by Pauline Muchina
Editor’s note: MHI received the following letter from Pauline Muchina of Kenya. It appeals for aid for the Future African Leaders Project, which provides support and education for poor and orphaned children, and for the women workers who sew clothing cooperatively in the African Women and Youth Initiative.
We hope that you are all staying safe during this horrible pandemic. Many of us are worried sick, but keeping hope for better days to come. We mourn with the families that have lost loved ones to COVID-19. Also, we pray for the millions who are infected and at high risk of infection. The deaths in the US are like a horror movie, but with real people and families devastated by this pandemic. I had hoped to see only the HIV pandemic in my lifetime. Sadly, we face the coronavirus.
It is with much humility that I bring this update to you on what’s happening with the Future African Leaders Project. All our children, youth, and extended families are doing well, and we are grateful for that. But we need help for them, now and in the future they face.
In Addition to the Virus: Deadly Floods and Locusts
In addition to COVID-19, Kenyans are facing deadly flooding that has killed over 200 people.
Moreover, a swarm of desert locusts passed through Kenya, eating everything on its path. Unfortunately, experts have detected another desert swarm of locusts on its way to the region from the Mediterranean Sea. This swarm is larger than New York and is already impacting Somalia. It will hit the entire area in a matter of weeks, and there is little we can do. The World Food program is predicting famine for the region.
In March 2020, the government of Kenya closed all schools in the efforts to contain COVID-19. All students were sent home, including those in boarding schools. Those with computers have been learning online, while the majority are making do with anything at their disposal. The closure of schools, non-essential services, a nationwide night curfew, and travel ban for Nairobi and Mombasa are government’s containment measures. They have slowed the spread of the pandemic in the community. However, the numbers of infections continue to rise each day–this week, 25-30 daily, and today 45, new cases–from Eastleigh, one of the largest open markets in Kenya and an informal settlement.
This is a grave development. In such environments, COVID-19 may spread like a fire. Thankfully, COVID-19 deaths are still below 20. Experts warn that the low numbers do not reflect the slow rate; they are a result of the lack of testing. The WHO warns that the worst is yet to come.
Somalia and Tanzania are registering high rates of infection and deaths. These countries’ proximity to Kenya, and the fluidity of our borders, make their numbers ours by default. This trend is very worrisome.
Looking at New York, Italy, and Spain, I don’t want to imagine what happens when Kenya reaches the peak of the pandemic. I keep praying that the predictions are wrong. At the same time, we urge the Kenyan government to prepare for the worst and prepare our extended family to weather a COVID-19 tsunami and survive.
Kenyans Struggle in Fight for Survival
Globally, many countries depend on China for their essential medical products and medicines. Kenya is not exempt from this tragic state of dependency. Currently, our government is in a race to save lives–KEMRI, which is the premier medical research center in Kenya, has developed testing kits, now used throughout Kenya. We are calling on the government to allocate more funding for mass productions of test kits.
The only long-term servicing fabric factory, where we buy the materials for our jackets business, is now a medical masks producer. The government has commissioned other small factories and individuals to make masks as well. We have encouraged our participants to make their own from t-shirts and cotton clothes, which they have done. Plastic gloves are inaccessible. Hand sanitizers are a privilege that all our participants don’t have–like the majority of people in Africa. We are left with hand washing, a challenge in a country where water is in short supply. My sister Anne is making homemade hand sanitizer and sharing with others.
Additionally, the Kenyan government is working with local car manufacturers to make ventilators for COVID-19 patients. We hope that these local initiatives will continue after COVID-19. China’s dominance in our economies must end, and our dependency on China must end.
Your contributions are vitally needed
Our greatest challenge so far is feeding our participants and paying rent. Most people in Kenya, especially those who live on their casual work or small-scale businesses, are experiencing hunger and evictions from their simple apartments. We are trying as much as we can to feed every participant of our programs and extended family. Once a child returns home from school, we cannot feed her/him and we cannot feed the siblings, grandmother, aunt who is taking care of them. We have been buying food in wholesale shops that are still open and divide it among the ten families who depend on us right now. We send money for food to those that are too far to pick up the food, and we send rent money for a few.
COVID-19 has closed our African Women and Youth Initiative (AWYI) business temporarily. There is nowhere to sell the products because of stay-at-home orders in our area. Members of AWYI are struggling to survive without the small income from our products’ sale. In March and April, my bank sent insufficient funds notices every week and will continue to do so in May, but thank God, none of our participants is going hungry. Some of my family members have helped where they can. We have agreed that no child in our program will go hungry as long as we are not sleeping hungry.
I come to you requesting your support for our children, youth, and families. While schools may open in July or August, we must continue to feed our people. We don’t know whether we will be required to pay school fees when the schools reopen. The students had not finished a semester, and we had paid for all their school fees. We are trying to determine that. If you can, please donate to our go-fund-me account online to support the feeding program and rent: http://www.gofundme.com/wv6mxs
We pray that you stay safe and have the strength to weather this pandemic. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to email or call: 202-415-4112. We will get through this.