The Amazon Emergency Fund (AEF) was launched in May to respond to the growing COVID-19 crisis in the Amazon, where government inaction has meant skyrocketing numbers of illnesses and deaths among indigenous communities. The disease continues to spread across rivers and forests, driven in large part by miners and loggers taking advantage of the pandemic to carry out illegal activities. The continued expansion of extractive industries is also a factor in the propagation of the virus, which has already resulted in more than a half million confirmed infections and 17,500 deaths across the Amazon Basin. Government responses to date have been inadequate. And despite large infusions of cash from the donor community, little government aid is reaching most remote indigenous territories where communities are suffering from the disease outbreak, economic hardship from the shutdown, and a crippled public health infrastructure.
The Solution: What AEF and indigenous partners are doing
Faced with this situation, indigenous organizations in the region represented by the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA) decided to take matters into their own hands. Specifically, they’ve stepped up to raise funds, purchase and deliver food and medical aid, and are collaborating with a wide range of civil society partners to reach communities in need. The AEF successfully deployed it’s first round of grants, more than a quarter million dollars to COICA organizations in nine countries, and is actively working to disburse a second round of funding.
In order to support COICA and other territorial communities, some two dozen NGOs established the Founding Solidarity Circle, which to date has channeled more than a million dollars directly to communities on the ground. The Founding Solidarity Circle, which includes Rainforest Foundation US as well as Amazon Watch, Avaaz and a host of others, have specifically channeled financial support to indigenous partners to deliver food, personal protective equipment, health supplies, support for logistics, transport and communications, as well as tools and seeds necessary to confront the growing food insecurity in the region.
French Government Brings Scale to the AEF
In July, the AEF crossed a new milestone with a critical $2 million donation from the French Government that takes it over halfway towards the $5m goal set in May. This means a new round of funding will reach a much wider set of communities and may also allow for greater coordination and synergy for things like purchasing of medical supplies, PPE and covid19 test kits, or replication of larger scale efforts supported by Avaaz and Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples Articulation (APIB) to build field hospitals in Brazil. As the scope and duration of the pandemic expands, and the short- and medium-term economic impacts deepen, there is growing awareness that humanitarian responses will be needed over longer periods of time, heightening the need to increase resource mobilization and build medium- and long-term capacity for both disaster response and economic reactivation. The AEF is seeking to strengthen its own capacity as a vehicle for COICA and partners to play a leadership role in meeting this challenge.