Helena Neave

Helena Neave

Private Client Advisor
Charities Aid Foundation

E: philanthropy@cafonline.org


June 25 – Global Alliance webinar

The CAF Global Alliance (GA) is an international network of independent and locally-led organisations that share the vision of a strong, resilient, and diverse civil society across Brazil, India, South Africa, Russia, US, UK, Canada, Australia, Bulgaria and most recently Turkey. Our International team in London supports our partners and makes it easier for our clients here in the UK to give overseas.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the need for civil society across the world to support its communities. However, we are seeing huge pressures on NGOs both in terms of income and capacity.

We gathered together Paula Fabiani CEO IDIS Brazil, Meenakshi Batra CEO CAF India, Gill Bates CEO CAF Southern Africa, and Brazilian philanthropist Rodrigo Pipponzi to talk about the situation on the ground in each of their countries- what local conditions are making the crisis more acute, how government and civil society are responding, and what philanthropists can, and are, doing to help.


The populations of Brazil and India have been badly hit by COVID-19. Brazil has over 1.2 million confirmed cases and over 50,000 deaths (with many suggesting this figure is underreported), second after the US.. Contributing to the high number of cases is the different responses being exhibited by the federal and state governments. The federal government have stopped reporting the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths while state governments and media set up a parallel reporting system to inform the public.

India has recently risen to the 4th highest number of COVID-19 cases after Brazil, US, and UK. It has 474,000 confirmed cases and 15,000 deaths. This is partly because the health system was not prepared and government health facilities became overwhelmed very quickly. The conditions of state hospitals are very bad, with living patients amongst deceased patients. The government has tried to invest in health infrastructure, converting railway structures into makeshift hospitals and private clinics stepped in, but they charge between USD$ 1,400-1,500 per day, rendering such services only attainable for the wealthy.

South Africa (SA) has fared comparably better, with ‘only’ 111,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and a low death rate. This is likely because Africa is “behind the curve”, with the peak expected in August/September. COVID-19 is not just a health crisis – it is an economic and social crisis. It is causing a rising crisis of starvation across the country. Many millions of children from poor backgrounds and townships are not going to receive their one meal a day via schools and analysts fear that more people will die for lack of food than because of COVID-19.

Shortages in PPE have occurred in most, if not all, countries affected by COVID-19. For example, CAF India worked with one of their corporate partners to deliver PPE.

Another concern has been the reported decrease of children being vaccinated due to public health concerns. This can lead to longer term consequences, putting children at risk from other diseases that are easily preventable through vaccinations.


The pandemic has brought inequalities to light. SA is already a hugely un-equal country with one of the highest gini-coefficient’s in the world. Worryingly, it is estimated that 1.7 million jobs are likely to be lost as a result of COVID-19 and small businesses are being badly hit. About 18 million people receive some kind of grant or support from the government, but these packages are not enough. One-off grants are being introduced, but they are very low value. On the other hand, the Brazilian government has been providing emergency funds of USD$ 350 (equivalent to £280) to the most vulnerable communities.

The struggle that many developing countries are facing is lives versus livelihoods, and perhaps no-where is this clearer than in India. India is a country ‘under construction’ with a large informal economy with migration of labourers traveling into big cities for seasonal work. During lockdown, many workers lost their daily income. Some walked thousands of kilometres to find employment in other states. This created huge suffering, deaths and the spread of COVID-19. General unemployment has also soared across India. Official statistics show a jump from 8% to 27% (not including the informal economy which, by some counts, represents 90% of Indians). In order to try to curb this economic crisis, India eased lockdown restrictions, which in turn likely led to the spike in reported cases and deaths mentioned above.

Civil society support and state of civil society

In the UK, there was no proposed financial support for civil society and charities until a large campaign to highlight the need of this important sector. This is a trend that was present in India, South Africa, and Brazil as well.

Despite the fact that SA has 220,000 registered charities, and civil society has long been the backbone of society (it was extremely vocal during the country’s anti-apartheid movement) the government in SA has not introduced any measures to help the sector.

The situation is the same in Brazil and, indeed, one of IDIS’ major learnings from the pandemic has been that charities are invisible to the federal government and need a collective voice to better advocate for themselves and their role. IDIS Brazil, along with two other partners, launched an emergency fund, raising USD$ 7 million, demonstrating the need for partnerships that will make the sector stronger, with a bigger voice.

CAF India has been working alongside organisations, communities, sanitation workers and police with a focus of feeding the poor through distribution of freshly cooked meals, as well as repurposing village schools and other community spaces into quarantine centres to support migrants coming back to their villages.

Philanthropic response

Although government support for the sector has been poor, philanthropists in all three countries are really beginning to come to the fore.

One particularly prominent example is Brazilian philanthropist, Rodrigo Pipponzi and his family. They launched the fundraising campaign, ‘Families Support Families’ with other HNW Brazilians to support poor families across Brazil. They raised around USD$ 1.5 million from this and then launched a crowdfunding platform to extend their reach. The platform, launched two months ago, has raised 10 million Brazilian Reals (equivalent to £1.5 million) to purchase basic baskets of food and supplies for thousands of families across the country. The fund partnered with local NGOs, who bought supplies from local businesses as a way to also support them.

Rodrigo’s family business, a pharmaceutical company, also launched a USD$ 5 million fund, ‘Every Care Counts’, to direct to local hospitals in the most vulnerable areas of Brazil. They bring in medical practitioners to understand the needs of specific hospitals and ensure funds are allocated in the best way possible. They have donated to 12 hospitals and will continue to support up to 50 hospitals across the country.

CAF Southern Africa has been working with corporate clients and funders such as the Oppenheimer Generation Foundation, whose funding during this period has been directed toward supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs. With the help of CAF Southern Africa, they created a 5 million Rand fund (equivalent to £240,000) for smaller organisations that did not have huge infrastructure or reserves. The fund was oversubscribed within 3-4 days, receiving close to 500 applications.

What’s next?

Beyond the very immediate and acute needs of populations in India, SA, and Brazil as a result of the pandemic, many on the panel felt that there is a need to tell the stories of how NGOs and people are responding to this crisis and communicate these messages to the public. This includes encouraging philanthropists themselves to talk about their giving publicly, even though they may wish to be private about this.

There is also a need to think about what we will need in the future so that philanthropy continues to thrive.

If you are interested in finding organisations to support in these countries, please contact us, and we can also put you in contact with our International team/ Global Alliance Partners.