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Private Clients team

Charities Aid Foundation

New Year, New Giving

The emergence of COVID-19 last year, along with its associated health and economic impacts, has quite rightly received substantial coverage. However, there have been a number of second order effects brought about by the pandemic that are not being covered or reported. There are also a number of neglected areas that pre-dated the pandemic but were worsened by it and where philanthropy could play an important role.

With this in mind, we hosted a webinar exploring three important themes with the goal of supporting our clients to explore new areas in their giving, and gain a fuller picture of where their support is most needed:

  • The factors and/or inequalities that contributed to BAME communities being disproportionately affected by the virus;
  • The implications of the delays and/or cancellations of immunisation programs across the global south;
  • And the concept of pandemic preparedness and how we can support this.

We were joined by Patrick Vernon – a leading social commentator and campaigner on cultural heritage and social justice in the UK, Anil Soni – CEO WHO Foundation, and Catherine Rhodes – executive director at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at Cambridge University.  


COVID-19 does not discriminate however, existing health inequalities and health conditions mean that the virus impacts some communities more than others. Indeed, BAME communities across Britain have been especially badly affected thanks to health inequalities that BAME communities have experienced for decades. In the UK, it has been estimated that one in every three BAME households have had at least one family member die from COVID-19, far higher than the national average. Amongst BAME households, it is common for families to have lost more than one family member to the virus.

One of the main impacts of the pandemic is on the mental health of BAME communities, which has historically been neglected and now worsened. Patrick mentioned how there are no national services that meet the cultural and faith-based needs of these communities experiencing death and grief. Furthermore, current mental health services are overstretched with a lack of BAME volunteers to offer a more tailored service.  There is a need to transform services, test new ideas, explore new ways to develop culturally relevant programs and mechanisms, and train and support a new generation of mental health advocates in the community.

The Ubele initiative, where Patrick is a fellow, are working on improving infrastructure to support the voluntary sector and more specifically BAME organisations. Among other things, Ubele are working to help bridge the gap for appropriate bereavement and counselling support. Patrick mentioned work that is underway to bring together BAME therapists, counsellors and psychologists to launch ‘BAMEStream’ which aims to support individuals dealing with grief, loss, and the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and wellbeing.

Another pre-existing issue that COVID-19 has only exacerbated is the strength of the anti-vax movement amongst BAME communities. A survey, the UK Household Longitudinal Study, investigated COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in the UK by asking how likely/unlikely they are to take a COVID-19 vaccine, 72% of black people in Britain reported unlikely to take the vaccine. Patrick listed a number of driving forces behind this, of them being the history and fear of BAME individuals being tested on. Another reason is thought to be around the disconnect and distrust between the government and BAME communities.

We asked Patrick where he thinks philanthropists can play a role in meeting these needs and improving existing health inequalities:

  1. Support mental health provision and advice for young people struggling to adjust with the new school situations, and individuals who lost their jobs;
  2. Support the provision of culturally-appropriate grief and bereavement support;
  3. Support the elderly who are currently shielding and finding it difficult to adapt to the disruption of their day to day routines.

Immunisation programs in developing countries

There is a perception that the global south has been hit less by COVID-19 compared to the global north. Anil clarified that this is not the case. Countries in the global south were hit later on, but this does not mean that they have not been very badly affected. It is nonetheless hard to get an accurate picture of the scale given the lack of accurate data and reporting on infection rates and deaths. The pandemic has also put huge stress on limited healthcare capacities in countries across the global south. For example, the US has over 30 intensive care unit (ICU) beds for every 100,000 individuals. Looking at countries in Asia, this goes down to around two ICU beds per 100,000, and in sub-Saharan Africa less than one bed per 100,000.

During the first four months of 2020, and for the first time in 28 years, there was a reduction in the coverage of basic vaccines. A survey was conducted by UNICEF, WHO and Gavi pulse across 82 countries where 75% reported such disruptions. Whilst manufacturers have continued to produce vaccines, the ability to deliver these in-country has been severely affected due to lockdowns and restrictive movements preventing individuals from attending vaccination clinics. Anil made the important but depressing point that, current data suggests there will be greater morbidity and mortality of the associated impacts of the pandemic from other diseases, economic insecurity, famine, and food shortages, than from the pandemic itself.

Immunisation programs are crucial for economic growth and development. Development and growth in the global north has been driven by good health, hygiene and vaccines and for the past 20 years immunisation programmes have been a major component of economic development and well-being across the global south.   

With the growth of the anti-vax movement in the US and UK, we wanted to find out if the same phenomenon was taking hold across the global south. Fortunately, confidence towards vaccines is high, largely because there is a recognition and understanding amongst communities that vaccines are important for their children’s survival and many communities have very direct experience of death and disease when their children are not vaccinated. However, there is still a potential threat and so there is a need to manage this with the help of local leaders and community health workers who communities trust, so that vaccine confidence continues.

In this context, we asked Anil what he thought are some important considerations for philanthropists.

  1. Set intentions of mobilising your monetary resources and then figure out where to allocate them, not vice versa;
  2. Leverage your donation by pooling together with other funds to maximise impact;
  3. Support initiatives and funding to mobilise longer term resources building more resilient healthcare systems.

Pandemic Preparedness

We ended the event with a discussion on pandemic preparedness, as one could argue that better pandemic preparedness would have reduced the negative consequences of the pandemic outlined above.

Pandemic preparedness involves having a strong understanding, plans and associated actions to deal with, the following areas of pandemics:

  • Identifying and assessing potential risks / surveillance
  • Prevention methods
  • Detection methods
  • Response
  • Recovery

It is important to: have good communication around preparedness, including with the public; better understand the resources that a country or government may or may not have, and the types of constraints that could affect response; and develop an understanding of impacts that could arise in other critical areas, such as impacts of health risks on economic systems.

It is important for us as a society to learn about pandemic preparedness because as Catherine points out, we are going to face more pandemics. There is a need to improve and adapt future response to include direct health impacts, support systems and business continuity; understand connections between local and global events and responses; consider the impact of globalisation; and improve disease surveillance to better understand what diseases will or could arise.

We asked Catherine some questions with regards to the Global Health Security (GHS) Index report that was published in 2019; this benchmarks 195 countries across six categories: prevent, detect, respond, health, norms and risk. The report highlighted that no country was fully prepared for a pandemic. Countries such as the UK and US scored highly, yet their COVID-19 response has been poor. Catherine noted that the issue is that although these countries looked ‘good’ on paper in terms of preparedness capacity, putting this into action can be a different story. She also mentioned how systems had not been fully tested prior to this pandemic. The political context also played a role in the UK and US response and further attention needs to be paid to how certain conditions, such as socioeconomic inequalities, would impact communities. For example, thinking about how lockdowns and restrictive movements could affect individuals and small businesses in underprivileged communities. Another failure from the UK is that most of their pandemic preparedness focused on influenza, and did not pay sufficient attention to other pandemic threats.

We asked Catherine if she could share some points on where philanthropists interested in supporting better pandemic preparedness could best direct their resources:

  1. Support building healthcare system capacities which will help the response toward local epidemics and bigger pandemics;
  2. Support communication with the public to engage the governments and hold them accountable to maintain longer term preparedness and not go from ‘panic to neglect’;
  3. Support the training of local health professionals in field epidemiology to spot and promote response to outbreaks in their early stages.

Take home message

We asked our panel of speakers to share their take home messages for clients to keep in mind when thinking about their philanthropic strategy.

  • Catherine highlighted the importance of thinking through decisions and supporting what might seem like quite small actions that could help build general capacities;
  • Anil honed in on the need for global solidarity, collaboration, setting intentions, and committing to them;
  • Patrick finished off by echoing the sentiment that the key is to determine how you use your resources and mobilise them, and to become active in your local community.

If you are interested in learning more about what approaches or organisations you can support as part of your philanthropic strategy, the private client team and their advisory proposition are happy to help. Please contact us.

Further resources