COVID-19: the transition and the new normal.
Recently we had an update from our partners in Kenya and Mozambique. They told us of how the pandemic has impacted them and the people they serve. Importantly, they told us how their work is continuing to help the people who need it the most.
A message from our partner, the Missionary Diocese of Nampula:
“This pandemic has taught us to be prepared for any calamity – the world has changed so suddenly! We have learnt to always be ready for changes and that having a detailed plan will help us with what we are trying to achieve. We developed information and plans very quickly to support vulnerable families through the pandemic. This was made much easier by the existing health committees we established in the communities who already have local support. Because of this, the government accredited our response work and made us an official part of Mozambique’s national COVID-19 prevention plan.”
The main focus of the project this year has been teaching about COVID-19 in the communities in the area of prevention and how to live safer lives. This focus on COVID prevention within the existing health committees has helped communities prepare and reduce cases of COVID-19. Seven of these health committees have received two days of training, and from this training have learnt new ideas about how to protect their communities. They have worked with the communities to ensure that there was no movement of people into the community (and that people would report new people who arrive) and to monitor the health centre to make sure they are coping and able to continue providing services.
In total, 1,960 Equipa de Vida (Life Team) members (community health volunteers) have been trained, along with 400 clergy, and they (along with the other trained staff) have reached more than 45,000 people about understanding and preventing COVID-19.
Through meetings, the communities themselves organised the way that Life Team educators conducted door-to-door advocacy on COVID-19 prevention. In these meetings, the latest government approved information was available, which was important as these communities are not easy to access. The Life Team volunteers worked in pairs so they could reach all the members of the community; they divided the community into groups of 10 houses for the pairs to reach so that the messages were spread quickly.
Hygiene messages, distributed in pamphlets in 98 communities, included hand washing with soap, social distancing, and prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal issues (as this was a big issue even before COVID-19). Clergy and animators have planned to make follow up visits to families to ensure they understand the actions and know the importance of prevention. In Morrupula, one of the priests is making two visits a week to families, helping them build tip-taps (a simple tap device) for hand washing.
At the same time as combatting COVID-19, the Life Teams have been able to continue some of their nutrition education for families with children under the age of two. Malnutrition is a big issue in the communities where the Life Teams operate, so along with COVID education, parents are equipped with understanding of nutrition and how to keep their growing children as healthy as possible. They teach the parents about nutritional and food diversity and encourage them to include foods like eggs, peanuts, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, other vegetables and fruits like bananas into their family diet.
The community of Miserepane felt transformed by the teachings about COVID-19. Before being reached by the Life Teams with the information, the community did not know how it is contracted, the symptoms, how serious it can be, and its prevention.
Some didn’t believe information about the disease, hearing mainly rumours, but since the Life Teams are locals and trusted, they listened and changed their minds. Now the communities are accepting the need to social distance and use masks in crowded places.
In the community of Nachaca, a leader named João Requiua felt transformed and encouraged in teaching about COVID-19 and said: “I am very happy and grateful for this teaching about this disease. In our community it remains a concern as people don’t have good information about it.” He also asked for 20 pamphlets and promised to call all the heads of his villages to replicate the teaching.
A message from our partner, the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK):
“The pandemic has really been the acid test of effectiveness and sustainability of the work being done by the Nyumba Kumi (volunteer community leaders). It tested the resilience of the communities and their commitment to justice. While they did at times feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of solving all the community problems, they have been buoyed by how recognised they felt by the legal system and the government, and how supported they have been through the process.”
Many families in the communities we serve have suffered with reduced income, markets have closed, so there has been no outlet to sell farm produce and livestock, people working in casual labour have had work dry up, and places like quarries have closed.
The Nyumba Kumi have been supporting 882 households that have been identified as most vulnerable with food and hygiene supplies, and other households have been identified and referred to a government support fund for basic support of about 13 AUD a week. Through the pandemic, however, we see many examples of how the Nyumba Kumi rally the community to support those suffering the most. In one community, Mankurian, they organised a sand harvesting activity to raise money to buy food for distribution, and in another they used the same fundraising idea to raise money for health care expenses. Between communities they share ideas and commit to helping the most needy families with household items and emotional support.
While they are giving out the much needed food supplies, they are using the opportunity to share the health messages to prevent the spread of COVID-19: wash hands regularly with soap or sanitiser, keep distance from people and self-quarantine if you are sick or have been in contact with someone who might be COVID-19 positive.
What concerns the Nyumba Kumi most, however is how the pandemic is affecting the other advocacy work that they have been doing. All the Nyumba Kumi are trained in how to prevent, identify and report on issues of child protection and gender violence. Sadly, with the burden of job loss, children out of school, and the increased isolation, there has been an increase in problems like sexual violence and teenage pregnancy.
The Nyumba Kumi however, are not deterred, working hard to create harmony in the communities they serve. The project has even been named as the referral point for gender-based violence cases by the Kenyan government’s National Gender Commission. The project is also working towards creating more involvement at the local level through the creation of community-based child protection committees. Schools will remain shut for the remainder of the year, so these groups will be important and have much to discuss.
For our partner, ACK, and their dedicated Nyumba Kumis, the work continues through the pandemic and remains as important as ever.
Both the Towards Abundant Life program in Mozambique and the Imarisha Maisha program in Kenya are supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and by AOA supporters. We are proud to partner with the Australian Government in delivering these programs.