International Care Ministries delivers 14 million meals and 100 million seeds to ultra-poor families struggling with hunger caused by COVID-19 lockdown in the Visayas and Mindanao
“It’s not the coronavirus that will kill us, it’s the hunger.” This statement, uttered by many who have lost their jobs and livelihood, sums up the plight of millions of Filipinos who were already struggling in poverty before the lockdown.
The government and NGOs have been heroically distributing food to save people from starvation since the community quarantine began. International Care Ministries, an NGO working with the ultra-poor in the Philippines since 1992, has already delivered 14 million meals to 3.3 million Filipinos so far. But ICM has gone one step further: distributing 350,000 gardening kits to create sustainable food for millions more.
Over 130 million seeds have been delivered to communities in the Visayas and Mindanao. “We estimate that the first harvest of these gardens will generate 7 million kilos of vegetables worth 500 million pesos, generating 1.9 billion calories to fight hunger in these communities,” said ICM CEO David Sutherland.
“Beyond addressing hunger, growing their own gardens give the ultra-poor hope that they have some control over their lives during this pandemic,” he said.
“The seeds are really timely because most of the people now don’t know where they can earn their income. Through these seeds, they can grow food that will help them survive,” shared Aldran, one of ICM’s workers in Iloilo who helps distribute seeds to the communities. “These seeds are easy to plant, and it takes about two weeks to grow. We do not know when this pandemic will end, but with proper care, these seeds will grow and give them hope that their need for food will be met.”
The work continues
ICM’s wide network of partner churches in the Visayas and Mindanao allows the organization to deliver supplies to communities that needed them the most. ICM leverages on its Rapid Emergency and Disaster Intervention (REDI) system, connecting 10,000 pastors in Palawan, the Visayas, and Mindanao. ICM receives requests through text and instant messaging, verifies those requests, and sends the relief packs to the communities through staff, pastors, and volunteers.
This rapid response is only possible because of decades of innovation around efficient, effective, and scalable charity operations.
For now, ICM’s regular programs have been put on hold by the pandemic, but the work to help the ultra-poor does not stop. With the Department of Health and rural health units, ICM has provided ready-to-use supplementary and therapeutic food to nearly 20,000 clinically malnourished children.
ICM has also produced and given away hundreds of thousands of booklets about COVID-19 in five languages to better equip the ultra-poor with the knowledge to help avoid infection. The organization has also distributed over 500,000 bars of soap, 20,000 masks, and 4,000 gloves to communities, provincial hospitals, and health centers.