, 23 May, 2020 / 4:19 AM
Amid a variety of COVID-19 related restrictions in the West African nation of Niger, the head of Fraternity of the Servants of Christ, a local congregation of nuns, has shared about the impact of the pandemic on the activities of the religious community.
The nuns are based in Maradi diocese, south-central of the country. For the past 12 years, they have been running a school in the community of Tibiri and a nutrition Center that benefits the people of God in Dan Bako community.
“The school has been closed since March 20th. Our resident girls are back with their families,” the head of the Fraternity of the Servants of Christ, Sr. Marie Catherine told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International in an interview published Friday, May 22.
“There are still about twenty (girls) who could not return home because of the insecurity,” Sr. Marie added and explained, “Their village is on the border with Burkina Faso (more than 1,000 kilometres from Tibiri) and the transport costs are also very high there. We preferred to keep them by taking them to our community in Dan Bako.”
The restrictions put in place by the government of Niger also forced the nuns to close the nutritional Center at Dan Bako, that accommodates between 300-400 malnourished children on March 19.
To ensure that the children receive the nutrients they need, the leadership at the Center gave the mothers nutritional flour to last them three weeks.
“We plan to reopen the Center because there are malnourished children who are currently in a situation of great suffering,” the nun in-charge of the center, Sr. Andre told ACN.
The nuns are helping people in distress by providing the 500 women attending their nutrition Center with kits consisting of a bucket made by local workers, as well as masks and soaps, which the nuns have made.
To show solidarity with people in villages without access to water, the nuns decided to distribute water for free from their borehole in Dan Bako from which they usually generate some income used to maintain the borehole and to pay employees.
“May the power of the Risen Lord eradicate this pandemic that is disturbing all humanity and may the Holy Spirit direct hearts to more humanity, justice and peace,” Sr. Marie Catherine implored.
Niger has recorded at least 932 cases of COVID-19; 764 have recovered from the disease. The West African country has reported 60 deaths related to the pandemic.
The country is dominantly Muslim who account for 96 percent of the 22.4 million people. The number of Catholics is estimated to be 25,000, spread across the Archdiocese of Niamey and the Diocese of Maradi.
Churches in the country have remained closed since March 19, as a precautionary measure to control the spread of the pandemic.
According to Bishop Ambroise Ouédraogo of Maradi, headquartered in the country’s second largest city, though the government is making “admirable efforts” to sensitize the public about COVID-19, it is proving to be “extremely difficult” for people to avoid gatherings “because the markets are vital to people’s daily survival, which results in big crowds and facilitates the spread of the virus.”
“Our country’s economy has come to a standstill. In addition to the health problems, we are very concerned about the small households whose livelihood activities have been stopped,” the Archbishop of Niamey, Djalwana Laurent Lompo told ACN adding, “We are worried about people living in rural areas who may not have food in the next few weeks.”
The initiatives undertaken by the members of the Fraternity of the Servants of Christ toward the hundreds of malnourished children as well as women who attend their nutrition Center go a long way in giving hope to the people of God in the two regions the nuns are present: Tibiri and Dan Bako communities.
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