As the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded, we’ve been reminded daily of the vital importance of organizations across Sub-Saharan Africa carrying out important work in their communities. This has made it all the more important for organizations to prioritize the safety and health of their teams, in order to continue serving their communities in the long run and to focus their activities on those they can accomplish safely and with the greatest impact. Like our partners, the SFF team is doing our best to identify opportunities at the nexus of the needs of communities and our own abilities.  Given the size of our impact community at over 200 organizations, SFF will largely focus its response resources within our existing network, with our team adapting their roles to keep up with the continual evolution of how our partners seek to deliver the work they’ve spent years refining.

This crisis has emphasized some things that have always been important to our work, but are increasingly apparent now:

  • Intersectional problems require intersectional solutions, namely, investment across impact sectors. For us, this has meant expanding the scope of how we understand frontline response to include diverse organizations working across the spectrum of intensifying community needs.
  • Trusted organizations with deep community ties are essential to pandemic response. Place-based organizations with proximate leadership can utilize existing infrastructure, relationships, and insights to roll out prevention and mitigation solutions quickly and effectively while coordinating with national and international bodies like Ministries of Health, the African CDC, and the WHO.
  • Now is an even more important time for funders to hold each other accountable to grantee-centric practices. If a funder hasn’t already, this is the time to make their grants unrestricted, get them out the door quickly, and adapt reporting requirements to accommodate the stresses organizations are facing.
  • Like any region, East Africa and Central Africa are facing unique vulnerabilities to this moment, but they also carry unique strengths. Opportunity is as important a guide to our work as risk, and we look to our grantee partners to lead the way on smart adaptation.

For everything that we’ve come to understand about this situation, there are many things we don’t yet know. Like everyone else, we’re building the plane as we fly it. We have yet to see the full scope and impact of the virus in the regions where we work. We rely on our partners to communicate the emerging needs and priorities of their communities to us as we navigate our way to the other side of this. If your organization is adapting its activities or facing unprecedented and acute challenges at this time, we urge you to reach out to us with a brief and clear description of the problem or opportunity you’re facing, the actions you plan to take in response, and how we can support you in that process.