Helping vulnerable families get through the crisis
Coronavirus cases in Uganda are lower than many other countries and the government is taking no chances. There is a nationwide lockdown, with schools closed, shops shut and a curfew in place to keep people home. You can travel on foot or bicycle. Food prices are so high that most people can't afford to buy food.
We are helping the most vulnerable of households have basic food supplies to see them through the crisis and until they can provide food for themselves.
50% of the families have no food
Our team on the ground have managed to visit or talk to every group and community we support and have concluded that half of the people in each one need help. This is around 400 households and does not include the coffee farmers in the West Nile Region, where there are hundreds more.
We started with soap, then cornflour, beans and salt but the numbers increased so much that we are now helping them survive and are focusing purely on cornflour.
Working directly with a grain miller in Gulu town, we are able to get the best quality cornflour for a very good price.
In these extreme times 5kg of cornflour will feed a family of 5 for one week. This costs £2.50 (the cost of a cup of coffee).
With 400 families to feed every week we need £1,000 a week to keep these families going and anticipate them needing help until the middle of August (when those who have managed to plant seeds will harvest their crop and can support other more vulnerable people). This is 10 weeks - £10,000.
Face masks are mandatory
The government has now instructed that everyone must wear a face mask when they leave home. If they don't then they risk a fine of Ugx 20,000 (about £4.50) or 6 months in prison.
The cost of a mask is Ugx 3,000 (about 65p) and we are looking at different ways of helping them get them.
We have arranged for the child mothers to make masks and so far they have made 600, which have gone out to the villages.
The masks are really beautiful and so we are looking to see if we can ship them from Uganda to the UK, so we can sell them to raise funds (like the beads).
The farmers were so excited to receive masks as they couldn't leave home.
The Covid-19 situation in Uganda is moving quickly and not in the right direction. The lockdown is being eased, just as community cases of Coronavirus are emerging. What is worrying is that the cases are in remote villages and sadly near the communities we are supporting. There is fear and panic as people struggle to understand what is happening, feed their families and work out how to get a facemark to leave their homes.
We initially responded in March by buying and distributing soap to more than 1,200 families. Then we provided cornflour, beans and salt to the most vulnerable families. Now the situation is deteriorating and there are many more people going hungry. In President Museveni's State of the Nation address he says that food distribution will continue "for the genuine groups", but these are in the big towns and cities where people can't earn money.
There is no support for farmers or people in the villages, who, he says "just need seeds and low interest money for borrowing and markets for their products". We know that in many cases the farmers have food and are growing enough to feed themselves, their families and some even have surplus that they are giving away. Seeds for Development actively seeks out the most disadvantaged and have found that 50% of the people in the communities we support are in desperate need.
Just like everywhere around the world, the most vulnerable are the old, the weak and whose with underlying health issues. In the villages of northern Uganda they do not have the medical infrastructure that we enjoy here. With no money for transport they are unable to travel to see the doctor or buy medicine.
Children need a healthy diet to flourish and protect themselves from preventable diseases such as Malaria. Tragically, we are hearing that people (especially children) are dying of Malaria. Pregnant women are giving birth at home with no support and some have died on the long walk to the hospital.