News from Mbale – June 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has affected our partners in Mbale, as well as our fundraising in Wales.
We’re so grateful to everyone who is standing with us at this time.
COVID-19 in Uganda
So far, Uganda has recorded over 700 cases of coronavirus. Health staff are doing everything they can to prepare for a peak that may be still to come but as you might imagine there are far, far fewer health resources there than in the UK. Before the crisis Uganda had just 55 ICU beds. The impact of covid-19 could be devastating on a population already affected by malnutrition, HIV and TB.
Our partners’ first response: Train healthworkers
As soon as the news of the global pandemic broke, our partners in Mbale requested PONT’s help to get volunteer community healthworkers up to speed on
- how to protect each other with good handwashing and social distancing
- how to recognise symptoms of covid-19
- what to do if a case is identified.
One of the best ways to share health information in Uganda is to train community healthworkers – the volunteers who will pass on information to each of their neighbours and take action if someone becomes ill. We’d already seen how such training had saved lives during local cholera epidemics.
We’re incredibly grateful to everyone who supported our appeal and raised over £1,300 towards the £5,000 cost of this life-saving training. We’ve also had to dip into our reserves to make sure the training happened. Our fundraising activities our limited this year. Could you make a donation to help our work in Mbale continue?
The first round of training was held before lockdown. After restrictions came into place further training was more challenging, but our partners were determined to go ahead, maintaining distancing rules.
One partner has prioritised training healthworkers from villages near the border with Kenya. Another has provided healthworkers with megaphones so they can share information at every house without getting too close.
Because the healthworkers are in the villages and know their neighbours, but are trained to understand health information, our network is ideally placed to respond to this crisis. Read more here about how it works.
You can still donate towards this crucial work at www.totalgiving.co.uk/mypage/health-information
An urgent request: More fuel for Motorbikes
Our partners have also requested extra support to keep a life-saving network of motorcycle ambulances on the road for people who are ill and mothers in labour. They are in more demand than ever.
One of the lockdown restrictions in Uganda is that public transport is banned. This includes ‘boda bodas’, the motorcycle taxis that carry people and luggage around for a few shillings. While they’re not an ideal way of getting to a health centre when
you’re in labour, and the poorest can’t always afford them, in practice they are how many women get to the health centre a lot faster than they can walk. At the moment they are not an option. Early in the lockdown (8th April) we read this tragic report from another part of Uganda about mothers dying on the way to hospital.
We have motorbike ambulances in 34 sub-counties of Mbale region. While that by no means covers the whole region, where there are bikes, THEY SAVE LIVES.
They are now under huge demand as, with a few exceptions, they are the only vehicles that can carry passengers. Shortly after lockdown started, our partners requested extra financial support, so they could keep up with the demand for extra fuel and extra repairs. Thanks to a kind donation from a Rotary Club and some fundraising by former paramedic Tony, we were able to respond.
But as the crisis continues, we will need more funds to meet more demand.
Even a donation of £4 could fund a journey that saves a life.
Lockdown in Uganda
On 18th March the President of Uganda announced a list of lockdown restrictions that included closing most businesses and banning all public transport. Schools are closed and gatherings of more than 5 people are prohibited. There is a nightly curfew and police enforcement. This means that a huge number of people are not able to work.
Most Ugandan people live hand to mouth, day to day. Food prices had already started
rising rapidly even before lockdown, so many Ugandans are struggling. We’re hearing reports that people who usually have food are eating one meal a day or going without. They’re saying “hunger will kill us before coronavirus does”.
(We are aware of some Ugandan NGOs and churches who are giving direct food aid – contact us for details.)
Our Schools programme and Livelihoods village savings groups are obviously on hold at the moment, but they will be more important than ever to help people get back on their feet when groups are once again allowed to gather.
Could you set up a small regular monthly donation to help our projects continue into the future?
PONT in Wales
PONT is part of the community in Rhondda Cynon Taff. We love hosting fundraising events, and we enjoy meeting together to plan ways to raise money for Uganda. Of course we can’t do either of those things at the moment.
And while we miss seeing each other….
…we are more concerned about how to have enough funds to keep supporting our partners in Uganda.
We know some of our supporters in Wales are themselves facing a drop in income. But if you can still afford to give a little something, could you set up a small monthly gift for the next 6 months? If 50 new friends of PONT gave just £3 a month, each month that would raise the same as we might raise at one fundraising event!