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COVID-19 in Burkina: Trouble Ahead

Jun 16, 2020 | 0 comments

God shapes the back for burden. It’s a fact. And we have to thank him for what has been, in sanitary terms, a minimal COVID-19 impact, for whatever reason – there are many hypotheses on the matter (none of them obvious). Unfortunately, what we are not able to avoid, because we are suffering it already, are the collateral damages that, regrettably, will drag the entire sub-Saharan region to its first recession in more than 25 years.

I’m aware that with an average of no more than 100 tests a day, the infection and death toll are not reliable. However, I can also tell you that of the 1,500 beneficiaries with whom we are in daily contact, only one of their family members has died from the virus. No one else has shown symptoms or suffered the illness. On the other hand, terrorism here in Burkina continues to cause school and dispensary shutdowns, and thousands of displaced people without any access to basic medical attention – beyond what their fellow citizens – living in misery themselves – can provide. To date, this has provoked three times as many deaths than COVID-19.

Funeral for military personnel killed in an attack. Photo: STR-AFP

I was telling you in my last post in April ( that the pandemic’s arrival to Burkina left me permanently holding my breath. Today, witnessing the pandemic’s evolution, with 890 confirmed cases since March 9, and only 53 deaths, I can assure you that I can breathe easily again regarding this issue. But I still hold my breath for other reasons, like terrorism and the proximity of general election in a few months – which can be a time bomb in these countries – and, obviously, because of the damage the general economic crisis may cause here.

The World Bank, in its last biannual report, warns that the extremely low development level of sub-Saharan countries, Burkina amongst them, is threatened by the worldwide shutdown provoked by COVID-19, and considers this part of the world to be at high risk for suffering a food crisis.

According to that report, reduced interior and exterior demand compounded by supply chain interruptions that affect their national production will severely weaken the growth of the two regions that have progressed the most over these last years:  the West African Economic and Monetary Union (which includes Burkina, Mali, Senegal, Niger, the Ivory Coast, Togo and Benin) and the East African Community (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, and South Sudan). And, of course, the most vulnerable populations will suffer most from the pandemic’s worst economic effects.

Entrance to the maternelle, enabled to facilitate parents respect for social distancing COVID-19

The crisis is already having an inevitable impact on some of FAR’s benefactors. From here, we send all our love and support in these trying times. Don’t worry, though. Like every company in these times, here at FAR we are reflecting on our mission and projects in Rimkieta, to improve and adapt as soon as possible to the new post-COVID-19 scenario we will see in all spheres, to, as always, benefit the neediest families in Rimkieta as much as we can.

As an example, we reopened the maternelle this week even though the government decreed the school year over for nursery schools on March 16, when all schools in the country were shutdown due to the pandemic. We are rigorously obeying all preventive measures against virus propagation, and were authorized by the Social Action Inspection. Why? Because, even though we “teach” in the Maternelle Valencia, the transcendental task is job feeding and taking care of the wellbeing of 300 children each year.

Back to class of the girls in formation in the FAR, with masks and a new distribution of the tables to respect social distancing.

The education and reintegration of street kids and the unschooled girls project are also up and running.  As soon as they lift the prohibition on meetings of more than 50 people, one of the last government anti-COVID-19 measures still in effect, we’ll kick-start the project teaching values to young people through sports training.

All of this after thoroughly revising the costs of each and every project.  We will tighten our belts even more, if possible, to keep getting the maximum value from every euro that is donated with so much affection and generosity.

We carry on patiently !