Hello Friends of Jonathan’s House Central African Republic,
First of all, won't you please take just one minute and 35 seconds to view this wonderful new video about Jonathan's House's lunch program?
Like the rest of the world, the people of the Central African Republic are facing trials. These trials come from the COVID- 19 virus, but their trials are much different than what we are experiencing in the United States. For years, CAR has been the most malnourished country on earth, with an economic and healthcare system that is in shambles. The people in CAR don’t just live from paycheck to paycheck. For most people in CAR, there are no paychecks. They live from day to day, without any safeguards against disruptions for poor health, accidents, or financial disasters. In CAR, there won’t be any government relief checks for people who have lost their jobs. There won’t be support for businesses who have lost revenue. Access to experimental medicines to treat the virus aren’t an option. There won’t even be hospital beds and ventilators for people that need them.
Here is the current situation:
The government has closed all schools and churches in the country. Our school and school lunch program are closed.
The cost of goods and food are increasing. Nearly all of CAR’s imported goods come through Cameroon (the closest ocean port), and travel and imports from Cameroon are now prohibited except for food. Cameroon has over 1000 infected persons, and CAR has responded forcefully to prevent movement of people and goods across borders. The economy has suffered greatly because goods are not available for sale. Movement between towns is highly discouraged but not yet illegal.
Many office jobs have been eliminated or reduced because of rotating shifts for social distancing.
The hospitals are completely unprepared to treat victims of the virus. There is an area that has been prepared for 25 COVID-19 patients in a small building near a hospital built by the Chinese in Bangui. This is the only facility in CAR for COVID-19 patients, and there are only thee ventilators in the entire country, or one for every 1,996,952 people. Even worse is Congo, just to the south of CAR, with one ventilator for every 20,356,053 people. If you need a ventilator in central Africa, you are probably going to die, and the people there know it.
Currently, there are only 12 known cases of COVID-19 in CAR. So why has it caused such a disruption in the policies and economics of the country? Because the people of CAR know that their country is unable to respond to a widespread outbreak. Many people in CAR are in medically high risk groups, while social distancing and proper hygiene seem nearly impossible to achieve in the poorest country on earth.
In the United States, we are watching our retirement accounts dwindle. Netflix and video games have become even more popular than before. We become discouraged over the lack of hand sanitizer, frozen pizzas, and toilet paper in stores. Heart disease and diabetes will soon be on the rise as we sit at home and eat too much. Schools are closed and millions of jobs have been lost. There are numerous government relief programs, but checks are slow to arrive and people need help now. These are all real concerns affecting our country.
In CAR, the concerns are different. The people fear death from a virus and a healthcare system that is powerless to help. Samuel, our Orphanage Director, told me that people in CAR are more fearful of the virus than they were of invasions by rebel soldiers in 2013-2014. During that time, our town in CAR was completely occupied by rebels and we evacuated all the children from the orphanage to a hidden house in the forest twice. I completely lost contact with the orphanage for six weeks when all roads and cell phone service to our town were blocked and destroyed. Rebel soldiers burned villages, killed people, and destroyed the economy. Many people died, and many of the orphans that we have rescued were victims of that violence. That was a terrifying time for all of us. I asked Samuel how the fear of COVID-19 could possibly exceed the fear of violence during the rebel crisis. He explained it like this. “If the rebels caught you, they might have killed you. If the virus catches you, it can kill your whole family, and there is nowhere for us to run to escape.”
Taxi occupancy is limited to the driver plus two people. In the past, I’ve seen at least 15 people in a taxi. Maximum motorcycle has been reduced from five to two. All of the photos below were taken before the new restrictions.
Groups of more than 10 are not allowed. This seems inconceivable in crowded markets in CAR.
Fortunately, the rainy season has started so the people can grow their own crops. The rainy season will end in October.
Please pray for Jonathan’s House and for the people of CAR. The people are fearful in a way that is different than other fear that they have known. If the virus takes hold in CAR, they have reason to be fearful. Fortunately, the Lord has protected CAR. That’s important, because CAR seems to be a perfect breeding ground for the virus.
Here is a summary of our response to the situation: Our medical center staff has chosen to keep the medical clinic open, despite our inability to treat COVID-19 patients. We feel that the benefits of providing continued medical care for malaria, wounds, intestinal worms, pregnant women and babies is so important that it must continue as long as our staff remains healthy and willing to work.
Although they are not allowed to work by government orders, we will continue to pay our staff at the school and the lunch program through the duration of their contracts. Our organization employs a total of 45 people (13 at the orphanage, 15 at school, 11 at the clinic and 6 at school lunch program) and we know that this is the only source of income for many of those families. We know that our employees who are still allowed to work will have concerns when we pay the twenty one laid off employees their full wage for not working. If that happens, we are planning to direct them to Matthew 20: 1-16, when the owner of the vineyard paid all of his workers a full day’s wages, even though some of them started work late in the afternoon. For centuries, the people of Central Africa have been last. It’s time for them to be first. I am absolutely certain that the twenty one families that depend on this income need it more than we do.
If you are still donating to our work in CAR, THANK YOU. Financially, 2020 will be a very difficult year for many non- profit organizations around the world because so many donors are experiencing their own financial hardships. For those of you who can continue to donate, we need your help more than ever and I am deeply grateful for your support.
James 1: 2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Given the words of James, we have abundant reasons to be joyful. Remember, this too will pass. When it does, I want us to be able to look back on our response to the pandemic in Africa and know that we have been a light unto a dark world in a time when the light was desperately needed. That time is now.
Carter Strand International Director
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