COVID-19 FALLOUT

NGOs face cash crisis, massive layoffs

The organisations mainly depend on the Western world for support but the region is ravaged by the virus.

In Summary

• This situation means no sensitisation meetings can be carried out and no training can be done, among other advocacy projects.

• The pandemic literally closed the global economy, with Europe and the United States sustaining an inclining curve of cases and deaths.

Civil Society Reference Group convener Suba Churchill at a hotel in Garissa town on December 12, 2019.
CONCERN: Civil Society Reference Group convener Suba Churchill at a hotel in Garissa town on December 12, 2019.
Image: STEPHEN ASTARIKO

NGOs are staring at imminent massive job losses and projects delays due to interrupted donor funding as Covid-19 ravages the Western world, the main source of its funding.

The pandemic literally closed the global economy, with Europe and the United States sustaining an inclining curve of cases and deaths as lockdown becomes gradual and widespread. 

With the unfolding crisis, it is possible most donors will re-prioritise their resource commitments and this means projects that had been initiated could be stopped and staffers released. 

 

Already, the Civil Society Reference Group has asked the NGO Coordination Board to extend deadlines for submission of their annual returns as the reality of the pandemic settles in.

The board requires non-governmental organisations to file their returns to the state quarterly, including the list of the projects they have done in the previous year and any balance of resources they received from donors.

The group's national coordinator Suba Churchill told the Star that the civil society organisations are increasingly becoming apprehensive as the crisis worsens.

"It is clear government-based entities like USAID and UKAID, among others whose monies are mostly from taxes, may be affected in one way or another," he explained. 

 This situation means no sensitisation meetings can be carried out and no training can be done, among other advocacy projects, he said. 

Demas Kiprono, the Amnesty International's Campaign manager, told the Star that it was true most people in the sector were apprehensive as the unfolding situation has hurt the delivery of certain goals and implementation of programmes.

The capacity for funding of projects that may have been initiated may also be affected as "the global economy is likely to slip into recession."

 

The import of this eventuality, he explained, could mean that entities with interrupted funding and affected projects release redundant staff. 

"This thing has put every in jeopardy. NGOs work with quarterly plans but now no one know and most projects will definitely slow down," he added. 

He, however, offered a glimmer of hope, saying that most NGOs plan per financial year, meaning most of them may have had their programmes rolled out and funding released. 

Kiprono said those NGOs whose mainstay is in the humanitarian sector would, however, get busy as the situation intensifies. 

Suba pleaded with donors to "be considerate in the face of the unfolding pandemonium and not to recall their financial commitments".

He called for leniency urged the NGO board to extend the filing deadline and the donors to relax the project implementation timings. 

"Some projects have strict timelines and donors are keen to follow up on their resources t ensure the objectives are met. If they become strict, then entities, especially those at the grassroots will really suffer and the impact will be on families depending on it," he explained.

A case in point is the Fifth Public Benefit Organisation Leaders’ Summit that was scheduled in Nairobi for March 22-24 that has since been cancelled. It was to bring together more than 300 delegates from Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Ethiopia as well as diplomats.

The leniency, he said, was the only way NGOs can avoid massive job losses and salary cuts that may result if donors were to insist that funding for various projects be returned because of incapacity to carry out funded activities.