The OLA sisters work and live in some of the most under resourced areas of the world. Many of them work in the medical field.
In Tanzania alone there are 1.6 million people living with HIV and the luxury of self-isolation and physical distancing adopted by some societies is simply not possible. Many families share a single room. Basic hygiene is also a problem, with large areas not having access to running water.
But the real concern is whether the spread of the virus in Dar es Salaam. This city is densely populated and being the second fastest growing city in Africa and eleventh fastest growing in the world, it is rapidly expanding.
While many other African countries have imposed some of the most restrictive lockdowns in the world, the Tanzanian government says it is not planning to introduce a lockdown. The country has suspended international passenger flights and cancelled schools and universities, but in the words of the deputy health minister, Faustine Ndugulile, “When you look at the dynamics, most Tanzanians live from hand to mouth – they have to leave their households in order to survive. So when you go for a total lockdown it means some will instead die of hunger.”
We recently spoke with OLA Sister Celestina, who is living and working in Mwanza. She expressed concern about the impact of the virus in the region, explaining that while the government is encouraging social distancing and the washing of hands, it’s not always easy for the people to abide as many do not have access to soap. “For lent, the Mwanza Community bought soap for the people,” she said.
She went on to explain some of the measures put in place. While there is no total lockdown and people are still free to move around and go to church, although large gatherings have been cancelled. Social distancing is being practised in the villages and towns and there are basic facilities for washing hands in the shops and the markets.
The community is currently using old clothing to sew masks for distribution. They continue to have prayers at 3pm and to attend Mass adhering to strict social distancing protocols, and Mass each day is offered for those affected by the virus. Many people stand and listen to the Mass from outside.
Our Justice officer, John McGeady shares the following information:
Half of the world’s population cannot obtain essential health services, according to a new report from the World Bank and WHO. Each year, large numbers of households are being pushed into poverty because they must pay for health care out of their own pockets. 800 million people spend at least 10 percent of their household budgets on health expenses for themselves, a sick child or other family member. For almost 100 million people these expenses are high enough to push them into extreme poverty, forcing them to survive on just $1.90 or less a day. There are wide gaps in the availability of services in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. Furthermore, a lack of financial protection means increasing financial distress for families as they pay for health services out of their own pockets. In more affluent regions such as Eastern Asia, Latin America and Europe, a growing number of people are spending at least 10 percent of their household budgets on out-of-pocket health expenses. Inequalities in health services are seen not just between, but also within countries: national averages can mask low levels of health service coverage in disadvantaged population groups. For example, only 17 percent of mothers and children in the poorest fifth of households in low- and lower-middle income countries received at least six of seven basic maternal and child health interventions, compared to 74 percent for the wealthiest fifth of households.
“World Bank and WHO: Half the world lacks access to essential health services, 100 million still pushed into extreme poverty because of health expenses”, 13 December 2017, https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/13-12-2017-world-bank-and-who-half-the-world-lacks-access-to-essential-health-services-100-million-still-pushed-into-extreme-poverty-because-of-health-expenses
We ask you to join us in praying for all those without access to appropriate healthcare around the world, especially in poorer countries, whether due to poverty, economic under-development, or under-investment in their health services.