The Luxury of “Shelter in Place”

Posted By Renita Reed-Thomson on Mar 29, 2020 |


I know that the past few weeks have been a hardship for many of us, as we have been confined to our home.  It’s been difficult to change the routine of our lives in the light of the threat of COVID-19.

But as I watch what has been unfolding in Europe and the US, I can’t help but imagine what the same unfolding will look like in Africa.  For most of us in North America, our “shelter in place” is really a luxury, comparatively speaking.

Most people in the countries where we work in Africa can’t work from home as the technology infrastructure is not there.

Most people that we work with in Africa are working each day for their daily bread.  They don’t have savings built up for emergencies.  They are often not on salary where they can get enough pay to stock up on items.

As the markets are shut down, many do not have any source of income and a limited supply of food.  Many are saying that “we will die of starvation before COVID-19.”

There is no unemployment insurance.
There is no aid package going out to help each citizen financially.
There are no food banks.

And then we look at the medical infrastructure in many African countries.  Mali has one ventilator for every one million people, for a total of twenty in the entire nation.  Kenya, a country of 50 million people, has a total of 550 ICU beds.  Many nations in Africa have no isolation wards.  And this says nothing about the ability to even give the COVID-19 tests.

In general, African nations have much fewer weapons at their disposal for fighting this virus.

Many countries, like Burkina Faso and Cameroon, have hundreds of thousands of people in Internally Displaced Persons camps where there is no opportunity for “shelter in place.”  [The pictures in this blog are from homes where our DML teams have already delivered food.  You can see that the shelters are not ones that are secure from a virus.

Many African nations have gone into lock-down.  In Uganda, we hear of the police “caning” some people into compliance.  In Kenya, police are clubbing people into compliance, as well as using tear gas and other violent measures.  In some countries, there are reports of people being shot for not complying.  One journalist wrote that “it is evident that COVID-19 will be spread more by the actions of the police than by those who have contravened the curfew.”

The reality is that people need food, water, and sanitation.  Maybe they will stay indoors for the first day or two, but then as hunger sets in, they will move out.

It is reported that China waited too long to act.  It certainly seems that the US waited too long to act.  We don’t want to make that same mistake in Africa.  Africa has been the victim of way too many crisis.  We need to be proactive and help people get the food they need, while they are unable to work, so that they can stay safely in their home.  This disease knows no boundaries.  And we can’t believe that this is “someone else’s problem, somewhere else.”

Please join us to help with this.  I know that there are many places you could help in other parts of the world, but the focus of DML is Africa.  Since Wednesday of last week, we have raised $15,000 toward the $30,000 match drive.  We have already given $10,000 to our partners in Africa and, in faith, we plan to send another $50,000 early this week.  We simply can’t wait for all the funding to arrive. Some of the errors in Europe and the US were not acting quick enough.  Africa can’t afford that mistake.  To give, please click here.  You will find instructions there for how to give online or by check.

And if you are not financially affected by “shelter in place” – if your salary remains the same or you are able to collect unemployment insurance – please prayerfully consider donating the federal funds from the stimulus package to families in Africa.  It may save lives.  Many lives.

Let me end with the words from one of our partners who just sent me this message:
We know that COVID-19 is a global pandemic and we are praying about it all the time.  However, third world countries like ours are facing the gravest trial of their time.  Whether we have complete or partial lock down, life is not the same anymore.  

Over 80% of our work force is in the informal sector, what we call “jua kali.”  Jua kali literally means “hot sun.”  In reality, the work in the hot sun with minimal shelter at times.  These jua kali people are usually causal workers, which means they d not have job protection, social security and sustainable regular income.  Most of these get paid on a daily or weekly basis.  With the directive to stay at home, it means many families have no food and other essential supplies.  We don’t have food pantries to rely on.  Those who are owners of micro and small businesses, who sell in small shops, kiosks, and open markets, can no longer sell.  It only means they too have tough times in feeding their families.  It is so difficult for too many people who live hand to mouth every single day.  Those who have formal jobs are few, and many companies are laying them off as they cannot afford to pay people who are not working as these companies shut down.

DML has many people in all of these categories and some may die, not of the virus, but of hunger and stress.  If this virus takes off in our population, it will be terrible because some residences don’t even have running water to wash their hands…not to mention no soap!  And how about our ill equipped health facilities?  Last one person suspected that he had COVID-19 and went to a nearby hospital and all the medical personnel ran away literally since they didn’t have the simple protective gear to come close to the suspect.

Please, please pray for the virus to die in Africa and other parts of the world.

A few more pictures of the food that we have started giving away.  Please help us get to the $30,000 match this week!