In Tanzania, the number of confirmed cases has been low so far. The government, however, expects the country to follow the pattern of most other countries and has already closed every school.
This means our Village is thronged with children all day, even those who might normally be boarding at secondary school, as well as those who had been undertaking apprenticeship/work experience in Dar es Salaam.
We are doing our best to self-isolate. There are no longer any visitors and no children from the town coming over to play. There is soap and water at the village gate and in every house and toilet block. The mamas disinfect every door handle several times each day.
The immediate challenge is how to home school more than 65 children; James, our Village Manager, is using the resources at his disposal and drawing up school timetables that do the best we can. The secondary schools have emailed us some materials and every morning is set aside for school work.
School closures are designed to minimise the spread of the virus. As elsewhere, we are hoping that any outbreak in the Village will not badly affect the children themselves. We have some children who may be at special risk as HIV drugs lower their resistance, and we will need to rely on the local hospital if things get bad for them.
Our Reception Home in Dar es Salaam is likely to be more at risk of infection, compared with the more rural Children’s Village. If children were in Dar for educational reasons, and the education is now suspended, then we are considering bringing them back into the Village.
Our greatest vulnerability seems to be for the children we try to take care of in the community through the Relatives Support Programme (fortnightly food package, medical insurance and help with school uniform and supplies). In many cases, the child is cared for by an elderly relative – most likely a grandmother. It is the relative who is more likely to be under direct threat from the virus. If the relative dies, we may need to take the child into the Village for residential care.
We may well also find that other elderly or vulnerable care givers die in Dar or Mkuranga – including those not formerly associated with Malaika Kids. It would be natural for the Welfare Offices in each case to approach Malaika Kids; we will do what we can to help.
In Europe and the US, meanwhile, we have had to cancel all our fundraising events for the time being (and we will hold all our committee meetings by videoconference). Our individual and trust fund donors have been hugely affected by the collapse of the stock markets. Whole economies are at a near standstill.
So we expect our income to slow to a trickle while the pandemic continues.
The good news is that we have recently had a quite successful time in fundraising such that our continuity reserves at year end were equivalent to 2.7 years of operating cost (we were targeting three, but didn’t quite get there).
We can survive for a while with no cutbacks. Hopefully, Western economies will surge back after several months. It seems likely that charitable donations may take a little longer to recover, as individuals may prioritise getting their own finances in order.
In conclusion, these are worrying times. We are doing our best to protect our children, and we expect a greater number to need Malaika Kids by the end of the pandemic.
We have reserves for now, but it would be great if you could consider a donation now so that we can be sure to keep going and not turn down any child in need.
Donations can be made securely using CAF here.