Many not-for-profits have had to cancel fundraising activities as a result of the global health crisis
Luxembourg charities are facing a squeeze as coronavirus containment measures prompt a drop in donations and create new barriers for delivering much-needed projects.
The Luxembourg Red Cross announced on Friday the cancellation of its annual door-to-door collection in April, for the first time in 75 years. It is just one of hundreds of not-for-profits that has had to cancel fundraising activities as a result of the global health crisis which at the time of writing had claimed 37,829 lives.
“For NGOs to do their projects they have to provide 20% of their own funding and this is a challenge at this time,” Veronique Faber of the Cercle de Coopération, a platform for 88 international non-governmental organisations in Luxembourg, told Delano on Monday. She added: “The other challenge will be if the projects go on. Whether here in Luxembourg or with partners in the south, they all have the same rules of confinement. Here we really have a global crisis.”
Not-for-profit Catch a Smile, which works with migrants and asylum seekers all over Europe, has seen its activities severely impacted by the restrictions on movement. Fabienne Dimmer said: “In many places it’s not possible any more to help as many countries have a real lockdown.” She says that police have made it impossible to run a migrant soup kitchen in Calais properly. Dimmer said that in some places, partners risk fines to distribute food packages. Because of the risk of contracting the coronavirus and potentially having volunteers go into quarantine, they decided to close their own hotspot centre for migrants arriving in Bosnia.
“We’ve five volunteers left in Bosnia and they now do laundry. We work with the camps, which are overfull,” Dimmer said. Reaching the most-needy was particularly hard in migrant camps in Greece, which are now closed to partner organisations offering things like laundry, hygiene and medical support. In all their projects, raising awareness about the crisis is tricky. “They have bigger problems and they had bigger problems before,” she said.
Financially, Dimmer said the charity was coping, “but it could be in two months that nothing comes in and the crisis isn’t going away.”
Faber said she expects many NGOs will have to adapt their projects to offer solutions for people impacted by the covid-19 crisis. Handicap International has already taken this step. Of the 300 projects it operates in 50 countries, 200 will be reduced.
A Handicap International worker in Uganda. Photo: Quinn Neely/Handicap International
“It is a totally unexpected situation for us,” Handicap International Luxembourg director Martin Lagneau told Delano on Monday. “We have 40 or so projects which had to be stopped because of the confinement measures in place,” he said. “And I would say we’ve 40 projects which we have started related to the coronavirus.”
Among the projects being adapted are programmes with refugees in Colombia, which will now distribute food to other vulnerable people. “We’re developing logistics activities to work with other humanitarian actors,” he said.
Among other things, the NGO is also distributing hygiene kits, developing awareness raising about precautions to stop the spread of the virus among people with disabilities and emergency mental health support material for people dealing with loss and grief. “Every day there’s something new.” Although Handicap has successfully adapted projects in the past, notably by managing the only centralised ambulance service in Freetown, Sierre Leone, and disinfecting patients’ homes during the 2016 ebola epidemic, it is not easy. “We have to negotiate to get permission and budgets,” Lagneau said.
Finances are meanwhile dwindling and the director says the fact the NGO is eating into its reserves is “worrying”. “40% of our finances come from the public,” he said. “If it doesn’t work, we will have to reduce our operational capacity.”
The Cercle de Coopération will conduct a survey with its members over the coming month, the results of which will be presented to the government to help find solutions. “We will ask for flexibility for projects that are funded by the government,” Faber said.