As the global lockdowns are easing, Uganda will hopefully follow. Thankfully, nobody has died so far from Covid-19 – at least officially – in Uganda. But the price of the lockdown has been devastating for many. Large parts of the economy collapsed. Many people slipped from poverty into seeing their livelihoods existentially threatened. Although no one has died of the Covid virus so far, many have suffered and even died from related issues such as poverty, contaminated water, malaria and other causes. Who will help the weakest in society to get back on their feet? What does this mean for Kids of Africa? A reflection from 13 weeks in isolation.
The tragedy of the lockdown
Today I want to offer some plain talk about the tragedy of the lockdown in Uganda – not least because it affects other African nations as well.
Uganda – the Pearl of Africa – imposed a national lockdown that was more stringent than any European or Chinese lockdown. Is the mild course of the pandemic – in Uganda officially only 749 people are infected, nobody died of Covid-19 so far – really due to the strict lockdown rules? Or is it thanks to the demographically young, resilient population, in which risk-factors such as obesity and diabetes are limited to very small, social elites?
The median age in Central, East and West Africa is 14 years. More than half of the population are still minors. These young people are comparatively less at risk from the pandemic. Only two percent of the population is older than 60 years. For comparison: In Europe, more than 20 percent of the population is over 60 years old, in the USA, one third of the population is overweight or affected by diabetes. In other words, the main risk factors are many times greater in the rich northern hemisphere than in the poor southern hemisphere. For these reasons alone, the health consequences of the pandemic are comparatively moderate. But the price of Africa’s lockdowns is of great tragedy. At the unfortunate time of a historic floods around Lake Victoria that left more than 1.5 million people homeless, the strict lock-down rules have forced a young population, that live on the breadline, into a much more precarious situation. For there are neither food reserves nor state aid. Poor conditions are made worse by bitter poverty, hunger, in extreme cases, death. The government also admits that the excess mortality rate due to intestinal diseases, cholera or malaria increased nationwide during the lockdown. In an interview this week, the responsible Ugandan minister said that children in particular must now be protected – because poverty, but also abuse, neglect and domestic violence have recently increased alarmingly.
At the same time, this year an almost Old Testament plague of locusts (book “Exodus”) destroyed the food for more than 30 million Africans. The locusts found rich prey, because the lockdown prevented a timely harvest on many small farms. And while consumer goods prices are falling in the rich northern hemisphere, inflation is rising in the southern hemisphere because for many people the supply of basic goods is becoming scarcer and therefore more expensive. The world is upside down this year.
The need of people outside our small village for help will probably be greater than ever after the lockdown. The economic damage to the land is tangible everywhere.
Fortunately, Uganda is a resilient country. The population is strong, and people don’t give up easily unless of course, you are weak, very young or relatively old. Help will be needed here more urgently than ever. That is why we are also asking for your help in response to the foreseeable emergency that will follow the lockdown. Our resources won’t move mountains. But every cent gets here. I can vouch for that. No deductions. We provide help cost-consciously, sustainably and professionally. We can guarantee this as a small relief organization.
Last week, our external staff installed new sanitary facilities at a rural school preparing to reopen. Toilets, sinks, showers. This is not a luxury, but a sustainable investment. Help us to realize more such projects in the future for children and young people in need.
Meanwhile, life in the village takes its usual course. Yes, it’s a little paradise – almost, like an island of security in a turbulent sea. The harmony, the well-kept gardens are aspects that sometimes irritate guests. What does this have to do with life outside? I’ll return the question: is it not a great gift of life from which not only his young and needy protégés, but also their future families will benefit?
And yet: precisely because Kids of Africa is such a good place, it is important to us to bring even more of it to other places through constant “reaching out”. Thank you for helping us do that.