, 14 July, 2020 / 10:00 PM
The development and humanitarian arm of the Catholic Bishops in Uganda, Caritas Uganda, has reached out to over one million people living within the borders of the East African nation, offering them humanitarian support amid COVID-19 challenges, a report obtained by ACI Africa indicates.
“In the effort to contribute to the national effort to curb further spread of the virus, provide social assistance and meaningful life, the Caritas fraternity in Uganda has responded by reaching out to at least 1,231,400 people most in need not only Ugandans but to refugees and asylum seekers as well,” Francis Jjunju, a journalist working with Radio Sapientia of Uganda Episcopal Conference (UEC) has reported.
Household utilities, food, Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), hygiene materials, as well as cash money are among the items the beneficiaries of the outreach are getting. The items are channeled through the dioceses to Special Interest People like the elderly and expectant mothers, the Tuesday, July 14 shows.
With the support of Caritas Denmark, Caritas Uganda has partnered with the Uganda Catholic Medical Bureau and launched a response plan in the Catholic Sees of Kasese, Nebbi and Gulu where PPEs have been delivered to five health facilities in high-risk districts; sanitation facilities have also been provided to vulnerable households.
The landlocked East African nation, which has the success story of not recording any COVID-19 related death, has reported at least 1,025 cases of the coronavirus and 908 recoveries since March 21 when the first case of the virus was confirmed.
To curb the spread of the pandemic, the country’s President, Yoweri Museveni on March 16 announced a partial lockdown accompanied by at least 34 restrictions including a ban on public gatherings, suspension of public worship, compulsory quarantine and testing for suspected cases, and the closure of educational institutions among others.
Following the implementation of the lockdown restrictions, the Kampala-based journalist says, “almost all Ugandans experienced a challenge of normal economic operation and social wellbeing especially the most vulnerable people who failed to get the basic needs of life; food, clean water, health and to some shelter among others.”
To cushion the vulnerable population from COVID-19 restrictions, members of the Catholic Church in Uganda through diocesan Caritas offices started reaching out with food items, sanitation facilities, sensitization campaigns, as well as supporting local governments in their anti-COVID-19 efforts, the report obtained by ACI Africa indicates.
In the Archdiocese of Gulu in the northern part of the country, the Caritas Office has supported the district COVID-19 taskforce to reach at least 200,000 people through provision of fuel; hygiene materials and supporting sensitization campaigns through radio talk shows, according to the July 14 report.
The Archdiocesan office is also supporting the taskforce in managing people under quarantine, training of surveillance team, and in contact tracing.
Caritas Gulu has also extended support to 4,000 refugees in Pagirinya Settlement by donating hygiene materials such as soaps, sanitizers, hand washing stations and masks.
In Uganda’s Masaka Diocese, Caritas MADDO (Masaka Diocese Development Organisation) has reached out to 3,245 people through initiatives such as donation of sanitation materials and food items to islanders “faced with the double tragedy of floods and COVID-19 lockdown.”
The Diocesan office has also disbursed at least 24 million Uganda shillings (US$ 6,486.85) to 150 households for four months starting March, besides facilitating transport for vulnerable pregnant mothers to access maternal care.
In Western Uganda’s Hoima diocese, which has been identified as a “COVID-19 hotspot,” the officials of the Diocesan Caritas office have reached out to at least 8,000 people, sensitizing them about the pandemic through village health teams, the district task team as well as through radio stations.
COVID-19 sensitization campaigns are also ongoing in neighboring agricultural-rich Fort Portal Diocese, where the Diocesan Caritas office has reached out to 5,800 farmers who frequently interact with other food buyers.
In Kasana-Luweero Diocese, Caritas officials have reached out to 7,800 orphans through food donations; 25 health facilities through distribution of protective gears; and 50 health workers through COVID-19 training, who are expected to bring preventive information to the people of God in some 500 villages.
Other initiatives by local Caritas offices include that of Caritas Kampala, which has distributed food and sanitation items to 69 parishes; Caritas Kasese, which has reached out to at least 5,200 people; Caritas Tororo that has reportedly reached out to 6,411 people; and Caritas Nebbi that so far supported 5,115 people, according to the July 14 report.
On behalf of the Catholic Bishops in Uganda, UEC Chairman, Bishop Joseph Anthony Zziwa has thanked those who have partnered with the personnel of the various Caritas offices in the country to help realize the contributions. He called for a “spirit of brotherhood, understanding and support because COVID-19 is still with us.”
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