Jasmine, a young Ugandan woman, wears a mask and makes masks at a Singer sewing machine

STORY
The Paper Fig Foundation and the Coronavirus

July 27, 2020  


The Coronavirus pandemic has presented the Paper Fig Foundation with unprecedented challenges, both on the ground in Uganda and at our headquarters in New York. Because all of our paid staff is in Uganda, our foundation does not qualify for any aid from the US government. But our health center is more vital than ever in Uganda, and we must keep funding streams open so that we can keep the doors of the health center open. We have seven staff members in Uganda. The teachers from the Skills Training Center are home, but they have sewiing machines in their homes and are hard at work making masks and other protective gear to supply our health center and, eventually, neighboring health centers and other members of the community.

We at the Paper Fig Foundation continue to take this pandemic very seriously. We've set up handwashing stations at the health center, the water tap, and at the entrance of the Skills Training center, even though it is currently closed. These handwashing stations are vital to the community, where running water is not readily available. At the health center, we have stocked up on gloves and gear, and are assessing every patient that visits the health center for Coronavirus symptoms. We've set up an isolation area in the medical compound where patients can wait if they are presenting symptoms of Coronavirus, before being transferred to a hospital. We are also increasing our community outreach, educating the public about Coronavirus and encouraging frequent hand washing and limiting handshakes and hugging.

Uganda as a nation is also trying to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. With surrounding countries, like the Democratic Republic of Congo, having suffered tremendously from multiple Ebola outbreaks, this kind of prevention is not brand new. There is a travel ban in Uganda, public and private transport services were shut down, and all schools and public gatherings have been cancelled. Recently, public and private transport have resumed and restrictions have loosened, which has made it much easier for our staff to move around. 

As of late July, there have been 1115 confirmed casese of Covid-19 in Uganda, and two people have died. Cases spiked in the last days of May and early June. Since then, the daily rates have remained low. As New York begins to ease restrictions as cases decrease, it is imperative we keep our eyes on Uganda and the rest of Africa, because the pandemic is threatening to spread even more violently there. Access to testing remains limited, especially outside the city centers. 2 mobile testing units have been issued to Kampala, and they will be deployed to border points with high traffic. However, measures frequently repeated in Western countries, like social distancing and frequent handwashing, are much more challenging in some of the crowded settlements of Uganda where running water is scarce. Encouraging the community to fill up their jerry cans at the PFF health center's water tank and to bring water to their homes and to wash hands frequently is one of the best things we can do.  

Please continue to check in here on our web site or on our social media channels on Instagram and Facebook to stay up to date on how East Africa is responding to the Coronavirus situation, and how the Paper Fig community is managing the impact. 

Links to helpful articles on the Coronavirus in East Africa:

Where Security Forces May be More Deadly than Coronavirus

Uganda Opens Border for DRC Refugees

Coronavirus Accelerates Across Africa

African Countries Are Still Waiting or a Surge

Uganda to Hold Elections in Early 2021

Uganda's Urban Poor Fear Dying of Hunger during COVID-19

Covid-19 Uganda updates from the BBC

IMF Approves Loan to Uganda

Uganda Calls on Creditors to Cancel Africa's Debts

Uganda Starts Easing Restrictions

Uganda Megachurch Criticized For Choir Tour as Children Are Stranded by COVID-19

10 African Countries Have No Ventilators. That's Only Part of the Problem.

Why Lockdowns May Not Be the Answer in Africa

South Africa Flattens the Curve

In Uganda, Mothers in Labor Die Amidst Coronavirus Shutdown

Fears in Uganda over COVID Outbreak in Refugee Settlements

African Countries Respond Quickly to the Spread of Coronavirus 

A Ticking Time Bomb : Scientists Worry about Coronavirus Spread in Africa 

Africa Braces for Coronavirus, but Slowly 

In World’s Most Vulnerable Countries, the Pandemic Rivals the 2008 Crisis

Uganda, Usually Welcoming to Refugees, Bars all New Arrivals