More than 1,100 people have been killed in rural areas across several states of northern Nigeria amid an alarming escalation in attacks and abductions during the first half of the year, according to Amnesty International.
“The Nigerian authorities have left rural communities at the mercy of rampaging gunmen who have killed at least 1,126 people in the north of the country since January,” the London-rights group said in a new report on Monday, giving a figure until the end of June.
The killings, during attacks by “bandits” or armed cattle rustlers, and in clashes between herders and farming communities for access to land, have been recurrent for several years.
Amnesty said it had interviewed civilians in Kaduna, Katsina, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba and Zamfara states, who reported living in fear of attacks and kidnappings.
The rights watchdog said villages in the south of Kaduna state were affected the most, with at least 366 people killed in multiple attacks by armed men since January.
“Terrifying attacks on rural communities in the north of Nigeria have been going on for years,” said Osai Ojigho, director of Amnesty International Nigeria.
“The ongoing failure of security forces to take sufficient steps to protect villagers from these predictable attacks is utterly shameful,” he added.
Amnesty blamed state authorities and the federal government for failing to protect the population.
Armed groups loot and set fire to villages and frequently kidnap people for ransom, apparently with no ideological motive. Many experts have recently warned against associating the attackers with armed groups active in the region.
President Muhammadu Buhari was elected in 2015 on a campaign promise to eradicate the armed group Boko Haram, which has killed tens of thousands since it launched an armed in northeast Nigeria in 2009.
Amnesty said most villagers complained of receiving little or no help from security officials, despite informing them prior or calling for help during attacks.
“During the attack, our leaders called and informed the soldiers that the attackers are in the village, so the soldiers did not waste time and they came but when they came and saw the type of ammunitions the attackers had they left,” a witness to an attack in Unguwan Magaji in southern of Kaduna was quoted as saying by Amnesty.
“The following morning so many soldiers came with their Hilux pick-up trucks to see the dead bodies.”
Ojigho decried reported abuse of civilians who asked for more official help and protection.
“In their response to these attacks, the Nigerian authorities have displayed gross incompetence and a total disregard for people’s lives,” he said. “Arresting people who dare to ask for help is a further blow.”
The escalating violence has forced many farmers and their families from their homes while thousands could not cultivate their farms during the 2020 rainy season because of fear of attacks or abduction, according to Amnesty.
It said that in Katsina state, at least 33,130 people were living in displacement camps, while others have headed to urban areas to stay with relatives.
Bishop Declan Lang, on behalf of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, has offered prayers for, and solidarity with, Archbishop Robert Ndlovu of Harare and his brother Bishops in Zimbabwe.
“Christians across the globe have been inspired by the courage the Zimbabwean Church has shown in defending fundamental human dignity and rights,” said Bishop Lang, Chair of the Bishops’ Conference Department of International Affairs.
He also praised a pastoral letter titled The March is Not Ended released by Zimbabwe’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference on 14 August 2020 addressing the current situation in Zimbabwe.
“The recent pastoral letter with its call for truth, justice and reconciliation is both a powerful witness to the suffering that Zimbabwe is enduring and a way forward for the country to emerge from this.”
The independent Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) for Polio Eradication officially declared that the 47 countries in the UN World Health Organization (WHO) African Region are free of the virus, with no cases reported for four years.
“This is a momentous milestone for Africa. Now future generations of African children can live free of wild polio,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
Polio is a viral disease that can cause paralysis, and mainly affects children under five.
The virus is transmitted from person to person, mostly through contact with infected faeces, or less frequently through contaminated water or food. It enters the body through the mouth and multiplies inside the intestines.
While there is no cure for polio, the disease can be prevented through a simple and effective oral vaccine, thus protecting a child for life.
‘A historic day for Africa’
The ARCC certification entailed a decades-long process of documentation and analysis of polio surveillance, immunization and laboratory capacity, as well as field verification visits to each country in the region.
The last case of wild poliovirus in the region was detected in Nigeria in 2016.
“Today is a historic day for Africa,” said Professor Rose Gana Fomban Leke, ARCC Chairperson, announcing the certification.
A commitment by leaders
The journey to eradication began with a promise made in 1996 by Heads of State during the 32nd session of the Organization of African Unity held in Yaoundé, Cameroon, where they pledged to stamp out polio, which was paralyzing an estimated 75,000 children annually on the continent.
That same year, the late Nelson Mandela jumpstarted Africa’s commitment to polio eradication by launching the Kick Polio Out of Africa campaign, supported by Rotary International, which mobilized nations to step up efforts to ensure every child received the polio vaccine.
Nearly two million spared
Since then, polio eradication efforts have spared up to 1.8 million children from crippling life-long paralysis, and saved approximately 180,000 lives, WHO reported.
“This historic achievement was only possible thanks to the leadership and commitment of governments, communities, global polio eradication partners and philanthropists,” said Dr. Moeti.
“I pay special tribute to the frontline health workers and vaccinators, some of whom lost their lives, for this noble cause.”
Always remain vigilant
However, Dr. Moeti warned that Africa must remain vigilant against a resurgence of the wild poliovirus.
Keeping vaccination rates up also wards against the continued threat of vaccine-derived polio, or cVDPV2.
WHO explained that while rare, vaccine-derived polioviruses can occur when the weakened live virus in the oral polio vaccine passes among populations with low levels of immunization. Over time, the virus mutates to a form that can cause paralysis.
Adequate immunization thus protects against wild polio and circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses, the UN agency said.
Learning from polio eradication
WHO officials in Africa believe that the experience in eradicating wild poliovirus has other benefits for health on the continent.
Despite weak health systems, and significant logistical and operational challenges, countries collaborated effectively to achieve the milestone, according to Dr. Pascal Mkanda, Coordinator of WHO Polio Eradication Programme in the region.
“With the innovations and expertise that the polio programme has established, I am confident that we can sustain the gains, post-certification, and eliminate cVDPV2,” he said.
The experience also will inform response to other challenges, both new and ongoing, Dr. Moeti added.
“The expertise gained from polio eradication will continue to assist the African region in tackling COVID-19 and other health problems that have plagued the continent for so many years and ultimately move the continent toward universal health coverage,” she said. “This will be the true legacy of polio eradication in Africa.”
ACCRA, – Reporting rape is traumatic for anyone, but having to pay two months’ wages to complete the medical form prevents many in Ghana from seeking justice, said a leading actress whose campaign to waive fees has reached the presidential palace.
British-Ghanaian actress Ama K. Abebrese – who starred with Idris Elba in the award-winning 2015 drama “Beasts of No Nation” – started a petition after hearing about the prohibitive charges in the West African nation where rape convictions are rare.
The minimum doctor’s fee for filling out a police medical form is 300 cedis ($52) – twice the average monthly earnings of informal workers, said Abebrese, one of Ghana’s most influential TV hosts who started out as a teenager presenter in London.
“If you can’t afford it, it is almost like you are denied justice on the basis of money,” said Abebrese, whose petition has attracted more than 14,000 signatures in a month.
“If you don’t get that medical report, essentially, the case to prosecute dies right there and then.”
Rape, sexual assault and domestic violence are significantly underreported in Ghana and the police lack capacity to effectively investigate cases, which can take years to reach court, according to women’s rights groups.
Community leaders sometimes negotiate for rapists to pay compensation to victims’ families but they have come under fire in recent years for not taking the crime seriously enough.
Abebrese said she was hopeful that the government would scrap the medical fees after she met with Ghana’s first lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo, who said the president had been made aware of the situation, and with gender minister Cynthia Morrison.
A gender ministry spokeswoman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that they were “working on it”.
Police spokeswoman Sheilla Abayie-Buckman said many people could not afford to complete the medical form.
“It is quite expensive for an ordinary person. I guess not more than 50% are able to afford (it)” said Abayie-Buckman, who was unable to provide statistics on rape reports.
Doctors charge 300 to 800 cedi to fill out police medical forms and 1,000 to 2,000 cedi for giving a medical opinion for legal purposes, according to a Ghana Medical Association (GMA) document seen by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Frank Ankobea, president of the GMA, which represents medics and sets the fees, said they were necessary to cover doctors’ transport and expenses if called to court.
“Professionals charge that and it is so with all other professions,” he said, adding, “the government can absorb (the cost) and make sure all these provisions are made.”
Since starting the campaign, Abebrese said she has received dozens of calls from victims of sexual assault who were unable to seek justice because of the cost.
“(For) so many people, their cases were never prosecuted, it has really opened my eyes,” she said.
“You think you have an idea but you have no idea the magnitude,” said Abebrese, who recently called for a relationship expert who said in an interview that “every rape victim enjoys the act” to be banned from Ghanaian television.
Most Ghanaians believe that women are to blame for rape if they wear revealing clothes, according to a government survey.
Rape victims also struggle to access justice in other African countries, said Jean-Paul Murunga, a Nairobi-based programme officer for the women’s rights group Equality Now.
He said that rape survivors in Kenya have to pay $10 to $15 for a medical report and free post-rape care is only available in centres run by charities in many countries.
Murunga called on African governments to live up to legally binding promises, made in a pan-African women’s rights pact known as the Maputo Protocol, to ensure access to justice.
“The protocol … obliges African states to provide budgetary and other resources for preventing and eradicating violence against women,” he said. “This is yet to be realised.”
Kartel is from Umoja slum in Nairobi. Another social worker and I found this 4-year old at a garbage dump site, shivering with cold. We took him to the hospital and then looked for his sole caretaker, a 14-year-old brother. They were living alone much of the time, but we later discovered their grandmother, also a street dweller, living in a mabati (an iron-sheet shelter) flooded with water. We could see where they huddled together with goats at night to keep warm. When we suggested that the boys join us, the grandmother was relieved to know Bosco Boys would care for her grandsons.
This is just one story that I have learned since 2017, when I began working as a social worker with boys like these two at Bosco Boys. Right now I volunteer there, as I am studying for my bachelor’s degree in sustainable human development at Tangaza University in Nairobi. The work at Bosco Boys is now part of my practicum requirement.
At the Bosco Boys informal school, I teach art and life skills and serve as counsellor and after-school tutor. This informal setting is a basic preparation for some of the boys to later attend Kuwinda, a primary boarding school. I like the boys and find them friendly and cooperative, and we have grown in mutual understanding and trust. I also find they are unusually responsible in doing their work, except at times when they fall behind in doing homework.
I think their responsibility is a result of having to live on their own and fend for themselves. But the discipline of study is challenging for some because — coming from street life — their listening abilities are not well developed, and they are easily distracted.
One of the methodologies proven successful for rehabilitation at the center is play therapy. The boys spend several hours a day in games. One of my challenges in working with the boys is understanding their slang. It is like another language. I have to ask them to explain what they are saying in ordinary language.
The boys are organized into four group houses, and positive competition is encouraged; they are rewarded for good behavior and completed assignments. Although this system is a way to help them to discipline themselves, as they can keep each other from “messing up,” there are times when informal cliques erupt into fights, even over small issues.
Bosco Boys Langata rehabilitation center was established in 1994 by the Salesian Priests to help boys overcome addictions and behaviors learned on the street. Thirty-two boys ages 5 to 11 are undergoing rehabilitation at the moment, and more than 3,000 have benefited from this center. Some of the boys live at the center, but others are day students. The boys usually stay from one to two years, and a good number of them are successfully rehabilitated.
Most of the boys I work with are from the slums of Kibera (the largest Kenya slum), Mathare (the second largest slum), Rongai and other slums around the country. These very large slums are infamously tough, marked by widespread poverty, unemployment and high crime rates. It is not an easy place for children to grow up, although many do. Education is also limited because school fees are a luxury for most families living there.
Accra, Ghana, – Salamatu Abubakar spent years of her childhood picking up scraps of plastic on the streets of Accra, the African coastal city that is the capital of Ghana. Her dad took the plastic to an open air market, selling it in bulk to recyclers and scrap dealers, and barely earning enough to get by.
In that same market, Samuel Ganyo, who had come with his mother to Accra from a poorer city in Ghana, sold slices of sugar cane to marketplace vendors, shoppers, and people passing by in cars. A popular snack across Africa, sugar cane didn’t pay enough for Samuel and his mother.
Daniel Lomotey started working in another Accra market when he was 10. He dropped out of school then, and started working for his uncle pushing a handcart hired by vendors to move their products in the Mandela marketplace. It was hard work, and it didn’t pay very much. And because Daniel, like Salamatua and Samuel, wasn’t going to school, his prospects for the future looked grim.
When Daniel was 12, he met Sister Anthonia Orji of the Daughters of Sacred Passion, a Nigerian religious sister working in Ghana. Sr. Anthonia helped kids do hard, heavy work on the streets, and helped them get back to school.
Sr. Anthonia is the centre manager and education officer at the Welfare, Empowerment Mobility Centre in the Archdiocese of Accra. Her work is part of the Rays of Hope project, which aims to help Ghana’s street kids, like Salamatua, Samuel, and Daniel, by giving them a home, and getting them enrolled in school.
Daniel is 18 now. He met Sr. Anthonia in 2014. And he told ACI Africa, CNA’s African news partner, that meeting her is the best thing to happen in his life.
“Through her guidance and support, I am now a final year Junior High student at the St. Peter’s Catholic School in Ayikuma. Apart from that, I have acquired the skills in sewing and barbering through training at WEM,” Daniel said.
Samuel, who is 16, also lives at the center, along with 22 other young people.
“I have learnt a lot like farming and barbering of hair as an additional skill to my schooling and I advise all vulnerable children who have the opportunity like me to make good use of it,” said Samuel.
The center doesn’t discriminate based upon religion. Though a Muslim, Salamatu said she has come to love Catholicism, through the guidance of Sr. Anthonia, whom she said is her mentor and mother.
“I picked polythene on the streets for my dad to sell in the Ashaiman market to earn a living. But thanks to Rays of Hope, I now live a life of dignity,” she told ACI Africa, adding, “Through the skills training and way of life at the center, I can pray the rosary and other Catholic prayers very well even though I am a Muslim.”
Ghana’s constitution prohibits many types of child labor. But Sr. Anthonia told ACI Africa that the constitutional law is not always followed, and that many poor children are put to work because of the poverty of their families.
Sr. Anthonia lamented school drop-out, child mortality, child labor, child trafficking, rape, prostitution and defilement of vulnerable children and urged Ghanaians to create a sense of belonging in street children.
She said that with the outbreak of COVID-19, the children ranging between the ages of 7 and 15 in residence at the WEM Center have been placed in various homes.
All the children, she said, were schooling at the St. Peter’s Catholic School.
“For the fear of the spread of the coronavirus at the WEM Center, 20 out of the 23 children have been placed in various homes of volunteer families and they are monitored daily by our re-integration staff,” Sr. Anthonia told ACI Africa.
The main aim of the center is to help Ghana’s street children get to school, and stay healthy, while staying connected with the parents and extended families of the children. The religious sister said that a lot of effort goes into establishing a frequent contact between the street survivors and their families.
“We believe that what God has created and bound together should not be separated. The connection to one’s family is the most valuable foundation for becoming a successful and responsible member of society. Therefore, we are convinced of putting all our effort, patience and love into the reintegration process of our beneficiaries,” she said.
Sr. Anthonia said that Christians have been endowed with the ability to perceive, appreciate and understand the situation of the vulnerable person, identify their needs, design needed services and facilitate the provision of requisite intervention to bring relief to them.
She appealed to parents and opinion leaders to jointly take steps to curb drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, teenage pregnancies, armed robbery, occultism and cyber fraud among the youth, especially those on the streets.
The work of her project, she said, begins with finding street children eager to go to school, and families willing to approve that.
“We search the streets of Ashaiman, Tema, Accra and its environs from the First Contact Place. Every year, we search for street children in the major cities in Greater Accra and those who are willing to be supported, along with their families, sign a contract for onward enrollment every September,” she told ACI Africa correspondent.
She explained that the center’s educational approach is divided into pre-school classes, formal education and informal education as well as moral and religious aspects of life.
“Pre-school” isn’t for younger kids, as the term denotes in the West. At WEM, all new recruits are prepared for school life through intensive one-year pre-school classes.
“The children who were once on the streets and not schooling will have to be prepared to enhance their reintegration into school life,” the nun said, and added, “This demands patience, energy and love.”
“In pre-school classes, we focus to improve their oral, literary and arithmetic skills through a structured curriculum, and in the later stage of their development in pre-classes, other subject areas are introduced.”
There are 36 children at the collection center who are being prepared for school life. The collection point, in extreme cases, serves as a temporary shelter for beneficiaries, whose relatives or parents have not yet been located.
The Nigerian nun explained that at the collection center, the beneficiaries come on a daily basis to be taught mathematics, English language and other subjects by the class teachers and volunteers.
“They are also educated on personal hygiene, social, religious and moral skills through classes and special programs,” she added, and explained that the children have a period of morning devotion after their chores, before they go into their classes for lessons.
The classes, she said, are divided into three levels to meet the children’s individual academic needs, as they undertake five hours of classes per day.
When they complete the one-year pre-class, they are enrolled into basic school after they have met the criteria, which include punctuality and discipline, ability to read and write, to calculate simple arithmetic, personal hygiene like bathing, washing, and neatness in dress, Sr. Anthonia said.
The children are admitted into Catholic schools because “we believe the environment and as well as the Christian routine will help grow their moral and religious values,” said Sr. Anthonia.
As part of its humanitarian activities, Rays of Hope sponsors the former vulnerable children from the basic to the tertiary level of education, providing shelter, food, accommodation, and school fees.
Sr. Anthonia said that passion to restore dignity among young people who have made mistakes in life inspires her apostolate.
“The work at Rays of Hope for me is not just work but rather it is a ministry and a call. Ordinarily, when you look at it with human eyes, you might not want anything to do with it,” she said.
“It is all about a call from God and a passion to make an impact in the young people’s lives.”
ADDIS ABABA/LONDON, – All eyes will be on the catwalk, but the model behind Ethiopia’s first reality TV modelling competition hopes the show will also shine a spotlight on exploitation in the industry across Africa.
While the #MeToo scandal highlighted widespread sex abuse in fashion, models and non-profits say women and girls pursuing a catwalk career face even greater dangers in developing nations.
Delina Cleo – a model in her late twenties who created the ‘Hidden Beauty of Ethiopia’ show – wants to educate aspiring African models about risks from online scams to sex trafficking.
“This industry can be very dangerous”, she said, referring to an Ethiopian girl whose family sold their house after a fake agency demanded payment to cast her in a production that did not exist. The girl ended up being sexually exploited, Cleo added.
“Families do not have (enough) knowledge to understand (when) it’s a scam,” Cleo said following the recent launch of the show’s second season, which sees about a dozen contestants compete for a contract with a major British modelling agency.
While data is scant, models and anti-trafficking activists say abuse in the sector is rife for African hopefuls – due to a lack of oversight and guidance both on the continent and abroad.
The global industry is becoming more diverse and open to Black and ethnic minority models, said Carole White – co-founder of the London-based agency Premier Model Management – who urged young women and girls to be wary of unscrupulous agents online.
“I believe (false promises and abuses) happen pretty much in all major cities,” said White, whose agency has managed global stars including Naomi Campbell. “It is quite a scammy world.”
Global non-profit Stop the Traffik this year released a report about aspiring models falling prey to sex traffickers in countries ranging from Colombia to Ethiopia to Russia.
“The #MeToo movement played a part in shining a light on how models are exposed to sexual and verbal harassment,” the report said. “What is not discussed is the link between modelling … and the world’s fastest growing crime, human trafficking.”
About 25 million people worldwide are trapped in forced labour – including 4.8 million victims of sex trafficking – according to an estimate by the United Nations’ labour agency.
UNDER THE RADAR
In South Africa, Phuti Khomo – winner of the country’s teen beauty contest in 2002 – said she was concerned about predators persuading young girls to send or pose for naked or lewd photos, then sexually abusing them or posting the snaps on porn sites.
“(Traffickers) try to target the poorest countries with … fewer resources and less education about human trafficking and about the industry itself,” said Khomo, who in 2018 launched an event to connect aspiring local models with Western agencies.
“So much is happening under the radar … and it’s happening throughout Africa,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Ekaterina Ozhiganova, who heads Model Law – a French association that supports models’ rights – said most aspiring young models had little understanding of the lucrative yet thinly regulated sector, and lacked contacts or support.
“Often, underage people receive no training whatsoever,” the Russian model said, urging hopefuls to do their homework and ensure agencies offering work were legitimate. “Usually, you’re thrown into the industry and you’re supposed to find your way.”
The chairman of the British Fashion Model Association, John Horner, said the industry in Britain was raising awareness of predators posing as legitimate agents but that it was “too easy” for them to target and exploit girls and women online globally.
“Girls who have been promised a better life, who are brought into Britain by a slavemaster or slave gangs, probably never even interface with the modelling industry,” said Horner, who is also managing director of Models 1, an agency based in London.
“On an international scale, it’s virtually impossible (to combat this).”
Cleo, who faced accusations of being a scam artist when launching her contest in 2015, hopes she can make a difference.
“This (show) is more than a modelling competition,” she said. “We want to teach the audience. (Girls) just need to do (a lot of) research before they put themselves into any danger.”
NAIROBI, – Kenyan urban farmer Francis Wachira credits a soil recycling company with keeping him afloat financially during the coronavirus crisis: it helped him to start producing herbs and vegetables on his tiny Nairobi plot.
The locally-owned company, Sprout Organic, mixes animal bone meal, seeds, foliage, dry leaves, twigs and kitchen waste like banana peels, to concoct a composite that is then sold to urban farmers like Wachira to grow food in small spaces.
Wachira, 71, used to make a living by renting out tiny tin shacks he built, but the coronavirus pandemic meant his tenants could no longer pay him.
Now he sells the produce from his plot, such as kale, spinach and herbs, and says he earns around 1,000 shillings ($9.23).
“We are making good money out of this,” he said.
Ted Gachanga, an agronomist who co-owns Sprout, says their product resembles black cotton soil. Worms are usually added to the mixture to help it mature, a process that takes about four weeks.
A 20 kg bag sells at 3,500 shillings. Gachanga said demand had risen by 10% during the pandemic, which has cut incomes and impinged food supply chains.
“People are seeing the need to grow their own produce,” Gachanga said.
Close to 15,000 people in Kenya have been infected by the COVID-19 disease since the first case was reported in mid-March, official data showed. Economic growth has slowed down sharply, with many job losses in sectors like tourism.
Sprout employs three staff, and its owners say that although their technology is not new, they have patented the formula for the composite. They hope to expand production beyond Nairobi to cover other towns.
The United Nations has said it is “utterly shocked and horrified” by the killing of five aid workers by unknown armed groups in northeastern Nigeria.
The statement late on Wednesday by Edward Kallon, UN humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, followed the release of a video showing the murder of the humanitarian workers who were kidnapped last month in Borno state.
The Nigerian government identified the victims as employees of the country’s State Emergency Management Agency as well as international aid organisations Action Against Hunger (ACF), International Rescue Committee and Rich International.
“They were committed humanitarians who devoted their lives to helping vulnerable people and communities in an area heavily affected by violence,” Kallon said.
The aid workers were abducted while travelling on a main route connecting the town of Monguno with Borno state capital, Maiduguri.
Kallon said he was troubled by the number of illegal checkpoints set up by non-state armed groups along the region’s main supply routes.
“These checkpoints disrupt the delivery of life-saving assistance and heighten the risks for civilians of being abducted, killed or injured, with aid workers increasingly being singled out.”
Northeast Nigeria has been ravaged by a decade-long armed campaign led by the armed group Boko Haram that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced about two million from their homes.
Last year, fighters from a Boko Haram splinter group, the Islamic State West Africa Province, abducted a group of six humanitarian workers – including a female ACF employee – in the region.
Five of the hostages were later executed and the ACF worker remains in captivity.
Aid groups provide a vital lifeline for some 7.9 million people in the region who the UN says are in need of urgent assistance.
NAIROBI, Kenya — Normally, the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood feed about 200 children in Nairobi’s informal settlements of Kawangware and Riruta.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, the sisters are expanding their reach.
“We are using the telephone contacts of the children to reach these poor and needy families,” Precious Blood Sister Grace Njau told Catholic News Service during a mid-June distribution.
The sisters set up distribution tents outside Amani Rehabilitation Center/Primary School, where the children normally go for breakfast and lunch.
When a name was called out, a parent or guardian would step forward to collect the packaged assorted items, gathered from donors. About 14 families received food that day.
Esther Njeri, a single mother, told CNS upon receiving her share: “I am happy with our sisters … through our children, they have fed the entire family. May the good Lord bless where this has come from.”
Hassan Kariuki Warui, a Muslim and teacher at the school, told CNS the system was designed so “that every ‘grain of wheat’ goes to the intended poor and needy family.”
Kenya’s bishops anticipated that the food needs would be great with the lockdown. In late May, they predicted the pandemic would hit the nation’s most vulnerable people the hardest, including the 2.5 million people living in informal settlements.
They asked for donations of money, food and nonfood items “to support and save the lives of the affected population. In-kind donations (dry food and nonfood items) can be channeled through our parishes, diocesan and national offices and other church institutions,” the bishops said.
By June 29, Kenya had reported more than 6,000 cases of COVID-19, but fewer than 150 deaths.
“We hope we shall go back to our system of feeding these families via their children in our rehab center and primary school when the current coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown finally come to an end,” Njau said as she helped coordinate the distribution.