Many people are curious as to how the Ugandan way of life is different from what we experience in the US? As you can imagine, the answers are numerous. This is no less the case when we consider life during a global pandemic.
The majority of Americans are rattled by a life stuck at home where they can no longer enjoy some of the simple pleasures that going out brings. Many Ugandans are being forced to stay home by their government for a reason they don't fully even comprehend. While many Americans can no longer enjoy their favorite restaurants or may have to buy the "off-brand" version of their usual groceries, many Ugandans are faced with potential food shortages and lack even a daily meal for themselves or their children. While many of us are deeply affected by the damage our economy is currently facing, we are supported by a government that is trying its best to come up with solutions for the American people. Meanwhile, in Uganda people who venture out into the market or gather too close to one another are beaten by the local police. In a place where the strength and bonds of family and community are the foundation for the success of the society, how do you keep people apart?
Hearts & Hope is trying to find the best ways to help in this rapidly changing situation. We are regularly asking our staff for recommendations and updates and speak to them daily. Nicholas, our head of operations recently shared with our US team just how dire the situation is becoming in Uganda. We learned that although the people in the village may have heard of coronavirus, they know very little about what it actually is, how it is impacting our world, how to protect themselves and their loved ones, and how to prevent it from spreading. In an effort to keep them safe and informed, our staff and local leaders took to the streets late last week and in a matter of a few of days provided all our sponsored students with hand soap, education on proper hand washing techniques, and information about COVID-19 and how to prevent its spread.
Thanks to the quick action by our staff, they were able to complete this work before Monday evening, when the Ugandan government announced a 14-day total lockdown where even private vehicles are not allowed to travel. People are still allowed to move around on foot but are not allowed to gather in groups of more than five at a time. This highly limits how people can live their daily lives. Because there was little to no warning, many people were left without basic living resources in supply, unable to venture out to get them, and are frightened about what the future holds.
With such strict restrictions in place, Ugandans are now faced with an emerging issue - feeding their families.
"There is no assurance that you will have at least one basic meal in a day," Nicholas said in a recent phone call. "This is a big challenge since the emergence of Coronavirus has come as a surprise and thus the families didn’t plan for extra food preparation like they would normally do during school breaks/ holidays."
While the president of Uganda said the government would begin distributing food to those in need, no further details were provided. We are working with our staff in Uganda to research potential options for keeping the students & communities we support both safe and fed. It will be our priority to stay on top of these issues and to act in a way that can support these communities in this time of need. If you are interested in helping us in supporting these families, please consider making a donation to Hearts & Hope here. We will continue to provide updates as we work with our staff to implement a support program.
We are praying for anyone in the US who may be struggling with similar issues due to loss of jobs or income and are praying for our friends in Uganda. We want to thank each of you in advance for your prayers for strength to those in Uganda who are faced with challenges that are difficult for many of us to comprehend.
Hearts & Hope is a nonprofit organization focused on unlocking the potential of people in Uganda through relationships with people in the US.