• James Musinguzi

The face of Uganda Amidst The COVID-19 Pandemic

The children, parents and staff at FOCUS Mulago Child Development Center Project, Uganda East Africa, are continuing in prayer for God’s protection over you and all your loved ones. Welcome to our bi-monthly news.

The face of Uganda amidst theCOVID-19 pandemic

The outbreak of the pandemic in March this year sent the world into a new paradigm. Uganda has seen a closure of; schools and all institutions of higher learning, all religious gatherings, weddings that attract large gatherings, public rallies and cultural meetings since the 18th of March. With confirmed cases of the pandemic, the nation was subjected to a total lockdown from 1st April. Uganda currently has 85 confirmed cases, 52 recoveries and 0 deaths. Just like elsewhere in the world, the effects have been felt by the children, families and communities we work with.

COVID’S effect on families

More than 90% of the families we work with earn from hand to mouth and their income is less than three dollars a day. The majority are employed as cleaners, market vendors and hawkers. The minimum number of members per household is five persons.

Maureen one of our mothers is a 38 years old mother of nine and the sole breadwinner for her family. She sells sweets and biscuits along the roadside. With the current lockdown, she can’t make any sells or even make new purchases. This has affected Maureen’s income flow.

Maureen on extreme right with her family

The needs around her are starting to affect her health. “When my children call out for me, I start panicking afraid that I won’t be able to meet their need.” She said. Recently Maureen fainted after visiting a charcoal store to pick some charcoal dust to make fire and found none. Despite all this, she has lessons drawn.

“I have learnt that the world around me can change anytime. Therefore, I need to be prepared for the uncertainties and the best way to do this is to save, save and save. I am looking forward to acquiring a livelihood skill too.’’

Cissy is a mother to Gloria who is a Primary Seven candidate this year. She has three children. Her husband works at a car washing bay and she works as a cleaner at Mulago Dental School. Her pay is $27 monthly and her husband’s pay depends on how many vehicles he washes daily. The lockdown left both parents unemployed and they resorted to sending all the children to the village.

“We sent the children to the village but even then, it is hard for the two of us to survive.”

Children responses

On the 18th of March, all schools were suspended. This affected the learner and left many confused.

“This lockdown has affected my studies. I thought this was going to be for a short while but it seems to be taking longer. I miss school so much. “Edwin

Edwin is in Primary Five. Impressed by his response, he was asked why he misses school. His answer was; “Education will help me find a good job and if I end up in business, with the education I will be a better manager.” Edwin says his greatest lesson is; “No work, no food!” “Here in the village, Granny serves you a ration of food depending on work done” Below is his current routine.

He wakes up to personal administration. Milks the cows and then takes them to graze. On return, he heads to the garden. He returns at 1:00 pm to a jackfruit snack. Lunch is served between 2-3 pm after which he returns to the garden. In the evening, he brings the cows back to the kraal. Edwin is looking forward to returning to school.

Jordan is in Primary Two. Like Edwin, he too is worried that he may not return to school again. He is concerned that he might have grown into an adult by the time school resumes! On asking why? He said, “Illiteracy most hurts when you are older.” Jordan's new routine is helping his mother with the housework, learning how to make a mat and studying his books from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm.

The community response

The Child Project works with the slum communities of Mulago, Kalerwe, Katanga, Bwaise, Kamwokya and Nsooba. These are characterized by a dense population, use of communal water sources and toilets. Government through various means continues to educate the masses about COVID 19 and how to prevent infection.

Musisi is a Village Health Team worker (VHT)in these areas and had this to say;

“People have been sensitized on what to do. They are trying to keep the physical/social distancing and wash their hands. The biggest challenge is increased lack resulting from the continued lockdown. People have spent all their savings. The people also cannot afford to spend on fruits and vegetables which are vital for their health. Children in this community are going hungry. There is a need to wash hands and yet there is no free water.”

Our Response:

  • The project has mobilized food to be distributed to 100 needy families once the lockdown is lifted on 5th May. This includes 200 Kilograms of posho, rice, beans, porridge flour, sugar, groundnuts and 100 bars of soap.

  • At least 10 caregivers who lost their businesses will be supported with some business capital to get back on their feet and contributions of $140 will be provided for house rent to those facing house evictions.

  • We are working with the community health workers in identifying none support families that are in desperate need of assistance to reach out to them.

Our Desire:

  • Provide food to the hungry not only the families we work with but other hungry children and families in the community.

  • Sponsor more vulnerable children in order to nurture more dreams and see them come to pass.

  • Be a platform to the community health workers (VHTS) for offering health training to the masses.

The effects of this pandemic are far from over. We desire to assist more families. Join us restore hope in the lives of the vulnerable children, families and communities we serve.

Until Next Time,

Sylvia Agaba

Project Director

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