In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world like a storm, causing a public health crisis and global economic shutdown. 

Governments and social systems were overwhelmed, unable to reach the remote corners where assistance was needed.

It was in this critical moment that the ADB, Japan, the People's Republic of China, the Republic of Korea, and civil society organizations (CSOs), joined forces in a Technical Assistance program called Mitigating the Impact of COVID-19 through Community-Led Interventions, together becoming a lifeboat for communities that needed help the most.

The Technical Assistance worked with 10 CSOs across seven countries, forming a resilient crew to weather the storm and reach local communities impacted by COVID-19.

The CSOs mobilized local leaders, groups, and volunteers to carry vulnerable communities safely through the storm. 

From 2021 to 2023, the project kept communities afloat amidst successive waves of lockdowns. 
331 communities benefited from the project.

The first focus of the project was to ensure communities were safe from the virus and to strengthen the COVID-19 public health response. 

The CSOs partnered with government agencies and local leaders to develop community health action and preparedness plans for COVID-19 and future similar crises.  

In the Philippines, health workers were trained on COVID-19 preventive health care and were provided with basic medical equipment and information materials. They were also trained to encourage families and communities to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

CSO-trained health volunteers facilitated telehealth consultations for rural and indigenous communities, providing much needed health care access. 

In Mongolia, information campaigns were launched to teach the public about the dangers of COVID-19 that included easy-to-understand cartoon characters, social media-based information sessions, and printed materials posted in community centers.  

The project’s second component supported informal social protection programs that served as life jackets to keep communities afloat. 

In Mongolia, poor and vulnerable people received basic needs support, including clothing, food, and personal hygiene packages.  

In the Philippines, food packs were provided to households of Tagbanua communities in the Calamianes islands, serving as a lifeline during strict lockdowns.

In Thailand, the project provided food and water support to groups of migrant workers. They also worked closely with the government’s health and social welfare offices to connect migrant workers with the formal public health system so they could access services and benefits from government programs. 

The third component of the project was to facilitate alternative livelihood opportunities for those who became unemployed or had their livelihoods impacted by COVID-19. 

In Armenia, the project supported start-ups and existing SMEs by providing technical assistance and minimum capital support to enterprises as diverse as greenhouses, start-up wineries, nail salons, sewing, guesthouses, and food trucks.

In Cambodia and Thailand, livelihood training and job skills programs were implemented to support employment readiness and job placement in the countries’ tourist and economic hubs and border towns, benefiting hundreds of individuals.

In Lao PDR, returned migrant workers received training on soap and mask production, and Farmers’ Clubs were formed where members learned improved methods of growing vegetables, fish farming, and raising livestock.

Civil society organizations were critical in sheltering communities from the storm of COVID-19 at a time when uncertainty was high and national systems were overwhelmed. Grassroots development rests on the principle that communities themselves best know what their needs are, and the power of civil society lies in its connection to communities to empower them to meet these needs. 

By tapping into the power of civil society, communities, and partnerships, ADB and CSOs helped to sail through the storm towards a brighter horizon for Asia and the Pacific – a future that is prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable for all.