Xavier Project’s response to CoronaVirus in East Africa: A message from our CEO

A message from our Founder and CEO, Edmund Page, about how our team are adapting our work to respond to the CoronaVirus pandemic.

UPDATED: 30th March 2020

To our dedicated supporters and partners, 

My greetings to you all during this uncertain time. 

I feel it is important to share an update with you about how Xavier Project is responding to the coronavirus pandemic in East Africa. I want to assure you that we are doing everything that we can to protect our team and the communities we work with. 

On Thursday 12th March the first case of coronavirus was reported in Kenya, and in Uganda the first case was reported on Saturday 21st March. Both governments responded quickly by making the decision to close all schools and learning spaces and stopped public gatherings across both countries. Borders have also been closed and mandatory quarantine restrictions are being implemented for recent arrivals. Unfortunately, despite the quick response, cases across both countries are steadily increasing. This has seen a full lockdown enforced in Uganda, and a curfew enforced in Kenya over the last week. 

Whilst the decisive response by both governments in trying to slow the spread of COVID-19 has been reassuring, the reality is that these governments (along with most others on the African continent) are very aware of how particularly vulnerable their citizens are, and how vastly inadequate their health care systems are to respond to the spread of this virus. 

The pandemic poses a host of different challenges in under-developed contexts. These communities vulnerability is increased because of the often close living quarters, inadequate health facilities, and uncertainty about food and other supplies. Therefore, most of the mitigating actions that are being taken in countries where the spread is more advanced are exceptionally hard to implement here, particularly in densely populated and under-resourced settlements. Packed living quarters make social-distancing practically impossible. 

Xavier Project works with some of East Africa’s most vulnerable communities.  Now more than ever these communities need our support and must feel empowered to communicate with, educate and protect each other.

Over the last two weeks our team have been working tirelessly to adapt our work in response to the changes and restrictions. They have ensured that all of our students returned home safely from schools, while developing tools and programmes that can be used to deliver distance learning, including podcasts, printing materials for delivery and resource-sharing – GCSEPod downloads and workbooks, for example. As a start the KICD (Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development) and Bukkede (Uganda) will be broadcasting school lessons through a tailored radio/TV station so we have been encouraging our students to listen in or watch and continue their learning while schools are closed. As most of our students do not have access to smartphones or internet continuing learning has been challenging, but we are working resourcefully. 

Our CBO partners in Nairobi, Kitengela, Kakuma, Kampala, Imvepi and Rwamwanja, have all closed their learning hubs. We are working with them to adapt their learning packages so they can continue to deliver some activities remotely in a useful and safe way to their communities. These community-based organisations are also working to respond to and preempt the needs of their communities in the time ahead – thinking beyond education and also looking at immediate needs such as food, water and health.

We believe that our partnerships with refugee and host communities during this time will be critical. A number of agencies have already moved out of settlements in response to the cases, so we know community-based organisations will play a crucial role in the delivery of effective, efficient and sustainable solutions as they respond to the pandemic. They will need our support now more than ever.

A HUGE thank you to our regular donors and partners who make this important work possible. THANK YOU. Thank you for giving generously and supporting us on our mission during these trying times.

In solidarity, and with thanks from everyone at Xavier Project. 

Best wishes, 

Edmund Page

CEO & Founder of Xavier Project

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