Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), the global humanitarian arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, has been responding globally to help nearly 20 million people survive the significant health challenges and economic impact that the pandemic has created.
This global response has so far created 422 projects in 96 countries. It has resulted in a historic collaboration between ADRA and the Adventist Church during a time when many churches were closed.
ADRA has described this collaboration and the significant impact of its global response in a new COVID-19 Global Report.
“ADRA reaffirms its commitment to continue to respond to the urgent needs of disadvantaged communities heavily impacted by the COVID-19 global crisis. Our global emergency taskforce, in coordination with the Adventist Church and our trusted partners, is making significant progress in helping vulnerable families recover from the difficult challenges of this pandemic,” Michael Kruger, ADRA president, said. “We are grateful to the Adventist Church for the significant support it has provided, as well as to our donors and volunteers for their continued assistance. We pray that this aid will give comfort and hope to every person we help, and a sense of Jesus’ love and compassion.”
ADRA’s COVID-19 Global Report outlines how the agency pivoted from existing development projects to scale up to a major pandemic response by establishing a global taskforce for implementing a new approach. This helped ADRA to increase humanitarian assistance worldwide and leverage limited funds into a US$26 million response that included Adventist church entities, governments, multilateral organizations, non-profit organizations, corporations, and other trusted partners to ensure vulnerable communities had access to life-saving essentials and life-sustaining support. This included awareness and health promotion, water and sanitation, health training, personal protective equipment (PPE), medical supplies, food security, and psychosocial support to vulnerable populations, frontline workers, and first responders.
Seventy percent of ADRA’s COVID-19 response operations were established or adapted rapidly in partnership with the Adventist Church with limited or no funding. Despite office closures and disruptions caused by the pandemic, ADRA successfully executed projects in multiple countries and multiple continents, including the following regions:
North America – 69 Projects Impacting 714,000 People
ADRA partnered with the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists (NAD) to donate US$4 million in personal protective equipment (PPE), medical supplies, food, and cash assistance to Adventist-run food pantries across the United States and Canada. The donation supported medical facilities facing severe supply shortages in U.S. suburban communities in states such as Texas, California, Maryland, and New York. More than 200 pallets of PPEs, face shields, globes, and essential medical supplies were delivered to the facilities. In Canada, 510 Adventist volunteers from 39 churches also delivered food baskets, hygiene kits, psychosocial support, and cash vouchers to nearly 30,000 people.
Central America – 10 Projects Serving 54,000 People
ADRA used innovative ways to adapt or change existing projects and create new ones to support migrants, refugees, and vulnerable populations during the pandemic. The initiatives totaling US$339,000 ranged from health prevention awareness campaigns, mental health counseling, food security, and crisis management training to PPEs and medical supply donations, as well as water and sanitation projects. ADRA’s relief operations in this region covered at least nine countries, including Colombia, where hundreds of Seventh-day Adventist employees donated one day of their salary to support families affected by the pandemic. In El Salvador, efforts helped more than 6,000 small business entrepreneurs and families working in agricultural projects to adapt their skills to continue earning livelihoods during the coronavirus crisis.
South America – 101 Projects Helping 764,000 People
ADRA worked closely with the Adventist Church and local partners to respond to the region’s health, social, and economic crisis. The response, valued at more than US$8.8 million, included at least eight countries. The efforts featured mobile laundry and decontamination services in Argentina and Brazil, where trained volunteers washed, dried, and sanitized more than 20 tons of clothes regularly for COVID-19 patients. Initiatives also included public health training and assistance to support 13,000 recipients in more than 47 health centers sheltering the homeless and trafficked children and adolescents.
Europe – 32 Projects Impacting 42,000 People
ADRA’s response in Europe raised local funds to support the most vulnerable populations in developing countries around the world and those inside the European region. The projects worth US$688,000 were located in some 14 countries. In the United Kingdom, ADRA focused on community hubs for the homeless, refugees, and people with chronic conditions. In Hungary, children received laptops so they could study online. In Albania, students at risk of dropping out of school received tutoring videos via WhatsApp. In Russia, ADRA volunteers made and distributed 70,000 masks for 35,000 people in disadvantaged communities and for health workers.
Ten European ADRA offices supported humanitarian activities in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Additional relief projects for underserved communities are already underway in South Sudan, Yemen, Tanzania, Lebanon, Sudan, some West African countries, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.
Africa – 47 Projects Serving 16 Million People
While COVID-19 cases in Africa have not surged at the same levels as other regions, the effects of the pandemic and recent natural disasters in the region have created a refugee and food security crisis. To address the challenges facing Africa, ADRA launched 47 projects worth US$8 million, including activities focused on water and sanitation for more than 53,000 households and orphans; food and hygiene kits for more than 3,600 displaced people in Mali; and protective gear and medical supplies for health professionals serving more than 72,0000 families in Mozambique.Asia – 75 Projects Helping Nearly 2 Million People
In Asia, ADRA worked closely with the Adventist Church and the European Union, national governments, corporations, United Nations agencies, and other local partners to ensure the development achievements of recent years were not lost. To this end, ADRA carried out 75 projects worth nearly US$1.7 million in at least 15 nations, and many activities focused on adapting existing development projects to educate communities about COVID-19 prevention.
Other activities included training community members to use proper sanitation and providing medical resources to community health centers. In Cambodia, ADRA helped more than 10,000 households and 800 health workers through COVID-19 projects targeting community health centers. In the Philippines, ADRA leveraged partnerships with the Adventist University of the Philippines to provide psychosocial support for health workers. In Sri Lanka, ADRA also leveraged funding to attract support from UNICEF to provide awareness about personal protective equipment, hygiene kits, and hand-washing basins.
South Pacific – 49 Projects Serving 125,000 People
ADRA also adapted projects to meet the challenges of the pandemic in the South Pacific and created new projects in partnership with the Adventist Church and other partners. The 49 projects totaled US$1.9 million and were implemented in at least six countries. Some of the activities centered on reaching communities with more than 800 dialects, in places like Papua New Guinea (PNG), where ADRA launched prevention awareness initiatives with multiple communication and education campaigns to ensure communities understand the threat and reduce their risk of infection. ADRA also trained vulnerable community members, especially women, to make soap, masks, and other products to sell to improve incomes in the community. In Australia, ADRA provided food and counseling to morethan 10,000 low-income residents, migrant families, and vulnerable international students who cannot access government benefits.
Middle East and North Africa Region – 27 Projects Serving 260,000 People
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, ADRA covers 20 countries, including Lebanon, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen. During the pandemic, ADRA has been meeting emergency needs on the ground by forming alliances with local partners and the Adventist Church to increase COVID-19 awareness. The 27 projects in the region totaling US$419,000 are supporting refugees, low-income residents, and families affected by civil wars and impacted by recent disasters, such as the Beirut, Lebanon explosion that happened in August. ADRA is also working to prevent the spread of the coronavirus by providing thousands of medical supplies and PPEs to hospitals that were damaged in the explosion, serving vulnerable families and children. In Yemen, ADRA has sponsored COVID-19 prevention training and distributed hygiene kits to more than 2,500 households as part of a Danish government–funded project. In Tunisia, more than 400 community members who lost their job due to the pandemic received cash vouchers. In Sudan, water and sanitation support from ADRA in Canada is helping communities to have access to essential cleaning supplies.
“As we move forward, we expect to face greater challenges than we have so far,” Mario Oliveira, ADRA director for emergency management, said. “But we are prepared to face them head-on. As ADRA serves so many affected communities, it will continue to carry out relief operations founded on the principle that we are stronger together — together with our partners and with the Adventist Church. Our global offices, churches, ministries, schools, clinics, and partners must work in step to address the massive impact of this pandemic to ensure that many more lives can be touched and saved.”
Globally, more than 55 million people have contracted coronavirus, and more than 1.3 million individuals have died, with the United States ranking as number one worldwide with more than 12 million confirmed cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University (numbers subject to change daily).