BEN Namibia BEST Programme Covid-19 Response
BEN Namibia proposes a COVID-19 response that aims to reduce transmission risk through improving awareness and hygiene in low income communities, and stimulates economic activity by promoting local manufacturing of masks by 25 local producers for sale in these communities, and creates 70 new jobs providing delivery services to enable more people to avoid leaving home during the lockdown period. These 95 new jobs will be supported beyond the crisis through our ongoing training and support programme. Bicycle sales will help provide income at our partner shops.
Namibia has been fortunate to date during the COVID-19 crisis, with only 16 reported infections and one suspected death. The government acted decisively in imposing lockdown conditions before the virus could spread. However, concerns remain about the lack of testing and the possibility that the virus could already be more widely active. The lockdown has already brought economic hardship, with an estimated 40% of the population working in the informal economy and many already facing hunger. Government has responded with a subsistence payment scheme, however only 50% of applicants were accepted in the first round. There are also many grassroots initiatives aimed at delivering emergency food packages.
Namibia is ill-equipped for a full-blown coronavirus epidemic. Its health system is under-resourced, and the prevalence of pre-existing illnesses like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis mean there is a disproportionate number of people in the highest risk group for serious or fatal infection.
BEN Namibia and our partners who run the network of bicycle shops that we support have discussed possible approaches during this crisis that both address the pressing issues and fit within our objectives and the objectives of funding through our partnership programme with Bicycles for Humanity Melbourne, the Bicycle Enterprise Support and Training (BEST) programme, supported by Intrepid Travel. We have also consulted the Prime Minister’s office, Red Cross society, Catholic AIDS Action and NANGOV, the peak NGO coordinating body, and have devised a programme that is relevant to the BEST programme, addresses the crisis and is and implementable. This programme is outlined below.
The challenges we aim to address are:
- Lack of revenue faced by the shops in the coming months
- Lack of basic hygiene and virus transmission prevention (hand washing, face masks)
- Lack of employment opportunities under lockdown
- A need to maintain social isolation
- A lack of delivery services in rural and peri-urban areas
The approach involves purchasing bicycles from the shops, addressing (1). The shops will be responsible for identifying potential entrepreneurs, who once selected will be provided a bicycle and training in issues surrounding hygiene and coronavirus transmission, as well as orientation in provision of delivery services. They will be given soap, tippy taps and face masks to distribute and demonstrate to households. Using a mask, they will talk to people about the virus, importance of social distancing and basic hygiene. They will also promote their delivery services as a means of enabling more people to stay in quarantine, with the aim of generating income from providing deliveries in their local community, addressing 2, 3, 4 and 5.
Masks will be made by local suppliers, and samples given to people in the local community. The delivery entrepreneurs will advise of the availability of masks from local entrepreneurs, providing contact details and pricing, addressing both 2 and 3.
Entrepreneurs will be provided with bicycles at a subsidy in exchange for hygiene product distribution. They will be required to pay in instalments at the end of the coronavirus quarantine period. The recovered funds will be further invested in enterprise development through the BEST programme in 2021. Delivery entrepreneurs will be monitored and supported through the BEST programme.
Contingency funds have been included in the budget in order to be able to be responsive as the situation unfolds, but spending this is conditional on presenting Bicycles for Humanity Melbourne with proposals beforehand. If not spent during the crisis this would be allocated to the ongoing BEST programme.
More info on BEN Namibia and the BEST Programme can be found on our specific BEN Namibia BEST Programme Project page.