Facing the Corona challenges with local power


Benjamin Wolf

With the corona pandemic, Africa’s health care system is facing the greatest challenge in a generation. But it is also a huge economic challenge: The UN warns that the number of people threatened by famine might double. The Stay Foundation accepts the challenge: Members of our networks of social enterprises in Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda have quickly launched aid programmes. They pursue two goals: Firstly, to curb the spread of the disease. Secondly – and even more importantly, to contain the economic devastation.

Local initiatives break infection chains

Protection against the deadly coronavirus seems easy: Wash your hands. But 700 million people in Africa have no access to running water. They cannot even wash their hands to protect themselves from the disease.

Without a second thought, social enterprises that are members of our network “Stay Alliance” from Uganda and Kenya got together to set up a prevention programme that is simple, quick and perfectly tailored to the local needs. They focus on the training of 250 health workers. Each and every one of them is about to swarm out to the villages and to pass on the knowledge about hygiene and health protection. 
They also bring washing facilities, the tippy taps: simple constructions with tiltable water canisters. And the health workers bring along soaps that are produced by SYDF, one of the member companies of the Stay Alliance Uganda. They will reach up to 36,000 villagers some of which have no other access to health care. These are the ingredients for breaking the corona infection chains.

First comes the virus, then the hunger

Rose Mutesi, chairperson of the Stay Alliance Rwanda, describes the economic plight of many: “This lockdown especially affects those involved in casual labour who normally eat when they have worked. Since they don’t work nowadays they can’t get food. Besides, most businesses are closed including small scale ones and due to bank loans which they have been paying every month without saving, today getting food among these people is a problem.”

So she and her colleagues with Stay Alliance Rwanda quickly organized 1.5 tons of rice, beans and maize for destitute families in the heavily affected Kicukiro district. She used her good connections to the local authorities and handed the bags over to the district administration for further distribution.

Only income protects for good

Rose and her team provided immediate relief for several hundred families. But of course what these families really need is a permanently reliable income. As we know, malnutrition is one of the main causes for susceptibility to diseases. 
Classical development aid has no good record in this respect. That is why Stay only supports local initiatives that create income programmes in the areas of crafts like sewing, in multimedia or in agriculture. Only if we get people sustainably lifted out of poverty, the next health crisis will not turn into a hunger catastrophe.
The Stay Foundation was founded in 2012 as a counterpoint to classical approaches in volunteer work and development aid.