African Great Lakes 

Transforming Community for Social Change Covid 19 Emergency Response

A sixty-seven year old widow benefits from a food supply donation, below the food supply are red wild  pepper vegetables that she was preparing to cook and eat. PHOTO/TCSC/ EZRA KIGONDU

When the government announced the first case of Coronavirus in the country, we all went into panic and anxiety. Everything started to shut down slowly. The government directive and measures forced us to close all our programs because in most of our peace program we would bring more than twenty participants to a training. As an organization we had less experience on strategies to cope with the crisis. Through consultative meetings with other stakeholders and our partners through zoom and Skype calls, we started our intervention.

We started educating and encouraging communities around us to adhere to Government measures of washing hands with water and soap/using sanitizers, keeping social distance, wearing masks and staying at home. It was not easy to learn this new normal. Everyday we had new infections, new deaths from the COVID19 virus and other related illness. All these measures came with a price tag on them. Most of the communities in Mt. Elgon could not access clean, sufficient water let alone afford soap. The cost of masks was equivalent to a meal that would feed a household. Staying at home for low income earners who live below the poverty line would mean that they may not only die from Covid19, but from hunger due to lack of food.

AGLI coordinator David Bucura, in a consultative Skype meeting with country coordinators of partner organizations in Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi, agreed in the meeting that there was a need for food support that included dry cereals of maize, beans, rice, green grams, and cooking maize flour. In addition, we included cooking oil and soap to the most vulnerable members of the community, which included households of people living with disability, elderly and those who cannot afford to purchase these items. The coordinator shared the information with the African Great Lakes Initiative (AGLI)  working group and funding was released to buy food. Initially, we had identified 25 household of about eight family members that would give us around 200 beneficiaries, both Quakers and non-Quakers alike. We managed to reach 300 families in 36 households. On the 4th of July we had reached hundreds of vulnerable groups such as unemployed youth, the elderly, women and children from low-income households, and people living with disability, who were at higher risk of food scarcity and malnutrition.

Getry Agizah delivers our door-to-door food supply to a family in Malava early meeting, Matsakha village meeting. PHOTO/TCSC/PETER SERETE 

Inspection of food supply at our TCSC offices. The food support includes dry cereals of maize, beans, rice, green grams, cooking maize flour, cooking oil and soap. PHOTO/TCSC/EZRA KIGONDU  

Distributing the food supply is one of the most challenging activities. Despite the organization having identified the most vulnerable beneficiaries, other community members also wanted a share of the supply. During the distribution, we met other challenges of girls in need of sanitary pads, psychosocial support and guiding and counseling.

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the ongoing and planned peace processes and trainings. It is becoming increasingly difficult to facilitate intra and interethnic dialogues. We cannot travel to conflict affected areas to conduct dialogue with parties in dispute. As a result, there are increased cases of intra and inter-ethnic conflicts in traditional conflict prone areas.

Another challenge being posed by the COVID-19 pandemic is the stigma and stereotyping against infected and affected people as well as social animosity based on misconceptions of the virus.

Due to the prolonged home stays of people who would otherwise be away from home, there is an increased risk of family feuds that result in gender-based violence. This violence includes sexual violence, divorce and separation among couples, which also result in high levels of stress, emotional instability, and other results, especially in poor household.

Getry Agizah provided listening session after giving food support to one of our beneficiaries living with disability. 

Following the pandemic there has been an increase in anxiety, stress, panic attacks and mental illness. These will be major healthcare concerns during and after Covid-19 era. Moving forward, we have great opportunity to start addressing trauma related issues now that churches have been opened and the government is allowing 100 people in church congregation.

Address the issue of early pregnancy in Mt. Elgon, and create avenues to get funding for sanitary towel. Organize stakeholder meeting with local administration and the teenagers to take about challenges, keeping in mind schools will not open until next year 2021.

Due to economic instability in the country, loss of jobs by pandemic, culture shock and trauma around mourning and police brutality during the enforcement of curfew laws, there is a high rate of mental and emotional instability that has caused a lack of peace among communities, which has led to depression.

“We have never met God, when we meet like this and talk, God is present, am very grateful, I never knew I will get food to eat, when we go to bed you don’t know Gods plan in the morning. Thank you very much; I am happy my family will have something to eat.”

“Since the government announced the pandemic, we were left on our own. At my age cannot work anymore, I solemnly depend on neighbors and well-wishers, already my neighbors are struggling just like me, today I had decided to cook this wild red pepper vegetables as my meal, Gods works in mysteries ways, am grateful to your organization for reaching to elderly widow like me, God bless you”

Christine Junia, a volunteer with TSCS,  helps give food donation from AGLI in Murhanda village.