Letter from Palamanga Ouali
Vice President, Africa Region
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise … The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice.” — Psalm 18:2-6, NIV
Fiscal year 2020 (July 2019 – June 2020) has been devastating for Africa. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the continent was wrought with famine, hunger, plagues of locusts, civil unrest and other unimaginable crises. On top of these challenges, COVID-19 caused unprecedented disruption — not only to our work as an organization, but the lives of millions of people across the continent.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and resulting deaths breaks our hearts. However, we are also deeply concerned about the long-lasting consequences that we expect to continue in the future.
For those of us working in development, the question that comes to mind is this: “Where do we start?”
There are so many areas that need attention: sanitation, household income, education, nutrition, water, and many more. In times like this, I find it helpful to remember the foundations of our work as a ministry.
First, we are Christ-centered, and we partner with the local church to implement our program. I take so much confidence and comfort in knowing that the Lord directs our path. In supporting the hands and feet of Christ, as the church, we have the incredible ability to comfort people not only with physical and financial assistance, but with the spiritual and emotional support so many desperately need right now.
Second, our focus is on children. Whenever a crisis of any kind impacts the communities we serve, our staff and partners look at what needs to happen to make sure every child is known, loved, and protected. In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, this included provision of food packs, hygiene supplies, education, individual check-ins for infants and mothers, child abuse prevention, and more.
This year, as we stood strong in these foundational principles, we were able to turn some of the challenges of COVID-19 into unique opportunities. When Kenya implemented restrictions for distributing food, for example, we created a new process for direct cash transfers to families in need. This way, we followed government protocols and still gave our beneficiaries the ability to purchase food and other necessities. We worked to make our program compact and mobile, so we could bring resources and support directly to the homes of children and their families.
However, our work is not done, even as the virus begins to decline. We know that the education and health sectors are suffering from lack of regular funding. COVID-19 is taking attention away from previous conditions like malaria, and people are scared to go to the hospital for fear of contracting the virus. Lockdowns and job loss have led to increased levels of malnutrition and hunger that we have not seen in over a decade. Children in poverty are the most vulnerable to these consequences. In fact, the United Nations estimates that 10,000 children around the world have died due to hunger caused by the virus every month since the pandemic started.
Through it all, Compassion Africa and our dedicated supporters, churches, and partners will hold on to our foundation of standing in Christ and enduring focus on each individual child that God places in our path.
Thank you, for all your support. God bless you.
Vice President, Africa Region
Read the Stories
Compassion’s program responds to the needs of people in poverty in a holistic way.
Our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns and restrictions
followed this same approach.
Here are some of the ways Compassion Africa has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic
and how we will continue to support the children and families in our program.
1,524,252 Food Kits Delivered
Malnutrition in small children has risen drastically as unemployment has risen. Our FCPs partnered with us to assemble and distribute packages of food and identify families that were in need.
1,371,192 Hygiene Kits Delivered
Hygiene kits contained supplies such as hand sanitizer, soap and masks to prevent the spread of the virus.
81,458 Cash Transfers Conducted
Some results of COVID-19 lockdowns included complications and restrictions around food distribution. In response, Compassion Africa put a new process into place — direct cash transfers. This allows us to digitally send funds to a family in need so they are able to buy much needed food and supplies. It also cut down on the amount of time and travel needed from our staff and partners.
*All figures above are data from April to August 2020
In addition to hygiene kits, our church partners visited the homes of children we serve and provided education on good hygiene practices and how to protect themselves during times of crisis. Some Compassion alumni (former Compassion program participants) used their skills in fashion design and sewing to make masks for children.
Child Protection Education
During lockdowns, the risk of child abuse increased, and Compassion Africa responded in several strategic ways. When our church partners visited homes, they assessed if anyone in the family seemed to be in danger of abuse, spoke with family members about what to do in dangerous situations and gave information for how to report abuse. Efforts to equip our local church partners in Child Protection continued even with the lockdown, using online training. Some church partners even created radio programs to educate and sensitize caregivers and children on issues like domestic violence and positive parenting.
Digital Platforms to Deliver Program Activities
As schools and churches closed, our National Offices found new ways to engage with beneficiaries and conduct program activities. Compassion Ghana for example, piloted a virtual youth training program called Your One Degree, and Compassion Togo held a virtual summit for youth. Our local church partners also used technology to communicate and check on the welfare of children and youth using Zoom, Learning Management Systems, and other solutions.
Engaging Children & Youth During COVID-19
Lockdowns and restrictions prevented children and youth from attending church and Compassion programs. Thanks to some strategic creativity from Compassion staff and our local church partners, we found new ways to make sure children continued to be seen and developed during this stressful time.
- Instead of meeting at the church or center, tutors and specialists visited children at their homes to check on each family and see what needs they had. This was also an opportunity for pastors and counselors to pray for families and offer spiritual support.
- Churches used WhatsApp and other platforms to talk with children and youth, share important information, and hear about their situations.
- In some cases, youth and caregivers were given portable radios to access the education and learning programs their governments were offering while schools were closed.