Coronavirus pandemic 2020

Countries affected by coronavirus and ActionAid's response

As Covid-19 spreads to the poorest countries in the global south, it is more urgent than ever to support the most vulnerable. 

ActionAid has a long-standing relationship with the communities we are based in. Our staff, programme workers and local partners have a long history of both responding to disasters and helping communities prepare, for example, in countries like Sierra Leone, which helped to reduce the spread of the virus during the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

Staff in the countries where we work are distributing relevant information and putting in place preventative measures to adapt to the situation as much as they can. 


In Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, over 800,000 Rohingya refugees are living in densely-packed camps with inadequate water and sanitation facilities.  

Over half the population in the camps does not have access to enough water and at least one-third of people do not have access to soap.   

Recent reports indicate the spread of fake news and inaccurate information being circulated about Covid-19. 

ActionAid is already distributing approved information on prevention of Covid-19 through our supported protection centres in the Rohingya refugee camps. 


Before the outbreak in Cambodia, ActionAid and our partners were raising awareness and distributing soaps and masks at schools. 

Local women leaders are currently leading the efforts in raising awareness in local communities and distributing soap to vulnerable families. 

Democratic Republic of Congo

In Democratic Republic of Congo, the government has closed schools, bars, restaurants and religious venues for four weeks.  

ActionAid DRC has extensive experience in implementing Ebola prevention measures in response to the 2018-19 outbreak.

We are continuously monitoring the situation and providing information to women's groups in operational areas.  


In Haiti, ActionAid is working closely with the Ministry of Health to provide communication material and megaphones for community sensitisation.  

ActionAid’s partner organisations and women’s groups are raising awareness in their community about Covid-19 prevention measures.     


As of end of March 2020, India had a total of 649 reported cases of Covid-19 between 26 states or union territories.1 

ActionAid India has developed educational material and is raising awareness on Covid-19 prevention. We are reaching out to the most vulnerable communities with support and ration kits as the country goes under lockdown. 


In Liberia, ActionAid has significant experience in supporting a women and community-led response to the Ebola outbreak that took place in 2014-16.  

We focused on urgent awareness-raising and messaging on prevention and safe practices, as well as basic needs support and education for families in quarantine or isolation. 

ActionAid is now monitoring Covid-19 and preparing communities.    


Malawi is reported to have one of highest rates of undernourishment in the world, with 17.5% of the population affected. The Covid-19 virus could affect those whose health is already compromised. 

Malawi also relies heavily on imported food to meet demand, and therefore faces disproportionate risk from closures and lockdowns. 

ActionAid Malawi has established a crisis management team with its partners and is coordinating an awareness-raising response. 

We are working to provide food supplies to 14,000 households and distribute hygiene kits to women and girls. 


In rural areas of Myanmar, women and children are at the biggest risk of being infected because of the lack of access to information.

ActionAid Myanmar is working to raise awareness in all the affected areas. We have provided communication materials to hospitals and distribution of pamphlets and soap to some communities already. 


In Nepal, some community volunteers in collaboration with AA Nepal have set up a ‘Call the Doctor’ campaign  to reach out as many young people as possible to talk about coronavirus, dispel its myths and encourage people to connect directly with the doctors for authentic information.

ActionAid is drawing up further plans to include distribution of dry food items, provision of food or cash to daily wage labourers in lockdown, and quarantine kits including hand sanitisers, soap, thermometer, paracetamol, masks, sanitary pad and tissues.

Occupied Palestinian territories

ActionAid Palestine is one of the first NGOs to help with a Covid-19 response in the region, distributing food parcels and hygiene kits including hand sanitiser, gloves, toilet paper and soap to 1,600 people in quarantine in Bethlehem. ActionAid is using its network of young activists who received training on how to protect themselves and others from Covid-19.

We’ve also set up women-only online spaces, providing classes on preparedness, focusing on the needs of women as they are more involved in times of crises and the first to protect their families and communities.


In Senegal, ActionAid is raising awareness in nine communities around Covid-19.

ActionAid Senegal is distributing hygiene and sanitation items such as bleach and soap. Along with local partners, we distributed 5,000 hygiene kits including hand sanitisers and soap to prevent the spread of the virus. 


While the number of coronavirus cases in Somaliland specifically is relatively small, the disease has been prevalent throughout all rural regions which shows it is widespread.

Poor families especially those living in camps for internally displaced people cannot afford to buy food and other supplies as they depend on vouchers, food or cash provided by external agencies. 

ActionAid Somaliland is preparing to engage with communities on raising awareness and distribution of hygiene kits. We are already providing food and support to over 11,000 households. 


In Zimbabwe, which is already struggling with a food crisis, provision of food and supplies will be critical.

We are working with partners to continue distribution of much needed food aid and drilling of boreholes. 

ActionAid is in the process of procuring protective clothing and hand sanitisers for staff and communities.

  • 1.

What is the difference between coronavirus, the novel coronavirus and Covid-19?

  • Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses such as the common cold and the flu.
  • The novel coronavirus or severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans.
  • Covid-19 is the disease caused by the infectious novel coronavirus.

What is the difference between an outbreak, epidemic, and pandemic?

  • An outbreak is the rise of a disease but confined to a localised area or a specific group of people. 
  • An epidemic takes place when a disease is actively spreading and there is a sudden increase in the number of cases of a disease—more than what's typically expected for the population in a particular area.
  • A pandemic occurs when an epidemic has spread over several countries and continents and is affecting a large number of people.1 

Who is affected by the coronavirus outbreak?

Even though the epicentre of the outbreak was Asia, countries all over the world are now affected by the Covid-19 virus.

How is the novel coronavirus affecting our work?

Read our full response to how the coronavirus is affecting our work and how we're planning to continue our work.

  • 1.

How is the coronavirus affecting women and girls?

Women and girls in the global south are some of the most marginalised and vulnerable people in the world.

Many communities rely on water sources external to their homes in the global south. 

With the demand for water and hygiene increasing during the crisis, many women and girls will find themselves seeking water from far-flung places which can put them at an increased risk of sexual violence.

With demands to self-isolate and reduce social contact to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, women and girls also face heightened risk of domestic violence while spending more time at home. 

Many women in the global south are also risking exposure by being at the forefront of healthcare systems and while shouldering domestic and feeding responsibilities.

Furthermore, women who make up the vast majority of garment factory employees are now facing a loss of income and job security as less demand for new clothes and garments around the world mean factories are closing

Read more about the ways the new coronavirus pandemic could affect women and girls around the world.

What can I do to help?

The new coronavirus is already affecting the poorest communities in Africa, South-East Asia and Latin America.

We know that the impact of the disease caused by coronavirus is likely to be more severe on people who are already weakened by poor nutrition and by the additional vulnerabilities arising from humanitarian emergencies, conflict and the climate crisis.

The rapid spread of Covid-19 means we must urgently step up our response to help communities who need us most.


Donate now

What to do if you think you have coronavirus

If you are in the UK, and you or anyone you know may have the coronavirus, there are services that can help. 

NHS advice about coronavirus

The National Health Service (NHS) provides advice about coronavirus (COVID-19), including what to do if you think you have it and how to reduce your chances of getting it.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

If you have symptoms of coronavirus (a high temperature or a new, continuous cough), use the 111 coronavirus service.

What are the number of coronavirus cases and risk in the UK?

The current situation is ever-evolving but you can find the latest information on the UK government's website.



Page updated 1 March 2021