, 22 April, 2020 / 4:01 AM
Kenya’s Malindi diocese is putting to use funds collected during this year’s Lenten period to finance humanitarian relief efforts toward the most vulnerable people in the territory of the diocese amid COVID-19 restrictions, a diocesan official has told ACI Africa.
“The money raised during the lenten campaign that we have traditionally used to support the needy is what we have agreed that this year let us use it for COVID-19,” the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC) Executive Secretary in Malindi diocese, Moses Mpuria told ACI Africa in an interview Tuesday, April 21.
The funds are set to benefit some 500 families considered “most vulnerable” for a period of one month, Mr. Mpuria said during the interview.
Each family will be receiving a relief package worth KES.1,200.00 (US$12) containing “staple foods that are easy to prepare and do not require additional cost on them.”
Through its Justice and Peace Commission, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) runs an annual Lenten campaign to collect money for charity work during the Lent season.
“Every year, we usually set aside 10 percent of our annual Lenten collection for emergency purposes,” CJPC Executive Secretary of Malindi diocese told ACI Africa and added that part of the 10 percent, which the diocese has “been saving for the last few years has gone to support what we have received from our parishioners during the recent Lenten campaign.”
On the same day of the interview, the Diocesan Administrator of Malindi, Fr. Albert Buijs officially launched the humanitarian response, which saw CJPC donate items to 90 families for a start.
The targeted beneficiaries are drawn from across the diocese located in Kilifi County, one of Kenya’s COVID-19 hotspots. It is one of the four Counties put on a 21-day partial lockdown by Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta.
The select beneficiaries of the humanitarian assistance in Malindi diocese include the “most vulnerable” such as the orphaned, the elderly who are neglected, the widows and widowers, and those living with disabilities.
“Even under normal circumstances, these people are vulnerable,” Mr. Mpuria said and added in reference to the Catholic diocese of Malindi, “The church has been helping those most affected even when we did not have the pandemic; so now you can imagine how the situation is; it is very desperate because people were not prepared for it.”
The beneficiaries are identified using existing church structures from the grassroots, mainly Small Christian Communities (SCCs) through Parishes.
In the considered opinion of the diocesan CJPC Secretary, COVID-19 has worsened the situation for the vulnerable people in Malindi who were already dealing with the aftermath of a slow tourism industry following terror attacks targeting tourists in the area.
The closure of churches, according to Mr. Mpuria, made the situation worse because “when we are desperate, the source of hope has remained our faith. People go to church where they get spiritual nourishment, where they can say yes, we are going through a difficult time but God is for us, we will get through this. Now you have the government though understandable closing the churches.”
“So you are badly hit by the economy, you are badly hit by the sickness, you are deeply worried and then your spiritual side where you are supposed to source your hope is also closed, so you have a very general desperate situation for the people,” he explained.
Following the interruption of the Lenten campaign funds collection by the closure of churches, the diocese fell short of its annual target. That is why the diocese might only support the families for a period of one month, Mr. Mpuria further explained to ACI Africa.
“It has started raining and most of our parishes being in rural areas means that as people go to the farms, they are likely to have a harvest in about one or one-and-half months,” he said and added, “So if we help for this period of a month, we are hoping even if the situation does not improve, then the rains will come in and help us where we will not have reached.”
The diocese has also set up a humanitarian fund to mobilize resources from well-wishers in a bid to support more needy families.
Besides distributing foodstuffs, CJPC Malindi is also reaching out to needy girls with sanitary towels as part of its one-year-old initiative to keep girls in school.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa