How Our Recommended Charities are Addressing the COVID-19 Pandemic

How Our Recommended Charities are Addressing the COVID-19 Pandemic

We remain steadfast in our mission and know that we’ll now have to work even harder to help save and improve lives, as the already-poor will undoubtedly be the hardest hit by this crisis.

“As bad as the coronavirus has been in wealthy countries, it will likely be much more devastating in poor countries that have worse health-care systems. In many places, social distancing is not even an option. Imagine how quickly the virus may spread in a crowded refugee camp without adequate hygiene and sanitation.”
Susan Athey and Dean Karlan

All of our recommended nonprofits are pivoting rapidly and taking exemplary steps to safeguard their staffs during the crisis. And many of them are putting specific programs in place that will fight COVID-19’s devastating impact among their beneficiaries and ensure safe delivery of their basic programs. Below are updates about how these organizations are adapting—with help from donors like you!—so they can forge on in these times when their assistance is needed more than ever. (Note that we’re adding updates as we receive them, so please check this page regularly to see new information!)

You can donate to our COVID-19 FUND here. Gifts made to this fund will be divided between those of our recommended charities that are running special projects, related to the interventions we already recommend, to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, we are focused on the following charities’ COVID-19 response projects: Development Media International, D-Rev, Evidence Action, Fistula Foundation, GiveDirectly, Living Goods, Population Services International, and Project Healthy Children.

Note that although we believe that the COVID-19 projects being run by these organizations look extremely promising, we feel it is incumbent on us to point out that because of the urgency of the situation, these interventions do not have the rigorous evidence of cost-effectiveness that we normally require before recommending a charity or program.​

We’re adding COVID-19 response updates from our recommended charities to this article as they become available, so please check back regularly for the latest information and new additions. 

Development Media International 

DMI, Burkina Faso

23 April 2020
DMI COVID-19 Statement from Roy Head, CEO

“The disease requires behaviour change on a mass scale, whether physical distancing, respiratory hygiene, or protecting the vulnerable. Development Media International has been conducting radio, TV and mobile campaigns to promote behaviour change since 2006. It is the first organisation to prove mass media can change behaviours. It is now focusing its teams in 9 African countries on COVID-19.

Using the epidemiological model developed by Neil Ferguson’s group at Imperial College, London, DMI has estimated that 42,000 deaths could be prevented if social distancing was increased by 10 percentage points in each of the nine countries. Many of DMI’s previous behaviour change campaigns have achieved changes far in excess of this. Even incremental changes could have a tremendous impact.

DMI is well positioned to do this work. It has experienced staff and strong relationships with the Ministries of Health in 9 countries. Campaigns have already begun in Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Tanzania, Ivory Coast and Ethiopia.

DMI is setting up a Rapid Response Fund to enable it to  respond flexibly to governments’ needs, and conduct iterative, multi-lingual campaigns in each of the nine countries. It has already secured $650,000 from donors including GIveWell (which recommends DMI as a Standout Charity) and from the Skoll and Mulago Foundations. Our aim is to secure $250,000 per country for the first phase of campaigning.”


Donate to DMI




Update from April 2, 2020

“As of today, our international response to COVID-19 is live: you can give directly to households living in extreme poverty in the hardest-hit communities overseas. More information on this below.

We are deeply concerned for these families. As the pandemic hits and governments impose lockdowns to try to limit its spread, many will suddenly be unable to continue earning a living. Few will have the financial resources to weather this storm, let alone provide care if a family member falls ill. To make matters worse, traditional aid programs that rely on face-to-face interaction may need to scale back at the same time.

This is the moment for digital cash transfers. Giving directly to families in extreme poverty has always been a great opportunity to do good, but it’s an extraordinary opportunity now. If you’re coping with this crisis yourself and are in a position to give, please do so generously.

Our current plans are as follows. All may change as we develop better opportunities and refine our tactics, and we’ll keep you informed as we do so.

  • We’ll start enrolling new recipients next week. We will focus first on urban areas, where we expect the economic impacts of COVID-19 will hit first and hardest. We will coordinate with local governments and NGOs to identify and prioritize underserved groups, and we’re starting with youth in Nairobi slums.
  • We will enroll recipients remotely, using some combination of (a) our own existing databases of low-income households, (b) rosters provided by local NGO partners whom we have vetted, and (c) rosters of mobile money subscribers recruited through our partner mobile network operators. Specific approaches will vary across countries.
  • In parallel, we will continue to pay previously enrolled recipients in all six countries with live projects (Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Liberia, Malawi, and the DRC), and have already shifted to a remote follow-up model. We completed payments to 13,806 recipients in March totaling over $2.5M.”

During the crisis, all GiveDirectly donations made through TLYCS will go to their international Covid-19 response.

Donate to GiveDirectly


Fistula Foundation

The number of Covid-19 infections in Africa and Asia is growing, and what our partners need to fight the virus, they do not have nearly enough of. A pandemic of this scale has the potential to completely devastate their health systems.

What’s more, lockdowns and travel restrictions have created an acute economic crisis. Too many of our partners have been forced to lay off staff, limiting their ability to treat even basic health needs. Fistula Foundation is in a strong position to help.

We work directly with vetted partner hospitals in more than twenty countries, led by trusted experts like Nobel laureate Dr. Denis Mukwege and legendary activist Edna Adan, both of whom we’ve worked with for over ten years. These partners are thoroughly vetted. We know they use our money wisely. You can be confident that your gift will go straight into their capable hands. 

With unanimous backing from our board of directors, we’ve launched a Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund. 100% of your gift—every penny—will go to our partners in Africa and Asia to help support our partner hospitals and doctors on the front lines. All of our overhead costs will be covered by our rainy-day fund. The fund is separate from our fistula treatment program and will close when a vaccine becomes available.

Your gift today could help provide:

  • Personal protective equipment, like masks and gloves
  • Infection control training
  • Nursing and other staff salaries to prevent layoffs
  • Bleach and other cleaning fluid

Donate to Fistula Foundation


Population Services International 

A message from PSI CEO, Karl Hofmann, April 22nd:

“In this rapidly evolving crisis, PSI is applying our 50 years of expertise to answer the needs of local Ministries of Health and ensure that the people we serve are able to access critical self-care, prevention and healthcare services. Our COVID-19 response builds on our experience from previous outbreaks — including Ebola, Zika and cholera — to rapidly design, deploy and continually improve interventions that are effective and follow evolving global learnings. We are designing our response in close collaboration with our partners, all under each specific, national context.

PSI teams worldwide have already begun to:

  • Social behavior change:
    • Promote non-pharmaceutical interventions through social behavior change communications that will help stem the outbreak, such as handwashing, social distancing and providing access to reliable sources of locally relevant information, as with a campaign created in Laos in partnership with the Ministry of Health.
    • Curb the spread of false information surrounding COVID-19 by rapidly creating localized marketing strategies to dispel myths and provide accurate information on transmission, prevention and symptoms, as our cyber educators are doing throughout Central America.
  • Digital tools and self-care
    • Expand our digital footprint to reach users with key prevention messages, self-risk assessment and when needed, referral for clinical care, as with the use of our digital platforms originally built for HIV Self-Testing in many African countries.
  • Systems strengthening:
    • Support health providers and pharmacy staff to provide point-of-care information, accurate COVID-19 risk-counseling, diagnosis, treatment and case reporting, as in South Africa and Angola where we are bringing e-learning about the disease to community health workers.
  • Government coordination
    • Support Ministries of Health to establish and strengthen existing emergency operations centers, which track disease and response efforts nationally and regionally as happening currently in Laos and Myanmar.
    • Build on our current information system capacity to support data capture and reporting from the health care sector to aid ongoing disease surveillance and better prepare ourselves and partners for future outbreaks with the many Ministries of Health we support to use the world’s largest digital health management information system.”

You can read more about PSI’s response here

Donate to PSI


Sanku/Project Healthy Children

An update from Felix Brooks-church, Co-founding President & CEO

“In response to the current global pandemic, Sanku is ensuring that the two million people it reaches everyday continue to receive life-saving fortified flour during this crisis, while at the same time safeguarding the health of our 31 staff and 357 millers and their families. 

  • We mobilized a team equipped with the necessary protective gear to stock up over 300 of our partner millers with a multiple-month supply of empty flour bags and nutrient premix, necessary to continue fortifying their flour during this period. By doing so, and by outsourcing the actual deliveries of these goods to a local logistics company, we have eliminated our staff’s chances of being exposed. 
  • We deployed “Health Kits” to every single miller, packed with a generous supply of protective gloves, masks, medicated soap and hand sanitizer for all estimated 1000 mill staff across Tanzania. Sanku is determined to maintain improved health and hygiene for all our staff and millers, as well as for the essential food the millers produce for two million people every day who critically need strong immune systems at all times, but especially during this crisis.
    Making masks from empty flour bags.
  • Protective masks have run out in Tanzania, and new ones are not being imported at present as the government is concerned about potentially bringing in contaminated products. But we have a lot of empty flour bags from past millers that we no longer work with, which we have tested and made into masks . We have submitted these masks to the Tanzania Medicine & Medical Devices Authority last week, and expect to shortly receive a permit to mass produce. We have enough stock to make millions of  masks. It will cost about a $1 per mask for materials and labor. With sufficient support, we hope to be able to donate masks to hospitals, clinics and healthcare workers.
  • Because schools have shut down in Tanzania for the foreseeable future, millions of children have lost access to school feeding programs, which are often a child’s primary daily meal. To help address this crucial need:
    • We have partnered with USAID to launch an SMS campaign informing approximately 3000 families (~15,000 members) with general COVID health information, as well as informing them of the shops that are selling fortified flour in their area, representing roughly 80 schools.
    • In partnership, we are looking at the recent Rwanda model, where they are doing staggered school feeding programs, using the schools as distribution points where families can pick up fortified flour. We may pilot this in the Iringa Region of Tanzania, along with subsidising the millers’ flour and/or giving the schools dosifier machines, as some have small mills on campus.

To continue doing this, we desperately need capital now to build up inventory levels of flour bags and nutrient premix, and immediately purchase additional health kits for our millers and their families, as well as families of the school children now forced home due to school closures. If we are unable to do this, we would be depriving millions of the basic human right of nutrition and health safety. Our team is ready to do their part, but we need the support of our donors.”

Support Sanku/PHC here.


Evidence Action

Evidence Action/Dispensers for Safe Water
On March 26th, Evidence Action’s CEO Kanika Bahl shared this update:

We are rapidly working to proactively identify and address challenges as they emerge. For example, deworming medications for hundreds of millions of children rely on functioning global supply chains, with active ingredients largely sourced from China. As this supply chain falters, we are directly engaging with suppliers to map and identify sources of alternative production capacity, with a lens towards minimizing the disruptions hundreds of millions of children might face.

Meanwhile with Dispensers for Safe Water, we are very actively preparing if our Africa transport hubs are shut down. This includes teams working around-the-clock to make advance deliveries of chlorine and key supplies to sustain operations for three months. 
To help slow the spread of COVID-19 in rural Africa, Evidence Action has also launched a fundraising campaign to provide vital supplies, including soap and disinfectant, to communities served by Dispensers for Safe Water. Donations to this specific initiative can be made here:


Donate to Evidence Action

Despite these and other measures, there may be challenges we cannot surmount – children may not be dewormed as scheduled if schools remain closed, and dispensers may fall into disrepair if travel for maintenance is not possible. However to the best of our ability we are seeking to act urgently in service of the poor during this time of immense need. It is through the support of our donors that we are able to pivot to these challenges, holding true to our value of act urgently in this time of need.”
You can read Kanika’s full blog here.


Living Goods

A Living Goods Community Health Worker

Living Goods is working with the Ministries of Health (MOHs) in Kenya and Uganda to mitigate COVID-19’s impact, as well as invest in the safety and training of over 10,000 community health workers (CHWs) who will be integral to ensuring successful preventive, diagnostic, and management services for COVID-19.

We know that strong, formalized CHW systems can save lives, increase access to care, contain health crises, and keep healthcare affordable, all while delivering a positive economic return, reducing unemployment, and empowering women. Living Goods has been supporting governments in building these critical health systems in Kenya in Uganda for over a decade. It is more important than ever to maintain our progress in the face of this pandemic – both for the communities we now serve and for the communities we hope more CHWs can serve in the future. 

With this in mind, Living Goods is prioritizing our work around three complementary objectives, with activities focused around supporting communities in the short and long-term. Through these three integrated pillars, we will: 

  1. Directly respond to the health risks posed by COVID-19 by protecting CHWs and their communities to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Cases in Uganda and Kenya are still low enough that we believe immediate interventions will directly save lives by lowering disease transmission rates and the overall burden of disease in these communities.
  2. Mitigate secondary health impacts by maintaining and expanding essential health services. We are ensuring that CHWs are trained and resourced so they can continue to provide consultations, diagnosis, and medications while moving to low and no-touch protocols. Our pivot to these new protocols has been swift and efficient, thanks to our digitally enabled CHWS; all were previously trained and equipped with mobile phones and our SmartHealth app. Adapting existing workflows to the current scenario has been and will continue to be key to achieving our objectives around continuity of essential health care throughout the pandemic. CHWs must change the ways they work, and our adapted workflows will enable them to continue to diagnose and treat clients while maintaining appropriate social distancing protocols.
  3. Alleviate potential long-term negative consequences to local economies and health systems by increasing our investments in key areas. These include micro-level investments in the form of increased stipends for frontline health workers, which will help ensure financial stability for their families; and macro-level investments to strategically augment partner governments’ efforts to respond to COVID-19 at the national and sub-national levels.

To continue these activities for the remainder of 2020, we are currently estimating that we will need at least $6 million. This estimate is for incremental costs, above and beyond our budget for operating in a non-COVID context. Effective, digitally-enabled community-based primary health care will save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. Building stronger, more resilient health systems will protect vulnerable communities from future pandemics.

Living Goods has the partnerships and experience to effectively deliver on both short and long-term goals during this pandemic – we are grateful for any additional donor support that will help us achieve our objectives. Together, we can resource and support community health workers, communities, and governments as they work to avert the worst impacts of this global pandemic for Kenyans and Ugandans in both the short and longer term.

Donate to Living Goods


One Acre Fund

In this uncertain time, food security is more essential than ever. We’re rapidly reinventing our services to keep farmers safe and well-supported in the era of social distancing. When movement was restricted, our field team in Rwanda continued working from home and serving farmers by phone.

As the virus spreads beyond Africa’s urban centers, it threatens to infect a large share of rural populations. Conditions in these communities are uniquely high-risk: Water and sanitation infrastructure is low, the prevalence of malnutrition and diseases like malaria and HIV create increased vulnerability for individuals, and under-developed health systems stand to be quickly overwhelmed.   

Looking further ahead, the ripple effects of COVID are laying the groundwork for a regional food crisis. Restricted movement will decrease marketing and selling of farm produce, market closures will substantially lower opportunities for smallholders to generate non-farm income, and increased health costs will deplete household dollars. Smallholder families already experience high levels of food insecurity; these compounding factors will make it increasingly difficult for farmers to invest in farm production or purchase food for their families and children.

One Acre Fund staff in Rwanda unloading soap from trucks into our warehouse, before distributing it to farmers.

Every aspect of One Acre Fund operations is changing to address this dual threat head-on. We believe that early and strong intervention could make a significant difference for vulnerable farm families. 

  • Health response: To slow the spread of the virus, we have rolled out mass soap distribution and hand-washing guides to our 1.1M client families, video trainings on building community hand-washing stations with local materials, and safe in-person trainings to clients and frontline staff on social distancing. 
  • Food security response: After accelerating input deliveries at the initial signs of COVID spread, we are now shifting to proven methods for providing remote farm production services to our clients. We are replacing group farm trainings with video trainings, reference cards, and 1:1 field officer visits at safe distance, and we are accelerating the digitization of our core model — leveraging heavy use of SMS and USSD messaging, remote training, and significant scale-up of phone communication.

You can read more about One Acre Fund’s COVID-19 response work here.

Donate to One Acre Fund



Here is an update from Possible’s CEO, Gita Pillai

Together, we have the opportunity to reduce the suffering and deaths, especially in locations where the outbreak is just beginning. In countries like Nepal, where Possible has supported universal health access to especially vulnerable communities, the call to action is urgent and the moment to respond is now.

Possible is collaborating with others to prepare a timely response. We are working with urgency to secure requisite supplies and equipment to sustain quality patient care, protect providers from infection, and to test and identify cases. We are sharing resources, information on clinical best practices, and communication to control spread.

Possible is working with Nyaya Health Nepal to support a dedicated team of Nepali doctors, nurses, and health workers to respond to the outbreak in line with the Government of Nepal and World Health Organization guidance. They have planned clinical work flows to maintain quality services and timely referral for all patients, established isolation rooms, reinforced infection control protocols, and updated electronic systems to capture COVID-19 surveillance data.

Your contribution will be a valued part of our global response.”

You can read Gita’s full blog here.

Donate to Possible





A message from Oxfam:

“Oxfam is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by protecting and advocating for the most vulnerable people in the United States and around the globe. We know too well that when a crisis hits, the poorest and most marginalized communities suffer the worst effects. From our experience with other outbreaks, such as Ebola, the Zika virus, and other diseases, we know that working directly with communities to ensure they have access to the right information and are involved in decisions that affect their lives is critical. We are currently working with our partners, government ministries of health, and key UN agencies in 65 countries to coordinate our response. Given our expertise in public health, and water and sanitation, many of our teams are increasing their delivery of soap and sanitation services, including handwashing facilities and clean water—especially to people in higher-risk areas. We are also focusing our community engagement work on helping people minimize the risk of infection by providing them with accurate information and advice in local languages via mass and social media.”

Read more about Oxfam’s response to the COVID-19 epidemic here.

Donate to Oxfam


Innovations for Poverty Action 

From IPA’s Executive Director, Annie Duflo:

“IPA’s comparative advantage is research management and policy outreach. Since timely and accurate data and evidence are needed in times of crisis, they feel it is their responsibility to contribute in any way they are uniquely positioned to—that is, by leveraging their on-the-ground presence in 22 countries, their data collection expertise, and their relationships with governments. For example, on March 9 our Peace & Recovery team began accepting time-sensitive off-cycle proposals that answer questions about how communities may best respond to the shock and crisis of COVID-19.

IPA are currently actively exploring ways to support partners with research, information, and data needs during this crisis. For example, by creating and sharing evidence on how to achieve behavioral change to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

Donate to IPA


Helen Keller International’s Vitamin A Supplementation Program

Helen Keller International

An update from Helen Keller International:

“Helen Keller International has been working for decades to reduce the impact of disease on children and vulnerable communities. This work continues, adapted to the specific challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our programs, from vitamin A supplementation to preventing malnutrition to fighting avoidable blindness and vision loss among vulnerable communities, can be life-saving in the context of a viral epidemic.  

Helen Keller has supported governments and communities to treat tens of millions of children with vitamin A, following the discovery that supplementation with vitamin A reduced all-cause mortality by over 20%. This is particularly relevant in the current epidemic, because vitamin A deficiency has been extensively shown to impair immunity against viral infection, including viral pneumonia. Vitamin A specifically improves a child’s ability to neutralize viruses in membranes in the gut and lungs. In the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen enormous differences in the clinical course, from little or no symptoms, to severe illness and death, based in large part of pre-existing immunity. In the increasingly likely scenario of large-scale infection in areas of Africa and Asia with poor nutrition, vitamin A capsules provided by Helen Keller in the last few months could be the difference between life and death for thousands, and potentially millions, of young children. This is also why we are working to continue distributing vitamin A in places where large-scale documentation has not yet occurred. (It is important to note that we are doing so while keeping important precautions, including physical distancing, reduced contact with patients, and frequent hand-washing with soap.)

In addition to this long-standing prevention work, which is likely to yield enormous benefits for the present crisis, Helen Keller offices throughout the world have pivoted to providing immediate support to governments and communities facing the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Donate to Helen Keller International’s Vitamin A Supplementation Program


Against Malaria Foundation (AMF)

Against Malaria Foundation

AMF reports that currently the effect of coronavirus on their work is minimal, but they are keeping this constantly under review and are expecting the situation to change as matters develop in Africa. Net distributions are likely to be an important part of minimizing the coronavirus impact as increased malaria rates are likely to increase the mortality rate from coronavirus. AMF remains focused on fundraising to fill significant funding gaps.

Donate to AMF


Village Enterprise

An update from Village Enterprise:

This pandemic is affecting activities globally and Village Enterprise is no exception. Given the impact that COVID-19 is having on our daily operations, our planned programs and goals will shift for the time being. Our activities will be more aligned and focused on the goal of ensuring that people remain healthy. 

With this in mind, we have put together an overview of our response to date below, with the caveat that we are responding to a quickly-evolving situation and our response may change as different situational needs arise.

  1. In consideration of the health and safety of our staff and program participants, along with recommendations and restrictions put in place by the governments of both Kenya and Uganda, we have just taken the step of pausing our field operations. This has meant suspending group gatherings and nonessential contact in our program activities to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Our main priority is ensuring that our staff remains both employed and healthy, and we are currently working on team-specific adaptation plans and remote work when possible. We will continue to keep you informed as the situation develops.
  2. We are working on upgrading technological capabilities that we had already been prioritizing organizationally in order to provide remote support to our business owners and communities during the period of closure, however, this initiative is still in the planning phase.
  3. We anticipate that the effective closure of the economies in both Uganda and Kenya will be extremely difficult for the communities in which we work. With this in mind, we are working on an adaptive response plan on the longer-term effects of the crisis in our communities.

U.S. Coronavirus Bill Includes a $300 Tax Break for Charitable Giving

The U.S. federal coronavirus relief bill grants taxpayers an above-the-line deduction up to $300 for charitable donations in 2020.

Taxpayers normally have to itemize to write-off charitable deductions. In 2020, if you make charitable donations, your Adjusted Gross Income will be reduced by up to $300 and you can still claim the standard deduction. Taxpayers will claim the $300 deduction when they file their 2020 taxes next spring.

This information from may be useful for US residents who are looking for federal government assistance because of COVID-19 economic dislocation.


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The views expressed in blog posts are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Peter Singer or The Life You Can Save.