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For Such a Time As This

As the developing world braces for COVID-19, God uses SP staff to equip communities in the Middle East and North Africa

The urban poor of the developing world expect the worst of COVID-19


The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly distressed Asia, Europe and North America, but its most dire effects approach the developing world. In the Middle East and North Africa, God is using Servant Partners to work alongside vastly under-resourced communities to adapt, prepare, and persevere for such a time as this.

Though nations are implementing “lockdowns,” this approach is futile in informal settlements. Roughly 85% of African workers do not receive a regular reported wage, and with limited access to water, crowded living spaces, and essentially non-existent healthcare, many developing urban poor neighborhoods are simply incapable of “flattening the curve.”

“COVID-19 has largely been a rich person’s disease here, starting with people that traveled outside of our countries,” said Zach Powell, Servant Partners staff in the Middle East and North Africa. “Once their house-workers or medical staff contract it, the disease could work its way into slums and induce an unprecedented spike in infections. Countless people could get sick. Hospitals could be overwhelmed. Trauma could linger for years. So by necessity, we are taking our fears to God.”

Before their community business and education centers closed, Servant Partners staff in the Middle East and North Africa ran a number of informational COVID-19 classes on precautionary hygiene, social distancing, and caring for family members. At one site, they even developed a video in the local dialect for refugees, who are especially burdened by a nationwide curfew. At another site, they visited stores to post culturally adapted comic strips on appropriate hygiene, and distributed soap and water to store owners as they commonly interact with clients and cash.

“At one of our sites, we’ve only found two ventilators in the country—and we haven’t found anyone that’s been able to operate them,” Zach said. “Our staff Sara has medical experience and is certified to operate a ventilator. As it’s very rare to have someone with this skillset here, she’s quickly become an unlikely national expert.”
Social distancing is difficult in informal settlements

Sara has received governmental access to influence national policy on COVID-19. She has also organized a number of health workers from around her city, instructing them on best medical practices and disease prevention. These medical staff have not previously received any guidance on treating COVID-19 patients. And with foreign experts and institutions overwhelmed with their own healthcare, it’s not likely that these staff will receive any foreign help. But Sara is already in the community and equipped. Hailing from Latin America, she never anticipated how God might use her medical background while ministering in another country. Now, she recognizes that God has chosen her, like Esther, for such a time as this.

As with any national or global crisis, the poor anticipate the worst of COVID-19. More affluent communities have an opportunity to support those that will be further impoverished, disenfranchised, and debilitated by this crisis.

“Those that are stuck at home with a full salary and full fridge could consider giving more during this time,” Zach said. “Many nonprofits and front-line workers are immobilized because giving and support is down. We need your help. We need to think more strategically about giving, about who in our communities and world may be experiencing the brunt of this.”

In the coming weeks, Servant Partners volunteers hope to contract local garment workers to develop face masks and hospital gowns for local clinics. The Servant Partners COVID-19 Community Support Fund will contribute to essential needs like these, as well as in other front-line needs in urban poor communities around the world. You can give at

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