionally, the information generated through this project will equip ICM to better support the essential care work of the community volunteer leaders engaged in the REDI network.