Imagine fighting COVID-19 where there are no hospitals, pharmacies, respirators or masks. Add pervasive malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malnutrition. That’s the situation in many communities in Africa.
Dr. Florence Muindi keeps a watchful eye on the spread of COVID-19 around the world. It has invaded 40 countries in Africa.
As the founder and executive director of Life In Abundance, a longtime partner of Southeast Christian Church, she is concerned for people in 14 countries where LIA is already working. All have reported cases of COVID-19.
Yet concern is not fear.
“We are at peace,” Muindi said. “From the word ‘go,’ our message has been that God is above the crisis, and He will protect and provide as only He is able. We are finding that message has percolated down to our beneficiary churches, and we are only hearing messages of hope, not desperation. We are encouraged. Should the Lord allow us to fall sick, even in that, we will trust Him.”
LIA empowers churches to meet challenges in their own communities as they share the Gospel. It is doing the same in the face of COVID-19.
>Church leaders, trainers and volunteers have formed Corona Prevention Taskforce teams that focus on training, awareness, promotion of good personal hygiene, distribution of masks and hygiene materials.
>Trainers teach hand washing door-to -door and have created more than 1,000 temporary hand-washing stations in virus hot spots.
>They give away face masks, hand sanitizer and bar soap as they pray with families and share the Gospel.
>LIA-staffed clinics are working with local health authorities to fight COVID-19.
>Food banks have been set up in churches.
>Pastors trained in trauma counseling meet with those who are overwhelmed and afraid.
Muindi explained the impact of COVID-19 on African communities.
What do you see ahead for the communities you reach?
The crisis in Africa is beyond COVID-19. As of April 22, we have about 25,000 cases reported with 1,200 fatalities and 6,500 recoveries. As governments race to control the virus to avoid a catastrophe, the poor and vulnerable are facing a threat that is worse than COVID-19.
The lockdowns in many countries have put the majority of people out of work. They have thus become desperate as illustrated in Kibera, one of our urban communities in Nairobi, where well-wishers went to distribute food and two people lost their lives in the melee. The government reacted by banning distribution of food to the needy, not only to avoid chaos, but to also ensure social distancing.
COVID-19 restrictions and closure of markets has disrupted the flow of food. It means many are facing hunger, and with it, increased vulnerability to COVID-19. In short, I would say the crisis is already with us, and it is not a health crisis, it is an economic one.
How are churches meeting needs in this crisis?
Our staff is working remotely with many churches, encouraging them to collect and distribute food and sanitary products for those affected.
We have countless stories of churches doing this in the different countries where we work. In Nairobi, we recently served 52 families in Mathare with food packs. In Egypt, they have just distributed food to 230 families. In Rwanda, one church served 42 families while another served 10 families. This is just a sample of the work going on around the communities we serve.
What are you hearing from believers?
Believers are encouraged. There is a lot of prayer going on as the church asks God to spare Africa. Thus, even as governments labor to contain the virus, we believe God is doing the greater work. Churches are running online services, prayer meetings and cell group Bible studies. There is 24/7 prayer going on for 30 days in Kenya, and a lot of churches and ministries are participating.
What do you think is ahead?
LIA teams are serving as taskforces and will remain connected with our partner churches. Our clinics remain open and caring for the sick. Home visits and caring for the vulnerable are happening as we are able.
Governments will continue to do what governments can do, while God will do what only He can do. Meantime, the control measures continue to bite, and we have to address the economic crisis right now. Our concern is that the longer the crisis goes on, the more critical the economic crisis gets, and the more resources we will need to support the communities we serve.
To learn more about LIA’s response to COVID-19, visit www.lifeinabundance.org.