I think this is the first time I can remember that the whole world faces the same challenge and most countries have all reacted in a similar way - imposing a nationwide lockdown. This is the case in Uganda, where Coronavirus cases are lower than many other countries but the government is taking no chances. I thought I would take the opportunity to use this report to update you a little on what is happening there and how we are reacting and responding.
Schools are closed, shops shut and a curfew in place to keep people home. You can travel on foot or bicycle. Food prices are so high that most people can't afford to buy food. This is causing major problems in both towns and in the countryside. If you live in one of the villages that we support it takes a long time and a lot of effort to get into town. First of all you need a special permit to travel and then you need to either find a bike to go on or prepare for a walk that can take many hours. The government have a task force to distribute food parcels to people in towns who live on a day by day, cash in hand and are unable to earn the money to buy food. If you have a monthly salary or can grow vegetables you are not entitled to the food parcels. You can imagine what this has done to food prices. They almost quadrupled until the President banned people from hiking prices. Now they are still extremely high and food is very scarce in the towns. The price of a 250g pack of salt went from 300 shillings ($0.08 / £0.06) to 5,000 ($1.3 / £1.00). If you have no money then that is impossible.
If you live in the countryside you are not entitled either. This has meant that the farmers we support are now forced to eat the seeds they should be planting and forage in the bush for wild plants and grass. Because the nursery schools we support are closed and people can't gather, we can't provide porridge to the children at this time. So we are being creative in how we help feed the families who need the most help.
The first thing we did, when the schools were shut, was to buy as much soap as we possibly could. Because people could still move around at that time, we were able to distribute soap to more than 1,200 families - together with strong messages about washing your hands. Now things are more difficult because individuals are not allowed to distribute food during the government distribution. So, we are facilitating the villages to buy food locally and then take it to the familieis and people who need it most. We have bought 700kgs of maize and beans and loads of salt. By being careful with sharing it wisely, we have helped provide meals for more than 6,500 people or more than 1,300 families (there are an average of 5 people per household).
Of course, as soon as the lockdown eases and schools can reopen, we will be back on track supporting the children with porridge. In exciting news, there are 2 new nursery schools about to be built, so more children to feed! They will need our help more than ever in the future because in a few months when the farmers should be harvesting their crops, they might be looking at empty fields and gardens and wondering how they will survive the next dry season and I haven't even mentioned the locusts who are waiting in the wings ready to eat everything in their path when their babies hatch in a few weeks time.
At this time, when charities face so many challenges and spiralling costs as donations go down, we are so happy that we have no overheads or operating expenses here in the UK, meaning 100% of donations go directly to the people on the ground in northern Uganda.
Without you we couldn't do it. So from the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.
Stay safe and keep washing those hands.
With all best wishes