Our response to COVID-19

To all of our supporters!

I sincerely hope all is well and that you are keeping safe in these truly exceptional times.

The implications of COVID-19 are being felt across world and I wanted to get in touch today to inform you of the situation in Thailand and the approach KHT is adopting to mitigate risk and continue to support Karen communities in Northern Thailand.

The Position in Thailand

Thailand itself is at present seeing a surge of cases day-by-day and has recently announced a state of emergency. Although COVID-19 is yet to be reported in Mae Hong Son Province, we are doing everything we can to limit transmission and protect our team and the villages we work with. Travel between provinces has now been restricted and that should hopefully see Mae Hong Son Province relatively protected. However, even though cases are yet to be reported, this does not mean that the virus isn’t already present.

Our Team

At the start of this week, our Thailand based international staff returned to the UK to wait out the pandemic at home with friends, family, and loved ones. This decision was not taken lightly but was deemed necessary for their mental well-being and safety of both the UK team and the villagers.

In Thailand, we have now closed our office in Khun Yuam, and our team will be working from home where possible. Schools, universities and colleges are also all closed, and our education programme is therefore now on hold until these institutions reopen. We have also limited travel to essential only and will be extremely careful when necessary travel is required. Where possible, this will include temperature testing before entering any communities.

Our Work

We have decided to continue the construction elements of our water, sanitation and hygiene and irrigation projects while we can and as long as we are given permission to do so. This decision was made because of the important positive impact the projects will have on remote Karen communities in Northern Thailand.

If we can improve health through access to clean water and sanitation facilities or increase food security and income generation through the provision of reliable irrigation in a safe and controlled way, then, there will be huge benefits for communities that are facing incredibly tough times. Furthermore, eliminating water-borne diseases or providing hand-washing stations could save lives and increasing food availability could support a whole community to sustain themselves through this pandemic.

Our Methods

To implement construction activities in a safe manner, our construction team are following strict guidelines. While working on the project, they are to stay outside the village and limit interaction with community members as much as possible. Only construction activities will be taking place and the team will be taking a hands-off approach, providing instructions and advice to guide the community. Finally, while staying in the communities, the team will maintain a distance of 2m at all times.

In addition to strict guidelines, we will also provide COVID-19 education regarding the symptoms, how to avoid transmission and what to do if you anyone thinks they have the virus where possible. Together, we hope to help to educate the communities to avoid transmission and protect them from the pandemic.

The Future

Over the coming weeks and months, we will be closely following government advice and monitoring the situation within Thailand. If this requires us to stop all project activities, then they will be suspended until deemed safe to reinstate.

These are unprecedented times for everyone around the world and countless charities like ours are going to feel the consequences of COVID-19 over the coming months. We are truly grateful for your continued support of KHT, especially in the current global climate, however, we now need your support more than ever.

We understand these are incredibly difficult times for everyone, but if you were able to provide support, either through a regular or one-off donation, it would be greatly appreciated. Any support you could provide will ensure that we can continue to employ our amazing team, run our office in Khun Yuam that has since opening become the backbone of KHT’s operations in Thailand, and empower vulnerable communities across Northern Thailand. Together, we can help mitigate the risk of COVID-19 and get through this pandemic stronger than ever.

I wish you all the best and hope that you are able to stay safe over the coming months.

Best regards

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Billy Curryer

Director of The Karen Hilltribes Trust