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Disaster at Home GlobalMedic’s Canadian COVID-19 Response

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Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, GlobalMedic has been supporting Canadians across the nation by providing critical aid to those that need it most. Assistance has been provided to hospitals, shelters, food banks, and other organizations that have been severely overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic. For the duration of this time one thing has remained constant, GlobalMedic’s mandate to ensure that the right aid gets to the right people at the right time.

GlobalMedic is an emergency response organization based out of Etobicoke, Ontario that has been providing disaster relief and life saving humanitarian aid since 2002. Their priority is to produce the maximum amount of aid with the lowest possible operational cost, which is achieved by being innovative and cost-effective in every aspect of the organization. To date, GlobalMedic has responded to 234 emergencies in 77 different countries, ranging from natural disasters such as Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas and the recent volcanic eruption in Saint Vincent to long-term complex crises in Yemen, Syria and Somalia. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, GlobalMedic saw the growing level of need here in Canada and knew that a response was necessary to support affected Canadians.

In response to the exponential growth of needs, GlobalMedic has been responding at full force in order to provide as much support to Canadians as possible. Like any other response, GlobalMedic evaluated the needs and decided which and how many programs need to be activated to respond. Here is a look at some of the ways that GlobalMedic has supported Canadians throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Critical Infrastructure Tents

GlobalMedic has been supporting organizations throughout the pandemic by offering up critical infrastructure tents. The health care system in particular has been impacted severely by the pandemic, and has been inundated with COVID-19 patients. These tents allow for hospitals to increase their capacity to respond, and can be used for patient triage, testing spaces, or other needs that arise while also taking into account all COVID-19 safety protocols. Social service organizations such as shelters and food banks were also hit hard by the various public health restrictions imposed by the government. These shutdowns hindered their ability to respond to the growing needs caused by the pandemic. By providing these tents GlobalMedic increased the capacity of these organizations to respond allowing them to provide more aid to vulnerable groups.

Toronto Community Housing: Vaccination Program

The risk of hospitalization or dying from COVID-19 drastically increases with age, increasing the vulnerability of older adults. The rate of death from COVID-19 for those 85 years and older is 8,700 times higher than 5-17 year-olds. This statistic demonstrates the need to prioritize elderly populations throughout the COVID-19 response, and is exactly what occurred through the provincial response seen in Ontario. GlobalMedic contributed to supporting the elderly population by participating in door-to-door outreach programs in various buildings throughout Toronto. In partnership with Toronto Community Housing, GlobalMedic volunteers attended various door-to-door outreach events at lower income buildings which have predominantly older and racialized populations. Those living in these buildings were at a higher risk of contracting and spreading the virus due to lower PPE compliance and a predominant number of essential worker residents. The outreach team was chosen based on the different languages spoken by residents in each building to ensure they were able to provide translators to establish clarity and trust with the members of the community.

This program was used for two different immunization campaigns, the first was for the seasonal flu shot vaccine and the second was for the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Both of these programs were critical for elderly populations, as it gave them the opportunity to receive the vaccine right at their door. The program operated in two phases, first GlobalMedic and the Toronto Community Housing team would go door-to-door and register eligible residents for their immunization. Then a week later, GlobalMedic would return with the clinical team to assist in the administration and monitoring of patients receiving their shot. A large reason as to why this program was so important is that many people in these buildings would have had difficulty accessing the online vaccination booking system due to technological and language barriers. Programs like these diminish these obstacles and ensure that vulnerable populations are able to receive the medical care they need. In total, this program has led to nearly 1,000 residents receiving their flu shot and 6,260 residents receiving their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, at the comfort of their front door. When the time comes, the GlobalMedic team will assist with administering the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to these residents.

Team Toronto: Getting the City Vaccinated

More recently, GlobalMedic has taken on a crucial role in supporting the vaccine rollout for Toronto. As the most prominent hotspot for COVID-19 cases in Ontario, it was a priority to try and administer as many vaccines as possible to try and curb the virus spread.  GlobalMedic has been supporting pop-up clinics in targeted hot-spot areas since March. Teams assist with crowd control, community outreach, post-vaccine monitoring and any other non-clinical duties as needed to help ensure these events run smoothly. In some instances they are also providing infrastructure support with tenting, and handing out aid like hygiene items and food kits at clinics targeting vulnerable populations.GlobalMedic’s commitment to this program has contributed to over 100,000 Canadians receiving their vaccine which led to a firm halt in the growing number of cases in Toronto during the peak of the third wave of the virus. 

Feeding the Six: Providing Food to Families in Need

One thing that this pandemic has exposed are the large inequalities that exist across the country. While this past year has been difficult for everyone, certain demographics were more severely impacted and had less capacity to adapt to these changes in their everyday lives. Levels of both food insecurity and poverty have intensified significantly over the past year, demonstrating the overwhelming need for more attention to be brought to these issues. Food banks and food assistance programs have also felt the stress of the increased level of food insecurity. Pandemic-related restrictions have caused many food banks to shut down or drastically reduce their capacity. Especially early on in the pandemic, clients were rerouted to food banks that remained open, who were simultaneously seeing a massive jump in new first time food bank users. Addressing and responding to food insecurity in Canada has been a priority for GlobalMedic throughout the pandemic.

GlobalMedic’s domestic food program, McAntony’s Menu, has brought nearly 1 million pounds of dried staple foods to Canadian dinner tables across the country. With no sign of slowing down, this program continues to give food insecure families access to nutritious options, and provide support to food banks facing continually rising client numbers. The McAntony’s Menu program works by purchasing ingredients in bulk 50 to 100 pound bags and using volunteers to repackage them into 500g ready-to-use bags. By packing aid in this way, GlobalMedic is able to produce three to four times the amount of food compared to using the same funds to purchase food at retail cost, while also ensuring the aid is dignified and replicates grocery store-quality products. The food is repackaged by volunteers, giving Canadians the opportunity to get involved and take pride in helping out their community while also further driving down the cost of production.

These food donations are made to various organizations, including but not limited to food banks, low income assistance programs and schools. In addition, GlobalMedic designed a separate program to address the growing level of food insecurity throughout the pandemic. Newly food insecure families do not always know the avenues available to them and can therefore struggle in finding solutions. GlobalMedic partnered with Hand Up Toronto, another Canadian charity, to get nutritious grocery hampers into the hands of families in need. GlobalMedic volunteers pack and assemble “Feed the Six Kits”, which contain a mixture of McAntony’s Menu items, for families throughout the Greater Toronto Area. Hand Up Toronto arranges contactless delivery using volunteers or drive through pickups to minimize the risk of contracting or spreading the virus.

 These programs that GlobalMedic has implemented will continue to provide Canadians with much needed critical aid, to support them and maintain their resilience against the virus. Despite cases dropping, many families and organizations remain financially unstable due to the layoffs and restrictions caused by the pandemic. GlobalMedic acknowledges these setbacks and barriers will be felt by institutions and individuals long after the pandemic is over. As long as there is a need, GlobalMedic will continue to respond and ensure they get the right aid to the right people at the right time.

Dayna Eckert

Dayna Eckert

Dayna Eckert is an Emergency Programs Officer with GlobalMedic. Her interest in International Development began during her time at Wilfrid Laurier University where she completed her degree in Global Studies with a concentration in legal studies. She later went on to study International Development at Humber College. Updated 2021

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