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The impact of Covid-19 in Butaleja

Saturday 28th March.

An update from Phil Green, Chair of UK Trustees

As we, along with the majority of the world’s population, come to terms with living in lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, I find it hard to get my head around just how much life has changed over the past couple of weeks – and the long-term impact this will have on so many people.

This week, I’ve been in regular communication with Ivan – the director of a little bit of HOPE in Uganda. The Ugandan Government, like much of the world, have closed schools, banned gatherings of more than 10 people, and banned most forms of transport.

In the UK, we’ve been getting used to washing our hands more often, while singing Happy Birthday. In rural Uganda, for most, that’s more difficult – there’s no running water. Most of us will be feeling the impact of ‘panic buying’. In Uganda food prices are rising dramatically, and there’s real concern in rural communities, that food – which is mostly bought and sold through a very informal system – will just not be there.

Never before have so many people around the world been united in their vulnerability. But the vulnerability isn’t equal. In the UK we’re seeing the impact of all of this in a country with a world-class health system, (relatively) well-organised social security, and the ability to inject vast economic stimulus programmes, now, and later during the recovery stage. It’s not like that in Uganda, and the fear is that this could decimate many African countries. See article in The Guardian.

Last week, the team did an amazing job at developing and implementing plans to be at the forefront of the effort to bring hope to the most vulnerable people in Butaleja District.

  • Instead of ‘panic buying’, they did some ‘panic planting’! Despite schools being closed, they worked with teachers to ensure that our schools farms were planted (with appropriate social distancing rules applied). They wanted to do everything they could to ensure that there will be food to be eaten in a few months time. 26 school farms are now planted, and the remaining ~20 will be planted within the next couple of weeks.
  • Amazingly, a few weeks ago, the team were given all the equipment to run a local radio station (through an organisation called RootIO). This means that in a moment of crisis, the a little bit of HOPE team will have the best means of mass-communication to Butaleja’s rural residents, to ensure they have all the relevant information and are educated about what precautions they can take.

Many of the plans we made last week have needed to be changed this week, as the Government placed further restrictions on travel. But we are committed to remain agile and are working closely with the Local Government so that we can be at the heart of the crisis response and recovery, so we can bring hope at a time when it is so desperately needed.

In line with the UN’s global humanitarian response plan, our response will focus on two strategies*. The first is to support the efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. The second is to minimise the collateral implication of the initial health emergencies – for example, violence against children, social cohesion, food shortages and loss of livelihood.

This next week, we will be working closely with the Local Government to ensure we are an integrated part of their plan to educate the community, and we’re also involved in helping to source the appropriate medical equipment. We’ll continue to work with our school farms to make sure they are planted, and we are going to prioritise the fixing of boreholes – so at least hand-washing is a little more possible. We will also be working to identify particularly vulnerable families and develop a plan as to how we can best support them.

We will update you when we have a more developed plan and we will be posting regularly on our Facebook page.

Thank you for your support of a little bit of HOPE – at this time it’s more needed than ever.

*The UN have three strategic priorities, the third is to protect, assist and advocate for refugees and internally displaced people – which is not currently an issue in the Butaleja District.