Voices from the Frontline of COVID-19: What can We Learn about Achieving the SDGs at Community Level?

We live in difficult times. At the time of writing (early October 2021), Covid-19 has infected well over 237 million people worldwide and caused more than 4.8 million deaths (World Health Organization). As well as a health crisis of tragic proportions, it is a socioeconomic crisis. The shockwaves of death and illness, as well as lockdown measures intended to stop its spread, have reached far into communities – affecting the most economically and socially vulnerable the worst. Local communities and their networks on the frontline are self-organising to combat the spread of the virus and support the most vulnerable. Such spontaneous, self-organising community resilience is proving to be a crucial element in navigating this exceptional disruption. The reality is that Covid-19 has compounded the challenges that countless local communities are already facing at the intersection of climate vulnerability, economic poverty, lack of development services and political marginalisation. Yet, these communities have already devised and, over time, have strengthened their coping strategies for dealing with multiple hazards and risks. They have found that their diverse ways of being resilient – involving everything from women’s networks to savings and loans associations to community radio outlets – have proven indispensable in responding to Covid-19. The following report presents a synthesis of key learning from community initiatives in addressing the Covid-19 crisis in combination with multiple other hazards and risks, including weather and climate risks. It is not intended to be a systematic or representative survey of local communities. Rather, the editors intentionally reached out to grassroots groups and their federations, especially women- and youth-led groups in marginalised communities. These range from informal settlements with few or no government services, to remote rural communities. The aim of the series has been to give a space to the voices that are not normally heard on international platforms.