Coronavirus – How it’s impacting our work in Africa

by ACT

  • Posted on April 24, 2020

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… A glimpse into the impact in Tanzania

ACT Project Officers, Fr Honoratus (Ngara) and Stella Maganga (Biharamulo), describe how the coronavirus is affecting their communities and impacting our work in Kagera region, Tanzania.

In this part of the world, it’s interesting how so little is in the news about the spread of the coronavirus in Africa. As a result, many ACT supporters and child sponsors in the UK have little or no idea about the impact of this disease on the people in Africa. For example, they don’t know what the health care situation is like, how the people, particularly the poor are coping in terms of their daily lives and what the governments in different parts of Africa are doing to keep their people safe. This blog aims to shed some light on these issues.

Africa is a vast continent with 54 countries and the second largest continent in terms of land mass. ACT is operating in 8 countries of Africa namely, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. In this blog we focus on Tanzania to give you a glimpse of the impact of the coronavirus in the communities where we are in Kagera region in the north west of the country. Kagera is predominantly rural. It borders with Uganda to the north, Rwanda and Burundi to the west and Lake Victoria to the east. Our work is spread across Biharamulo and Ngara districts and extends to Chato in neighbouring Geita region to the southeast.

In Kagera, there is no concern about people going to the shops to buy several months’ worth of food items in the fear that food will run out because of the coronavirus lockdown. The fact is that like in most parts of rural Africa, there are no Tescos’ or similar mega grocery stores and in any case the people can’t afford to buy a week’s worth of groceries.

Among the government measures in Tanzania is a campaign for good hygiene and for people to wash their hands. Shops, workshops and any enterprise where people have to transact any business must provide water and soap for washing hands. The borders are closed and travels in and out of the country is restricted. Visitors to Tanzania are required to stay in self isolation in designated places for 14 days at their own costs. According to Fr. Honoratus, people are adapting and following the instructions. People are also asked to where masks or find any way to cover their nose and mouth. This has resulted all types and fashions of masks.

No gathering is allowed, but people are still going to church and mosque for prayers. This has raised eyebrows with WHO and the international press because of President Magufuli’s controversial statement that ‘coronavrus cannot survive in the body of Christ’.

So far, the numbers of people affected has been relatively few and far much less than in Europe or the USA. As at 24 April, there were 284 cases of coronavirus i reported with 10 deaths and 48 people who have recovered.

All schools are closed

It is in education that the measures taken by the Government can affect children quite severely, according to both of our project officers. It could pose significant problem for children from poor families, like those that ACT support.  Schools closure will affect forthcoming school exams and therefore progression for the students. Children who were preparing for national exams are at a loss, with no directives as yet from government on this. Some teachers are secretly offering private tuitions to children who can afford it. Given the competitive nature of these exams, with only those who meet the required grades able to proceed to the next academic year, private tuition will benefit children from well-off families who can afford it, at the expense of poorer children…. like Gertrude.

Gertrude

Gertrude is in Form 4 and hopes to pass the national exams to go to high school for her A-levels next year. With schools closed, she is in a difficult position. Gertrude is an orphan who stays with her uncle in Kagoma village. Before the lockdown she would normally have an early start to the day to get on with home chores, before going to school. She would get her uncle’s two children washed, dressed and fed. She then gets herself ready and eats whatever is left-over by her cousins. She walks them to their primary school before proceeding to her secondary school on foot, 4 kilometres away. After school she returns home to continue with the home chores and cooks for the family. This makes it difficult for her to complete her homework before dark, as they have no electricity. With the lockdown, her home chores are likely to be even more, which means she would have even less time for studies. Without ACT support, Gertrude would not have been able to go to secondary school, as her uncle had no plan to invest in her education.

 ACT is for the people otherwise forgotten

Our vision is to support the education of disadvantaged orphans and fatherless children like Gertrude, so that they can reach their potential in life. It is the reason why ACT exist.

We don’t know how the corona virus lockdown will affect our resources, but we don’t want children like Gertrude to suffer, given the pain they have already endured.

We are asking for your support, so that when things have settled back, ACT will still be playing its part in alleviating poverty among disadvantaged children and orphans and empowering widows in need in Africa.

There are many children like Gertrude requiring a sponsor. Would you consider sponsoring a child or you make a donation to help us through this difficult time? Any help we receive means a lot to us. Please click here.

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