The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to deeply impact our global trainees, as it has for members of our own immediate communities. Great challenges and devastation are limiting these community leaders’ access to resources for their programming as well as their own livelihoods. We asked our trainees how their communities are being impacted, and they shared with us many difficulties that have been brought on by this crisis.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has deeply effected their households. They are suffering from or fearful of imminent hunger with the current inaccessibility of food and rising costs. Other essential goods, such as protective materials, sanitation supplies, drinking water, and healthcare services are becoming increasingly difficult for families to obtain due to widely instituted curfews as well as unemployment – an issue which has affected our trainees and their family members on multiple levels. The loss of employment and ability to work informal jobs means that bills are going unpaid and health struggles are becoming acute, both physical and mental. To say our trainees and their families are struggling would be a drastic understatement. Read more from their perspective below.
Hunger, Fear, Lack of Protection
Extreme hunger is rising because people are unable to access food due to escalating prices, the forced closure of markets, the breaking of the supply chain, and the forced shut down of public transportation. Most communities are receiving minimal help from their own governments, there are no food banks, and international aid is slow to arrive. Those who do not have food at home are forced to go out to beg, scavenge, or to try to find it in other ways, perpetuating the spread of COVID-19. Trainee Kelvin from Zambia and others in the area fear the threat of starvation will lead to a rise in prostitution, crime, and violence. Another trainee, Jastine from Kenya, also stated that the pandemic has eroded progress in poverty reduction and increased the number of poor citizens as approximately 2 million more Kenyans have been forced into poverty due to lower earnings and reduced job opportunities. Almost all of the people in his community have been laid off.
Some communities are unable to quarantine and others lack credible information about the virus’ spread in their own language, or in formats that educate those who are illiterate. Trainee James from Kenya expressed great concern for the fear and misinformation rampant in his community. Rumors and false information are quickly spreading, causing people to fear contagion from getting tested. In informal settlements, slums, or refugee camps, social distancing is nearly impossible.
Healthcare services in many places are weak due to a lack of hospitals or health clinics, technology like ventilators and testing supplies. Ambulances and emergency vehicles are unable to reach rural areas. For most households, even washing hands with clean running water and soap is a luxury they cannot afford. Trainee Jastine from Kenya has also mentioned that Kenyan nurses, clinical officers, and doctors have gone on strike due to the inadequate access to personal protective equipment needed to care for sick patients.
Troubles with Sustainability
Community programs are facing challenges to their sustainability as donations cease and decrease. These leaders are struggling to cover the wages of their workers. These workers, along with the rest of their community members, are going hungry and are fearful and devastated due to the deaths happening around them. For the organizations that have been able to endure, working remotely through online communication and meetings by means of Wi-Fi and data are becoming too expensive or even entirely unrealistic, as many of their rural and impoverished clients contacts lack access to the internet online or telephone communication technology and services in rural areas.
Many organizations are unable to effectively serve their communities, unable to adapt to the ongoing situation for these reasons, and even those who have are facing obstacles in their pathways. Our trainees are pivoting their programs to help the poor and marginalized in their communities. Alex in Zambia, Frank in Kenya, and others are making masks for those in need from their immediate community, but it is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to get materials to do so.
How can you help?
We asked trainees to consider what they would ask for if they were to seek help from others in more stable, secure positions and locations than they are, and the vast majority of their responses were the most basic essential goods and human necessities. Among the most common were food, drinking water, sanitation supplies, and learning materials for the children who have been sent away from schools which may have provided all of these goods to them before the pandemic. If they were to ask, many would ask for means of communication so that they may continue working, or some amount of financial support that might provide them with any of the aforementioned for not only them, but the people they serve who are looking to them in this time of need.
However, even as they face countless troubles and events that have and will cause suffering, our trainees left us with some words of encouragement. Justine from the Africa Alliance for Health, Research and Economic Development shared with us that his organization has been imploring landlords to set up water and sanitation stations on compounds, and some have already agreed and cooperated in doing so. Justine and others informed members of his community are also disseminating information both online and verbally to their neighbors and friends to assist in communal preventative measures and awareness. Additionally, Franklin from Restoring Hope Ministries told us that his charitable organization has received enough donations for hand washing stations, soap, and hygiene instructions for fifty families within the community. As trainee Alex Bwaluka said, we all live in a global village. Despite the devastating circumstances during which we may finally reach this understanding, we now know it to be true, and it is increasingly evident and important to remember with each passing day.
We all have experienced the effects of COVID on many different levels, and we can all agree the only way to get through this is to do it together. Our trainees can be greatly impacted by your generosity. Donating $100 provides a trainee basic essentials for one month. Please consider making a positive impact and changing lives across the world by clicking the button below.