Goodbye 2020, welcome 2021!

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Dit artikel is hier in het Nederlands te lezen…

 

 

 

Soon, we will close the year 2020. What a turbulent and absurd year to look back on! Who would have ever thought that a virus, the existence of which we did not or hardly know at the end of last year, would turn into a true pandemic… unfortunately that is what COVID-19 has done with all its consequences.

In the Netherlands, more than 600,000 infections have now been registered and more than 10,000 people have died from the virus. Many companies have run into financial problems, many people have lost their jobs, children are falling behind in learning, students cannot do their internships, social contacts have to be minimalized, causing for many people that they become isolated, etc, etc … In short, there is a lot of suffering, both financially and personally, and it is no different in other Western countries. Fortunately, we do have a large social insurance system here in the Netherlands; we have unemployment benefits and broad support packages for companies.

How different the situation is in a developing country like Uganda! There are so far ‘only’ 31,000 officially registered infections and 230 officially deceased people (if the figures are at all reliable…). However, because immediately in March, when the virus was first detected in the country, an extremely strict lockdown was declared, which then lasted many months, many people died of hunger and exhaustion. For the vast majority of the population in Uganda, a day not working simply means that food cannot be served that day. A social insurance system does not exist, people are completely dependent on themselves. While many people in rural Uganda grow their own food and are therefore provided with some food for at least part of the year, last March they were, on top of the lockdown, confronted with crop failures due to a heavy rainy season. All schools have been closed since March, with also major consequences for children and students. The Ugandan population is actually the youngest in the world with an average age of barely 16 years …

Of course we as HWMCO-Nederland & NiCA Foundation have also been confronted with the impact of COVID-19 on our normal activities. The lockdown came a few weeks after we had introduced our first project of this year, the second motorboat (built in the Netherlands and transported to Uganda in a container) for the safe transport of the children of Bwama Primary School across Lake Bunyonyi. Due to the closure of the schools, however, the students did not have to be transported and giving swimming lessons from our Swimming Instruction Center was not allowed for a long time. On top of everything, many people in the Lake Bunyonyi area, which is our working area, depend on tourism for their daily income, and that sector has completely collapsed as a result of the lockdown.

We quickly decided as a joint team that we did not want to wait aimlessly until we could resume our normal activities; instead we wanted to do what was possible and achievable for us to continue to provide help under the given circumstances. So we did and by now we have distributed emergency food several times to the very poorest in the area, including mainly widows with children who do not own a piece of land to grow food on and Batwa groups. When after a few months it became clear that people from the communities were again better able to share some of their newly harvested food with the landless widows, we focused our emergency aid entirely on the Batwa groups. These groups literally live on the edges of Ugandan society, they do not own land and are for their survival completely dependent on income from tourism. Even today, the conditions under which they have to survive are still extremely dire, and several of their children have died of starvation and malnutrition in recent months. This week we will bring them food again so that it can be Christmas for them too.

In addition to handing out emergency food during the strict lockdown, we also obtained permission from the local authorities to use our motorboats to transport seriously ill patients from communities around the lake to shore village Rutinda, from where a car of the district corona team would then transport them to a hospital in Kabale town. That way we have been able to help various people, including a number pregnant women in labor. Unfortunately, in Uganda, even under normal circumstances, an average of 16 women die every day during childbirth.

Apart from our above outlined activities during this crisis, we also managed to realize a first rainwater collection system at Burimba Primary School, located on top of the surrounding Lake Bunyonyi hills in August.

I would like to thank all our donors for their support over the past year. Without your support we cannot achieve our goals and of course we hope that we can also count on you in the future.

A number of lockdown rules have now been relaxed, although not all of them, and given the global situation, there is certainly no revival of tourism in the country. Recently, it was announced that the schools will reopen in January. Unfortunately, however, the number of COVID-19 infections has increased very rapidly in recent weeks, so we are anxiously awaiting further developments.

Whatever is going to happen next year, as the team of HWMCO-Nederland & NiCA Foundation we will continue our work towards bringing development to the communities in our working area, with an emphasis on children. The realization of various projects is planned for next year, the first of which will be a fact very soon. Therefore, please keep following us!

Last but not least, I wish everyone on behalf of our entire team:
Merry Christmas and a Happy, COVID free  2021!

 

Yvonne Verhagen
Chair HWMCO-Nederland & NiCA Foundation

 

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