Caritas Mauritius Collaborating with Other Agencies to Support Families Amid COVID-19

Patricia Adèle Félicité, Secretary General of Caritas Mauritius.

To alleviate the suffering of people amid COVID-19 restrictions in Mauritius, Caritas Mauritius, the social arm of the Catholic Church in the island nation, is collaborating with various agencies to offer humanitarian relief.

“Seeing the total lockdown, several NGOs started to work; we helped each other without problem because it was families in distress that were our priority,” the Secretary General of Caritas Mauritius, Patricia Adèle Félicité has been quoted as saying.

She added, “Our private partners also wanted to know what was being done and how to help. The contribution of Business Mauritius (BM) was crucial; the economic impact of the crisis on vulnerable families was their first concern.”

According to Ms. Felicite, the ongoing collaboration result from lessons learnt during the 2013 flash floods in the Indian Ocean island nation’s capital, Port Louis “when the private foundations and Caritas had worked together and pooled their resources - human, logistical and financial resources - to respond in a coordinated manner to the rehabilitation of several hundred families.”

Since last year, there has been a Sustainable Growth Committee, which has been set up with the assistance of several NGOs from different sectors who work as a BM sub-committee, the Secretary General has said and affirmed, “This proximity allowed us to work fairly quickly, 3 to 4 video conferences per week to get things done.”

On its part, Caritas Mauritius has, among other activities, availed more than 70 volunteers to assist State officials in the distribution of humanitarian relief to the families on the Social Security Register.

“We also work with the National Social Inclusion Foundation and the program manager of this body came to join this platform of civil society to understand our approach, our actions and what civil society wants to contribute to the management of this unprecedented crisis,” the Mauritian official said.

The collaboration among the agencies is instrumental to Caritas Mauritius, which “relies heavily on the contribution of other sectors and actors in our society to support families in a dignified manner, especially those who find themselves in extreme precariousness overnight.”

Personally, Ms. Felicite noted, “I welcome all this collective work very positively because I often take up this African proverb which says: "Alone you go faster, together we go further".”

The 1.3-million-population island nation went on a total lockdown on March 20, two days after it confirmed its first three COVID-19 cases. 

Initially set to end on Monday, May 4, the lockdown has been extended until June 1 with the country’s Prime Minister, Pravind Jugnauth appealing to Mauritians to have  "a little more patience, to avoid any risk of a second wave." 

Recalling the first week after lockdown, Ms. Felicite said, “(It) was very difficult because our teams, staff, and especially our network of volunteers on whom we count a lot for the interventions hesitated to go down on the ground for security reasons.”

In her considered opinion, the response was made more difficult since “all the information on the families which we accompany were closed in the offices of permanence; we had no protective equipment, or passes; and when families started running out of food, it was very difficult to get the goods and get them there.”

“What was impressive is that we had already received the means to respond to the distress of families thanks to the great generosity of Mauritians, especially our partners and friends of Caritas,” the Secretary General has noted.

On the post-COVID-19 focus of her office, the Caritas Mauritius leader envisions a multi-faceted response since “the autonomy of families is essential because the health and economic situation will not recover soon. It is essential that our response to this situation is holistic in the short, medium, and long term.”

“We need to review our aid mechanisms, our approach, be more attentive because everyone's morale will take a big hit,” she said and added, “We must be fraternal, united, and inventive.”

Initially the African nation with the most COVID-19 infections, Mauritius seems to have successfully managed the spread of the pandemic with strict lockdown measures.

The island country has had 332 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 319 recoveries and 10 deaths. This means that only three people are receiving care for the disease.

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