The Coronavirus (COVID-19), which was recognized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) has not only affected the global population health wise, but also socially, psychologically, and economically.
In Uganda, COVID-19 has affected and is still affecting the entire population, however it has disproportionate effects on the lives of people in the most vulnerable situations. The majority of those in vulnerable situations are not able to afford even one meal a day, they have no access to clean water and proper sanitation facilities, they live in cramped homes and compounds making physical distancing nearly impossible, and so many others barriers to their health and well-being.
(Father and Girl Up girl receiving their family relief package)
At Girl Up Initiative Uganda, we set up a quick response to this situation by providing relief packages for families of the girls and boys in our programs. The relief packages include posho, beans, salt, soap, and sanitary pads for the girls. By providing these packages, these families will at least stay fed and healthy during this critical time where many cannot even afford a meal. We aim to support a total of 1,500 families (with 4-6 family members) with relief packages, reaching an estimated 7,500 people.
The distribution of these packages is also critical for us to be able to stay in touch with the girls, who are hard to access since they do not have mobile phones. Therefore, our facilitators (Coaches) are one hand at the distribution to check-in with the girls and boys to make sure that they are doing ok and provide morale support and encouragement.
(Preparing for safe distribution at a local primary school)
In times like these where following the guidelines set by the government is imperative, it was critical to work through the government channels to ensure our distribution response followed all safety and health measures. Therefore, we have been engaging key stakeholders at the different leadership levels from the local council chairpersons (LCs) to the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), who has an official present during every distribution. We have also set-up hand washing points, provided sanitizers, and use masks and gloves to ensure safety. Thanks to the involvement of the government authorities, community members have trust in us that we are following the right process.
(Girl Up girls with their packages)
During the relief package distribution process, many parents shared their experience on how difficult the situation is and conveyed their appreciation:
“You do not know what you have done for us as a family. The situation is really tough. There is no work anymore and feeding my children is a challenge. This package has come in at a great time. This really means a lot. Thank you so much Girl Up.”
“Thank you for remembering us at times such as these. The situation is not good at all. Thank you. Thank you so much.”
Our team members who were are frontline workers on the ground also shared their experiences:
“I’m so grateful to serve our beneficiaries. It is fulfilling and rewarding to offer a service. This experience has helped me appreciate the little that I have. Seeing the beneficiaries appreciate these packages reminds me never to take anything for granted or to assume things are the way you see them. Things are usually beyond what our eyes can see.”
- Marion Achom, Program Officer
“It’s been more than rewarding. Doing community work during such a time of vulnerability and need has reconnected me back to the purpose of why I do what I do and that is to serve the most vulnerable.”
- Monica Nyiraguhabwa, Executive Director
Besides the distribution of our relief packages, GUIU is also offering ongoing psycho-social support and counseling to different individuals in our communities through regular check-ins via mobile phone. This helps us to know how the different families are coping and we encourage them to stay strong and safe. We are also working closely with the local police to respond to cases of gender-based violence, which are on the rise in our communities. Read more about our COVID-19 response here.
We are in this together and we shall overcome! Wash your hands with clean water and soap. Stay safe and healthy!