Covid-19 Virus Update 2020         



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Covid-19 in East Africa

The Covid19 virus has been slow to spread in East Africa with the following number of cases reported: Uganda:53; Kenya:189 and Tanzania:32. Testing is limited so the number of infections could be much higher.

The governments in Uganda and Kenya have locked down their countries, closing schools and businesses and prohibiting all but essential travel. Food can still be sold but shopkeepers must isolate. The Kenya government predicts a ramping up of infections in coming weeks, estimating the number of cases could reach 10,000 by the end of April. 

Meanwhile, the President of Tanzania is still encouraging people to attend crowded church and mosque services, declaring that, "the virus cannot survive in the body of the faithful". The countries in this region are closely connected economically; they have very porous geographic borders and fragile public health systems. The internal situation in each country is sure to spill over into the adjacent states.

WMI's local staff is monitoring the situation closely in each country. They are suspending meetings and loan collections as necessary to comply with government guidelines and to keep themselves and borrowers safe. When lock down measures are lifted we will assess the impact in the various loan hubs and take whatever steps are needed to restructure loans so that the ladies can stay in business.

Our in-country Fellows are continuing to post on Instagram and Facebook and are also writing blogs to keep everyone current on the situation. You can check in with us on Instagram, Facebook and through our blog, using the links in the title block.

Thank you for your concern and support in these trying times.

This is our latest blog update from Uganda.

Posted by April 6, 2020 by the WMI Team:
It's especially quiet today, despite the background noise of a few cargo trucks, and ambulances. The streets are empty without cars and taxis filled with passengers in conversation; without boda bodas (motorcycle taxis) carrying 2 or 3 passengers on the back to and from. Mbale town seems eerily silent without the normal hustle and bustle of activity. And the Buyobo Women's Association and WMI offices and compound nestled in the Wanale foothills, only 8km from town, are empty despite a few essential staff. If you've been to Uganda, you know this is unusual.

Usual daily Kampala Traffic jam with boda bodas in front

Uganda confirmed its first case of Covid-19 on March 22nd, several months after cases began hitting the rest of the world. The first case was a Ugandan man returning from Dubai, who presented with a fever at Entebbe Airport, and was immediately isolated in the hospital. As of today, after thousands of tests, Uganda has confirmed a total of 53 cases, with 0 related deaths. Of these, most have been "imported" through those returning from international travel, but a few have been "contact" cases of returnees, and one case was of a man who frequently does business on the South Sudan Boarder.

 Map of the confirmed Covid-19 cases in Uganda

Current policies mandated by the Ministry of health and President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, have been enacted to stop the spread. The country is at a standstill: no entering or leaving Uganda by air, road, or water. No gatherings of more than 5 people. No public transport or private cars allowed to move unless with appropriate and prior approved exceptions. No boda bodas carrying passengers. No open air markets. No school. All businesses except those related to food, medicine, or essential services, are closed.  And a mandatory curfew of 7 p.m. has been enacted. The approach is similar to that of the Western World, which have been hit harder by the virus thus far.

While these protocols are necessary for reducing the virus' spread and keeping people safe and healthy, and while the government is working tirelessly to ensure the vulnerable are being provided for, it is still important to understand that lock down and social distancing are temporary mitigations that are easily done in developed nations, but more challenging in developing nations. It is difficult to social distance when you live in a two-room house with multiple family members or have neighbors close by, as some of our friends and borrowers in Buyobo do. It becomes a challenge to sustain your family when livelihoods depend on going to the garden every day to ensure your family has something to eat, or produce to sell to keep your small business operating. The ability to pause life temporarily is a privilege.

And as you can expect, this has already impacted our borrowers, whose businesses require open air markets and travel, and may not be related to food or medicine, and may not be considered essential services. It has also affected our staff, who often travel on public transportation to reach our office, and loan collection centers. And not to mention the rest of Uganda, which is home to entrepreneurial individuals who live "hand to mouth" and need to work daily to afford something to eat for that day. While some are still able to keep their businesses running, others have had to deal with the effects of temporarily closing their businesses until the situation improves.

But it's not all bad news! If all goes well, the lock down will be lifted by April 22nd, and the Ministry of Health has declared schools will reopen on the 27th, given an improvement in the situation. With a proven track record of dealing successfully with outbreaks of infectious diseases like Ebola and Marburg, we are hopeful that the Ministry of Health and government of Uganda will be able to curb the virus' spread and bring Uganda back to equilibrium.

For now, we will weather the storm, "together".



WMI is extremely grateful for all of the support provided by our donors. Your commitment and thoughtfulness has allowed WMI to continue to expand and bring the benefits of economic opportunity to thousands and thousands of village women throughout East Africa.  
One of the most frequent refrains WMI President, Robyn Nietert, hears when she visits the far flung WMI loan hubs each year is: "Thank you for remembering rural women."  

A heartfelt thank you to every one for making our outreach to the rural women of East Africa a reality.
The WMI Board of Directors  
Robyn Nietert    Betsy Gordon    Deborah Smith     Jane Erickson  
      Terry Ciccotelli     Trix Vandervossen    June Kyakobye  

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