Thursday, 2 July 2020

MONDO’s donation to fight Corona Virus in Uganda

By the time Corona arrived in our lives, I was already volunteering in Uganda for six months. I am not going to say anything about what Corona has meant for all the world, because probably in Europe you know it better than me. Here in Uganda, as a preventive measure, the restrictions were implemented very soon (even before the first case was reported in the country) and maybe that’s why after three months living with the virus Uganda is the country with lowest cases and none deaths reported.
I decided to stay in the rural community where I am volunteering during the lock down. I found it less risky, and, although very little due the restrictions, I still could find things to do and support the community. Most of the population are peasants, they live from what the garden provides and from raising some few small animals. Their houses normally are two rooms made by bricks, and a metal plank as a roof. There is no living room, there is no sofa, there is no floor neither walls. Their living-room is outside, on the compound, and the sofa is a palm-fibre made mat. The worldwide spread sentence “stay at home” was kind of meaning-less here. At least when you think on staying at home like staying indoors. Because in the other hand, they always remain at home. The daily life is from the garden to home, from home, to the garden. Once every two weeks, going to the market is often the most exciting activity they do. Or walking to the trade centre (a little village with some small shops) is an event for what they get dressed smart.
However, they can’t live only from what the garden provides, they need soap, sugar, oil, paraffin… For that, they either have the animals they grow to be sold, or there is someone in the family who works outside to bring some income for all: small sellers, boda drivers, builders, teachers… But not during Corona times. The families in the villages have found the situation where the income producers can’t work anymore, so they can’t support the families with some incomes, plus having them back to the villages, so more mouths to feed.
At least in this side, they still have their gardens and they can feed themselves with something. In the city is where they are really struggling, as they still can’t work, plus not having a piece of land where to grow their food. I have seen the family hosting me preparing packages of harvested products to send to the city for the daughters they have there. The game has changed, the help goes now in the opposite direction.
But people still keep caring from each other, and the new of a donation coming from MONDO to support people in Uganda to fight Corona was a little light in the sky. It was difficult to find how to do the best use of it, as there are many challenges. But we could do many things thanks to the grant:

  • Ugandan government has made an incredible campaign to inform the population about the measures to prevent the virus. Everybody knows the basics: washing hands, not touching soft parts and social distance. All of them quite easy to follow, except washing hands. At least in this area, they have access to water, but without jobs, buying a piece of soap is not that easy. And in public places, like trade centres, despite some shops have settled their little jerrycans at the entrance, they are almost not used by the users, as they are not handy and visible. In Kosovo, a slam of Kampala, where our host organisation also collaborates, they have similar problem. There are not fountains or taps or resources for people to keep their hands clean often. For that, we provided with water dispensers and liquid soap. In this way, people can put the soap directly in the water inside their jerrycans, and they don’t need to be touching all the time the previous person’s soap bar. The school we work with also got a couple of water dispensers, to make easier the practice of washing hands for the children when they come back to school. These water dispensers will also make the role of creating habits and keep reminding the people the importance of washing hands. For corona, but also for all the sicknesses threating them every day. 

  • Kosovo is also an area quite crowded, with not many resources. Televisions are not common in the houses and few radios are around. The way they have for spreading news and messages is, indeed, like we could think of the image in medieval age: the messenger shouting around. So, we provided with a megaphone to the responsible of communications in the slum, so he could record the messages and just play it while walking around the slum. 
  • Compared with the rural areas, the slum is a crowded area. Social distance is quite difficult. We can’t avoid that fact, but at least some face masks were distributed for the elderly and sick people.

  • As I was saying, in the village most of the people have their gardens, and they could live from them. But there are these people who normally spend their days far from the garden, at the school. The teachers of our school were really struggling after two months of not work. Since the lockdown started, they started to work some little pieces of land, but the crops need time until they grow and produce food. Myself could see after that time how they had become more skinny. We couldn’t know for how long this situation is going to last, but providing with food packages for a family for a month, could at least light their situation, and give them time for the corps to grow and start producing their own food. I could see the relief feeling in their faces when they got the packages. 

  •  Our local organisation also partners with Kampala Disable Initiative. A group of women with disabilities which makes tailoring. They normally have difficulties of mobility, but with the corona restrictions this mobility even got more reduced. Also, no orders have come during this time, and market is quite hard to reach. If we add the general situation of not receiving support from relatives who can’t work anymore, they were also suffering from access to food. So, we could also support those families with some food packages, they would release their situation. And since little shops were allow to open, a water dispenser with soap was also provided for them, to ensure their safety when receiving visitors.

I felt very thankful to be able to be part of this donation, to see their faces when delivering all the stuff and knowing how they were going to help them in this situation. Because, while in Europe the quarantine has meant on winning weight for the most of the population, here it has turn into many people starving, and because while having a sanitizer spray in my pocket doesn’t mean much effort, for those families getting a small piece of soap bar can be the investment of the month. 

I have heard many times that corona is a worldwide sickness, kind of “the sickness of equality because it affects everyone, regardless the race, the country, the culture, the religion…”. Well… I think it comes from all that much time people have had in Europe to create romantic speeches about the situation… But it is a big lie… It does not affect to everyone the same.