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Edmund Rice Mission responds to the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa

Posted on 07 December 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every corner of the globe. For Edmund Rice Mission, the projects have adjusted their activities to this new landscape while responding to the challenges facing their beneficiaries.

The Ruben Centre, Kenya

The Maternal and Child Health Clinic at the Ruben Centre in Nairobi, Kenya has been hugely impacted by the COVID outbreak. Due to the pandemic and the stigma surrounding COVID, there was low turnout in the centre in March and April, which negatively impacted attendance in various initiatives (child welfare clinic, non-communicable disease clinic, nutrition clinic). The Ruben Centre worked to build confidence in the community that the centre was safe, which led to high numbers of deliveries at the birthing unit.

While most of the activities in the Ruben Centre clinic did not stop, the modes of delivery changed. To protect both the clients and the health care providers, the Ruben Centre moved their counselling sessions online. Through virtual counselling and meeting sessions, the staff demystified the fears and panic caused by the uncertainty of the pandemic. By adopting best practices from other health facilities, the staff were able to safely reach out to clients ensuring the continued delivery of essential health care services during this unprecedented times. Several triage points were established outside the facility to minimize exposure to suspected COVID cases, and patients with terminal illnesses, such as HIV/AIDS, asthma and diabetes, were provided with medicines for a longer period of time to reduce frequent visits to the health facility. Two emergency grants from Misean Cara strengthened the centre’s capacity to deliver the project effectively with all the necessary infection prevention and control measures.

 

Edmund Rice Eldoret Empowerment Programme, Kenya

In Eldoret, Kenya, the Edmund Rice Eldoret Empowerment Programme has still been able to conduct some of its mentorship and life skills activities in a safe and socially distanced environment. This has provided the children and youth with a safe space for some social interactions and given them an opportunity to share how the pandemic has affected their lives. By sharing their experiences, the children have been able to understand more of what is happening around them and to understand what their parents – most of whom have lost jobs – are going through. They have received encouragement and support from their peers which has lessened their anxiety.

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Beneficiaries attending the life skills mentorship lessons on COVID-19
sensitisation and response

The Edmund Rice Eldoret Empowerment programme and the neighbouring Education for Life project came together to facilitate an additional emergency project to respond to challenges which arose from COVID-19. Through their joint project, they were able to implement a sensitisation programme to their beneficiaries, especially the children and youth who experienced panic due to the pandemic. The project also distributed masks, sanitiser and food to the beneficiaries, many of whom had lost their livelihood due to the pandemic. Thanks to Misean Cara for funding this joint effort.

 

The Justice Desk, South Africa

The Justice Desk in South Africa has continued to run their projects in an innovative way while ensuring their activities are conducive towards preventing the spread. For example:

  • All in-person trainings were moved online using the Zoom platform, and they professionally filmed trainings which were given directly to communities without access to internet or Zoom.
  • Certain elements of the Mbokodo Club project, most particularly the female empowerment workshops, were moved onto the WhatsApp platform. They also mass printed all materials and delivered the entire year’s curriculum, so that the girls would not have to come in as they did before.
  • The Umoya Project for differently-abled, elderly, abandoned and abused people, went into complete lockdown. This was self-imposed because of the high risk of COVID-19 to these beneficiaries. Instead, they coordinated a system where they would drop off food, PPE and activity supplies that had all been sanitized to the entrance of the centre. A member of The Justice Desk team living in the facility would come and collect the items. The activities were facilitated by the internal team, as all external volunteers and staff were prohibited from entering the site.

During the lockdown in South Africa, The Justice Desk received an emergency grant from Misean Cara. This allowed The Justice Desk to administer a COVID-19 response effort, which included the provision and distribution of PPE and food. In total:

  • 14,600 people accessed COVID-19 educational materials
  • 48,480 people were fed
  • 10,560 people accessed sanitizers
  • 5,550 girls accessed menstrual pads
  • 4,673 people received reusable materials masks
  • 252,701 people were reached through radio and TV interviews, articles and social media drives

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The Justice Desk team member distributing hand sanitiser to a beneficiary.

Testimony
Atwood Primary is a school located in one of Cape Town’s most notorious gang ridden neighbourhoods. During COVID-19, this school was in dire need with no access to information on the virus, no sanitizers or masks. When one of their Grade 4 learners came to school without a mask, the principal stated that ‘they have one mask in their home, and so others needed to use it that day,’ leaving the learner exposed. Another learner came with a mask that was too big for him. When the teacher enquired, the learner told them that ‘he didn’t have access to a mask so he had to borrow from an uncle (older man) down the street.’

The Justice Desk was able to provide this school with masks, educational materials, hand sanitiser and sanitary pads so that their students could continue with their education safely.

 

Western Cluster, Zambia
In the Western Cluster project in Zambia, they were able to quickly adapt their project to the realities on the ground that to support from Misean Cara. In Senanga, they sensitised the community through the facilitation of focus group discussions in 18 health facilities reaching about 25,000. In Limulunga and Luampa, sensitization was focused on schools and nearby villages through training project staff to disseminate the messages. The use of a public address system also increased the reach of the communication. People in some remote areas, previously unreached with evidence-based information on COVID-19, such as in Luampa, thought COVID-19 was the same as Cholera. However, after the messages, people are now aware of the nature of the pandemic, its mode of transmission and symptoms. In Western Zambia, as in many parts of the country, handshaking is a common practice as is sitting at close range with each other. Following the intense sensitisation programme in collaboration with partners, most people have learned to comply with the public health guidelines. In addition to the COVID awareness campaigns, the project also installed a solar powered water pump in Senanga, and installed additional taps at the Luampa community farm and Litambiya to avoid congestion.