banner

Advent 3

The Cry for Covid Justice

In March last year, Covid-19 arrived in Uganda.  The people in the southern state of Isingiro were anxious.  They did not know how they would protect themselves and their families – many were living on what little they could grow and with severe water poverty.  Families affected by HIV and AIDS were more worried than most – older caregivers struggled to earn a little money from the sale of bananas, their only access to cash.

Caregivers like 75-year-old Sikora (pictured below) have seen the devastation caused by HIV and AIDS and water-borne diseases.  She lost two daughters from diarrhoea yet faces the future with determination.

Each year she got older, Sikora found it harder to care for her grandchildren and with the arrival of Covid-19 her worries increased.  Every month she would attend the meetings of her local association of caregivers, finding comfort in the support of the community.  When she could spare a few coins, she invested in the small savings scheme they ran, knowing that one day she might win the annual lottery for one of the new tanks.

Imagine her joy in January when she chose the piece of paper with the word ‘Tank’ written on it.  She may have been sad for the caregivers who would have to wait another year, but she was so happy that her prayers had been answered.  Her family would be that much safer from the virus that threatened the community.

In February, the Centre for Community Solidarity (CCS) provided the materials and supported the local people trained to build her new tank – just in time for the March rains and ahead of the second wave of Covid-19.  Collecting water used to take so much of the day, especially in the dry seasons when her grandchildren trekked seven kilometres to the Kagera River, when they should have been at school or working on her land.

“The demand for safe water increased tremendously. Suppose there were no such rainwater tanks in this water-scarce remote area, life would have been impossible. By now many of us and our children would have perished of Covid-19,” says Eva, a caregiver.

When Uganda went into lockdown families stayed home unable to sell goods or buy essential protections like soap and hygiene supplies. The government gave CCS permission to run workshops for 694 people on Covid-19 protection. Participants put on facemasks produced by newly trained tailors, washed their hands and practised social distancing.

The last year has been hard. The closing of schools has put enormous pressure on their caregivers, often grandparents. The children have missed out on free lunches as well as education. They may never return to school, pushing them further into poverty.

Around 80% of Isingiro’s students do not have internet access or electricity, making on-line learning impossible. Some have taken on jobs for low wages, working in poor conditions. Young women have suffered the most – the rate of teenage pregnancy is rising along with violence.

According to a recent ILO report, 78% of Uganda’s population is under 30 years old and 48% under 15. Covid-19 will have a long-term impact on youth employment, future opportunities and the economy.

“If New Zealand was near, we would walk and say Thank You for saving us from the deadly virus,” says Margret.

Joy comes with Justice

Building a new rainwater tank is a time for community celebration.  Music and dance power the construction and mark its completion.  The new owners are so proud of their tanks and manage the safe water very carefully.

Some of the young people who have joined one of the 13 youth groups set up by CCS are finding new purpose in the Rabbit Pass-it-on scheme.  Members spend time each day collecting weeds and managing their care.

Donations to the Coronavirus Appeal funded 9 sewing machines and materials.  Young women learned to sew and made masks to use and sell, contributing to community protection and family income.

Water, sanitation, hygiene supplies, masks, good information and adequate food are necessary for communities seeking Covid justice.  With only 0.9% of Uganda’s population vaccinated, these are the first lines of defence.  Medical treatment is out of reach.  For the people last in line for a vaccine, these are their best hope and protection.

Centre for Community Solidarity

The Centre for Community Solidarity supports 25 local associations of HIV and AIDS affected families.  Members work together to improve their lives and livelihoods.  With a staff of two and a team of 12 volunteers skilled in aspects of development, CCS:

  • Supports the associations of caregivers to make their own action plans for shared benefits
  • Trains local members on and organises the building of rainwater tanks
  • Educates about protection from Covid and HIV and AIDS
  • Runs hygiene, sanitation, agricultural and financial training for the associations
  • Supports local credit schemes, agricultural enterprises and people starting small businesses, including mentoring young people into work
  • Distributes affordable water filters, plants and livestock
  • Mobilises support from local government, through media and participation in local events.

 

Lighten the Load with joy and justice.  Support the Christmas Appeal.

Thanks to CCS for the story and images.

Download in Word including images.  View the PDF.

Back to Our Featured Partners.