After the announcement of the curfew last Wednesday (March 25th), everything stands still in India. In response, a large part of the poor population is returning to their villages, sometimes on foot for hundreds of kilometres, as public transport is no longer operating.
In many places where SWISSAID is active with projects, the villagers have erected barricades to lock themselves in and prevent sick people from coming into the villages from outside.
Following the announcement of the first confirmed case of Covid-19 on 16 March and the subsequent TV address by the President on 22 March, tensions rose in Tanzania. All schools were closed for 30 days, major demonstrations and rallies were banned until further notice and crowds are strongly discouraged. In addition, all people arriving from severely affected countries will be placed under a 14-day quarantine.
Information about the corona virus dominates all news and social media. People are very worried about the health risks; after all, the country’s health system is only partially developed. However, people are also very worried about the impact of this pandemic on the economy. In a country where a large part of the population lives on daily wages, strict social distancing and containment measures could have disastrous consequences, even though crucial sectors such as tourism have already almost come to a standstill.
Solidarity makes us strong
The Saturday market in Solothurn (Switzerland) has been suspended for two weeks. Nevertheless, individual market stalls sell their vegetables at different locations, and always keep a safe distance. This organic farm is particularly consistent: the commandments of distance and hygiene are imaginatively observed.
Will the seed be sown in Nicaragua in time?
Nicaragua, Mar 30th | April is a very important month for the rural population of Nicaragua. It is the time when the farmers prepare their equipment, seeds and other resources needed for sowing crops in May (during the rainy season). The survival of thousands of small farming families depends on these seeds.
SWISSAID Nicaragua and its partners are committed to ensuring that these activities can be carried out in the communities supported. The survival of the poorest people depends on this.
Oscar Quillupangui, co-head of the SWISSAID office in Ecuador, comments on his country’s financial situation:
“The initial effects of Covid-19 in Ecuador confirm that the public health system is not prepared for the pandemic. Hospitals lack equipment – they urgently need to receive more equipment. Instead of investing in the health system, the Ecuadorian government has now spent 325 million dollars to pay for government bonds. This with the intention of obtaining further loans.
While the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have confirmed that they will be able to provide large sums of money in the coming weeks, citizens do not understand why, at a time of global crisis, these major financial institutions are imposing conditions on countries for access to resources in the form of loans. It seems that lending in the Covid-19 era is a good business.”
“Niamey, March 24, 2020, 7pm, time of the Maghrib prayer, prayer at sunset. Having left the office at 6:30 pm, I took my usual way back home. I was surprised to see people huddled together in the different mosques of the neighborhood, as usual, and as if nothing had happened! However, only a week earlier, the government had met with the leaders of the two main religions in Niger – Islam and Christianity – to help them raise awareness of the risks associated with collective prayers. It was a lost cause!! Some people in the population continue not to observe this simple rule of prudence.”
Despite the first case in Niger (see below), Adamou Moussa Abba, head of the SWISSAID office in Niger, fears that the population is not yet aware of the urgency of the situation.
SWISSAID and four other Colombian organisations have supported the production of an awareness video against the spread of the cornavirus. As everywhere else in the world, it is important to wash your hands regularly, stay at home and wear a mask. Young people are now taking action to spread this information.
It is very difficult to change the habits of the population – this can also be seen in Guinea-Bissau. Despite the many prevention messages broadcast on the radio, a large part of everyday life still takes place on the streets.
The government has ordered the closure of most shops, markets, small street vendors and some pharmacies. Since this morning, exits are allowed between 7 and 11 am and taxis and public transport stopped. In one of the poorest countries in the world, women are now very afraid that they will soon no longer be able to feed their children.
Women, first victimes of the crisis
India, March 26th | “The situation of single women, women headed families, daily wage earner women must have become bad and if the lock down continues, it will be worst.” The words of Sneha Giridhari, gender specialist in India, testify the worldwide crisis hitting women particularly hard.
More information on the inequalities between women and men during the Corona crisis can be found here.
In Ecuador, the government declared a state of emergency on 16 March. As a result, the mobility of the population was restricted and all types of social and economic activities were suspended, with the exception of the health and food sectors. Since then, confirmed positive corona cases have increased by 139 percent (from 451 to 1082). In addition, there have already been 27 deaths in the first week.
Oscar Quillupangui, co-head of the office in Ecuador, discusses the restrictions and their consequences:
“The state of emergency limits the income of the most vulnerable people. This hits farmers and indigenous women particularly hard. In addition, state aid and health services hardly reach these population groups. Nevertheless, agroecology, like chemical-free food production, has been able to arouse the interest of the urban population. After all, a strengthened immune system is better able to cope with viruses like Covid-19.
At the agro-ecological market in the village of Pelileo (Tungurahua Province), healthy food is offered once a week, in compliance with the measures. SWISSAID has supported 80 women so that they can continue to sell products and thus suffer less loss of income. The female farmers have committed themselves to maintaining the same prices and quantities as usual – in contrast to the rest of the country, where speculation about food prices is on the rise.”
“We are in touch with our partner and are preparing a contingency plan, so that we can respond if there is a need. We are hoping and praying that the situation does not become very bad.” The quote from Kavita Ghandi, head of the SWISSAID office in India, shows the major challenges the country has to deal with. Many parts of the country, including the state of Maharashtra, where SWISSAID runs many projects, are becoming isolated, with catastrophic consequences for the population.
In Chad, the SWISSAID coordination office has installed hand washing facilities for personal hygiene. A sprayer (left) is also available so that the toilets can be disinfected before use. These additional hygiene measures aim to break the transmission chain of the coronavirus.
Claudia López, the mayor of Bogotá, had last week decreed that from Friday to Monday all inhabitants (that is almost 8 million people) should stay at home for practice purposes in order to prepare for a possible emergency.
Walquiria Perez, head of the SWISSAID Colombia office, explains:
“On the first day of the ordered quarantine exercise, the otherwise bustling city resembled a ghost town on Friday. The people reacted in solidarity to the measure to prepare for the corona virus, stayed in their homes and began to cultivate relationships virtually and work in the home office.
While these measures are necessary and effective, it is important to offer timely solutions to families living hand-to-mouth. In these times of crisis we must show solidarity and I hope that there will be no hoarding in the grocery stores and no food speculation.
It is important to recognise that it is the farming families who provide us with food. This is an extraordinary opportunity to ask our government to encourage small farmers, alternative food chains and rural production.”
It's quiet in Niamey these days
Niger, March 20th | Adamou Moussa Abba, head of the SWISSAID Niger office: “It is quiet in Niamey at the moment, but there is a lot of fake news circulating in the social media. Yesterday, the first Corona case became known in Niger: a young trainee from a transport company who brought the virus from a trip to Niger. According to the Ministry of Health it is in quarantine.”