PHOTO: Terrible floods in South Kivu province are compounding the numerous issues faced by people in DR Congo on top of the coronavirus pandemic, reports local partner Jeff Sikabwe
Ever since the majority of countries in Africa joined much of the world in enforcing lockdowns, Church Mission Society has been receiving reports of courageous, African-led action across the continent from people in mission.
“We want to share what the church in Africa is doing in small and large ways to give comfort and support to people,” said Stephen Burgess, CMS regional manager for Africa.
“In Africa, the lockdown is almost a disaster in itself especially for people who live day to day,” he explained. “While there is not a lot of Covid-19 infection and death compared to the West, the fear is that it will explode in countries with few healthcare resources to treat people.
“And this alongside situations with refugees/displaced people, a locust invasion, drought in one part, floods in a another, Ebola resurfacing in DR Congo, just adds to the crisis for the most vulnerable.”
CMS’s network partner in the region, CMS-Africa, normally focuses on training and capacity building across several countries. Stephen shared: “With lockdown in nearly all the countries they work in, they are not able to continue with meetings, training events and gatherings. So as a response to Covid-19 they are engaging in relief work and supporting vulnerable people. They are doing this through their mission people and networks.”
“What I know is that the people of Africa are resourceful and are doing so much already; they aren’t waiting for ‘outside help.’”Stephen Burgess, CMS regional manager for Africa
Canon Moses Bushendich, international director of CMS-Africa, has given several examples of how this looks on the ground.
On 21 April, he said, “We are faced with a number of disasters alongside Covid-19. Many people have lost their jobs. Many families have a real threat of hunger. Several communities have been suffering drought the last few months and when the rains came, there have been fresh invasions of desert locusts that are ravaging crops.
“In some places there is violence, killing and displaced people. Other places have floods. There’s even been reports of Ebola resurfacing.”
As for how CMS-Africa are responding, Moses said, “Our people in mission all over are in the frontline in prayer and offering practical help. Our pastors in Kenya mobilise cash for food and issue shopping vouchers for people. Local partner Rachel Karanja (Kenya) has so far supported 50 families headed by people who have been depending on tending and harvesting flowers in Limuru.
“The Centre for Urban Mission, which works in informal settlements in Nairobi is responding to the needs of vulnerable families in Kibera, Kawangware, Kyambio, Mukuru among other informal settlements. The Centre is led by our local partner Rev Meshack Okumu. The Chinese church in Nairobi have supported families by working with CMS-Africa and the Centre for Urban Mission.”
Outside Kenya, where the CMS-Africa offices are based, local partners and champions are carrying out vital work in increasingly turbulent situations.
The Rev Bisoke Balikenga in DR Congo wrote that at the peace centre he has helped established in Bunia, 400 extra families are now seeking refuge from local violent conflict. Bisoke is working to secure food, clothing, mattresses, soap and water for them. All this is difficult against a backdrop of rising costs for food and fuel.
Bisoke said he and his team are also teaching these displaced people about preventing coronavirus as well as Ebola, as there have been cases of each in the area recently. He asks, “Please pray that God brings peace in Bunia, that killing will stop and that needs will be provided.”
As in Bunia, there are concerns throughout Africa that places with many refugees and displaced people are especially vulnerable to the sudden spread of coronavirus. Both CMS and CMS-Africa support people working in this context.
Both Steve and Moses point out that for Africa, the coronavirus threat adds to the already-complex web of challenges the continent is currently facing. Which is why CMS-Africa’s sizeable network is well-placed to respond quickly to immediate needs at this time.
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