8 Sep 2020

Covid-19: NGO sector hit hard, 'existential threat' for some agencies - report

6:53 pm on 8 September 2020

The co-author of a new report on the effects of Covid-19 on New Zealand's aid sector says the novel coronavirus had put a blowtorch to it.

The report said Covid-19 had created an "existential threat" to some agencies, and almost half feared they would shut as the pandemic limited how much money people were able to give.

Man giving hand to depressed woman,Psychiatrist holding hands patient,Meantal health care concept,Selective focus

Key findings in the report included that 46 percent of aid charities said Covid-19 was a serious threat to their survival. Photo: 123RF

The [https://www.cid.org.nz/connect/news/health-of-the-sector-report-released/

Health of the New Zealand International NGO Sector] was written by independent consultants, Craig Fisher and Darren Ward.

Ward said impacts from the virus had accelerated problems for the already struggling non government organisation sector.

"We had some pretty clear feedback from the NGOs that Covid had put a blowtorch on some of the issues that they were facing, in regards to their funding and how they do their work, so they're starting to ask really good questions of themselves."

Key findings in the report included that 46 percent of aid charities said Covid-19 was a serious threat to their survival.

The most highlighted challenges were around funding and continuity of programmes.

These were expected to peak later this year and remain as moderate threats through 2021.

The report also found that the traditional operating model for aid charities was no longer sustainable, and organisations would need to adapt to a much more uncertain operating environment.

They have been told they may need to merge with other organisations.

There were fears also that the aid sector would fare worse than both the public and government sectors because in tough economic times, "charity begins at home… and may now stay at home".

See all RNZ coverage of Covid-19

Ward said the Pacific was one the world's most aid-dependent regions, and was likely to be hardest-hit.

"A reduction in spend always hits the people in the Pacific the hardest, compounded with the fact their normal trade revenue streams are down.

"Tourism is obviously down significantly, if not totally, and the funding on which they rely to survive has been cut right back."

Ward said it was going to be difficult for Pacific governments to fund things like health and education, and revenue streams people relied on in their daily lives would be restricted as well.

The most important things charities could do now was focus on impacts first, to look at what they were achieving and whether that was still relevant to the communities they served, he said.

Ward said there were examples of good partnerships created among aid organisations. He said collaboration was also a way to reduce administration costs and improve efficiencies.

The report was commissioned by the Council for International Development.

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