The Real-Life Heroes Behind USAID’s COVID-19 Humanitarian Response

We recognize the real-life heroes who are overcoming Herculean challenges to save lives and help those in need, all around the world.

USAID is working with partners in 50 countries to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Photos courtesy: Catholic Relief Services, International Rescue Committee, ACTED, International Medical Corps, Malteser International, and Action Against Hunger

Never has the generosity, courage, and sacrifice of aid workers been more evident — or more needed — than it is today. On top of the millions of people who are in need of humanitarian aid due to conflicts or natural disasters, the world continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The United States is leading the global response efforts to this unprecedented outbreak, providing more than $1.6 billion in health, humanitarian, economic, and development assistance in more than 120 countries. Of this, $558 million is for USAID’s humanitarian assistance programs, carried out by hundreds of real-life heroes working for our partners on the ground.

We wanted to introduce you to a few of them.

The Messengers

Samson (top), Maria-Bonita (bottom). Photos credit: International Rescue Committee, GOAL, Malteser International

Maria-Bonita lives in Colombia and Samson in Zimbabwe. Though they are continents apart, they are all dedicated to the same mission: Arming their communities with life-saving information to help stop the spread of COVID-19. They are training community members on key messages like what are the symptoms, when and how to properly wash your hands, and when you should wear masks. Now, hundreds of these heralds are working together to spread the word.

In Zimbabwe, USAID is working with GOAL to provide COVID-19 educational messages using branded trucks and state-of-the-art sound systems in urban communities. Video courtesy: USAID

We and our partners are making sure that everyone can get the message to stay COVID-free. Sinlita and Makerita in the Samoa and Tuvalu are making sure that braille and sign language are incorporated and have put together videos for kids.

Sinlita and her young helper teach kids when to wash their hands (top). Makerita is making sure that people with disabilities are included and targeted in the COVID-19 response (bottom left). USAID is also working with partners to distribute soap, hand sanitizers, and handwashing stations to ensure communities have the supplies they need to stay healthy and safe. Photos credit: Live and Learn Tuvalu, Nuanua O Le Alofa (NOLA), International Rescue Committee, and GOAL

The Protector

Because of the pandemic, many people are spending more time at home to avoid contracting the virus. But for some, home may not be safe.

Zainab is a survivor of gender-based violence and says she knows all too well what it’s like to be in those shoes. In Nigeria, she supervises a team of case workers who are providing remote case management for survivors. They’re also conducting self care sessions and providing tips on relieving stress levels. What keeps her going? She wants to bring a smile to survivors’ faces and make things more equitable for her daughters.

Zainab works on gender-based violence programs for USAID partner International Medical Corps (IMC). In many countries around the world, USAID is supporting protection programs, such as child protection, psychosocial support, and gender-based violence prevention and response, in recognition of the increased risks of violence and abuse, as well as widespread psychological distress. Photo credit: Jolene Mullins, IMC

The Nourishers

The impact of a pandemic stretches beyond health. Closed businesses and restrictions on movement — while essential to fighting COVID-19 — are preventing people from working and disrupting markets. On top of that, in many places, food prices have gone up.

Graphic courtesy: USAID

But with the help of our partners and humanitarians like Hussam, Omnia, and Ezgi, thousands of families will still have food to eat.

I come from a country that has been in conflict since before I was born and I’ve seen what conflict does to people’s lives. And I know how humanitarian aid helps people get back on their feet.

- Hussam, World Food Program, Jordan

In Jordan, Hussam helps Syrian refugees receive monthly food rations. Ezgi was inspired to become a humanitarian because he grew up in Ethiopia, a country that has been affected by famine. Now, he is helping to provide food to people in quarantine and in isolation centers across his country. And in neighboring Sudan, Omnia is working to prevent and treat malnutrition.

Omnia (left), Ezgi (center), and Hussam (right) are all committed to making sure people have enough food to eat. Photos credit: UNICEF Sudan, WFP Ethiopia, and WFP Jordan

For many, heroes often reflect their own ideals, and these humanitarian heroes certainly share our drive and desire to improve people’s lives. We couldn’t be more proud to be working with them — along with countless other real-life heroes in 50 countries — to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. The world will always need heroes, and we’re glad that these are ours.

Learn more about USAID’s COVID-19 response.

Follow USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
USAID Saves Lives

USAID Saves Lives

USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance saves lives on behalf of the American people.